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Genealogy software for Mac

February 21, 2011

I wrote in a previous post about my dilemmas around data storage. In 1986, when I started researching my family history, I didn’t have a computer.  When I did have a computer, a few years later, while still researching my family tree, I tried a genealogy program I can’t remember the name of.  I stored  quite a lot of information in that program, which came on 5 x 5.25″ floppy disks (the really floppy ones).  Several computer upgrades later, and after many years of hiatus in my researching activities, I find that the floppies, the drives to read them and the computers are all gone.

Thankfully I still had my original card index system, which being more tangible travelled with me in my many house moves and life changes over the intervening years.

This has made me very aware that while the technology that surrounds us, while it has a multitude of benefits, also has some draw backs.  I want my research to be accessible after I’m gone – even if no one looks at it for 15 or 20 years.

With this in mind I decided to try to maintain a variety of data storage methods – my computer, an online site and my card index primarily.  To achieve this, I have upgraded my card index to three boxes, and in doing so, entered all the information contained on the cards into a spreadsheet in my computer, and into a tree at GenesReunited.  The updating of the online tree has slowed down somewhat – mainly due to the time I’ve been devoting to the PostADay challenge here on my blog.

I was very pleased with my spreadsheet – it was sortable and searchable in a variety of ways and I could see things at a glance and update easily.  And then today disaster struck!

I was merrily entering data – going through all my old certificates some of which I’d forgotten I had – from back in the early 1990s.  And then all of a sudden I lost the sort function.  It just greyed out in the menu and wouldn’t work with the manual sort function either.  Just went away.

I’m using a Mac laptop, and I haven’t got a lot of experience with Macs – this is my first one.  I love it.  And I loved the iWork Numbers spreadsheet.  So I went looking at some troubleshooting forums to find out what the problem was.  And it was file size.

I guess I should have expected it.  But I didn’t.  I have one sheet with 1323 rows and 13 columns.  And that appears to be the limit of its sorting ability.

It hasn’t crashed or anything.  I could go on adding data – but I can’t sort it any more.

There is probably a fix.  But I couldn’t find out what it was.  Other people seemed to have had similar problems in much smaller spread sheets than mine.

So I decided it was time to investigate genealogy software for my Mac.  That opened up a whole new world of issues for me.  Reading the reviews and forums on the various software programs available for Mac didn’t really fill me with confidence.  And I didn’t want to wait, and shop.  I wanted to have the thing in my computer yesterday.

Finally, after much searching and reading and wondering and worrying, I downloaded a ten-day trial version of iFamily for Leopard.  I started using it straight away, and entered a dummy version of an actual branch of my tree.  One person in that tree had a biological mother and father (naturally), foster parents, both of whom had been married previously, and both the biological mother and father, who were not married to each other had spouses of their own.

It took me a few minutes to untangle that mess, but I managed it without too much difficulty, without instructions, a manual or the help menu.  And I can show my person, with all of his connections – and the foster parents are shown as foster parents, the biological parents are shown as biological parents, and the spouses of the biological parents are shown as having no relationship to the child.  If the foster parents had divorced and remarried or whatever, there would also be capacity for indicating that and adding them.   This particular section of my family tree has created problems in the past in computer generated trees.

So I went and purchased the download file, installed it and I’m looking forward to entering everything (again).  What I know about that process is that it will bring to light gaps and new connections, so it’s a good (if inefficient) way to scrutinise my data and patch up some of the holes.

I’ll report on my progress periodically.  One of the benefits of this package is it generates html pages of trees I can publish here – and timelines – both of which are features my daughter has requested, to make sense of who’s who.

Stay tuned.


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