Tag Archives: software

"What on earth do you want that for?"

13 Feb

I regularly visit charity shops, usually in search of books (as a substitute for all the second-hand bookshops that have closed), but also for DVDs and computer software.

I found a real bargain today, a battered box entitled Family Tree Genealogy Suite (Version 4) produced by GSP Ltd, now part of the Avanquest Software Group.

Family Tree Genealogy Suite

Now I know what you are thinking, probably the same as my wife would "what on earth do you want that for?", after all it was published in 2003, and I already have a decent piece of genealogy software and if I didn’t there are several free options for genealogy software.

Aside from the fact it was only £3 and that was going to charity, the real reason for buying it were two CDs included in the "suite". The two CDs are the installation and data disk for UK-Info 2003 Lite.

The reason this program is so good is that it contains the names and addresses of 44 million registered electors from the UK. According to the CD it contains "data drawn from the Electoral Roll collected by Local Authorities prior to November 2001".

The key thing here is that this data is from before the changes in legislation which enabled people to have their details removed from the public version of the register. The data is available online from sites like 192.com, but for a price.

Interestingly the latest version UK-Info Pro V15 now only contains 25 million names and addresses (plus 14 million Directory Enquiry listings and 3.4 million company records). The price tag of £150 puts it well out of my reach and I would imagine most genealogists.

I’ve installed the program and tested it, everything seems to work fine. I’ve done some searching, so now all I need to do is create a source record in Family Historian and start adding some address details to my relations.

The lesson from this is to always keep an eye open for family history software, not for the software itself, but for the freebies that are included with it.

No genealogy again!

12 Dec

Today is the second Saturday in a row where I have not really done any family history work.

Today was mainly devoted to getting my new PC up and running, and this is the first post written using my (nearly) new PC and Windows Live Writer, which must mean that everything is working properly.

There wasn’t really any problem with installing everything, I have all the CDs and licences, but what was really time-consuming was getting everything set up just the way I like it.

Family Historian is the best example, there are so many different settings and customizations that you can do, it took forever to get it back to what I am used to.

Apart from removing a couple of bits from my old PC (the CD/DVD writer and USB expansion card) it is now sitting unwanted on the floor. I’m not sure what I will do with it, I am reluctant to throw it away, but I’m not sure anyone else would get any further use from it either.

I’ve just remembered one thing I haven’t plug in and installed yet, that is my printer/scanner/copier. I am hoping not to use the printer too much, but the scanner I couldn’t live without.

Perhaps once I have that up and running I can spend a bit of time on my family tree, on second thoughts, perhaps I have spent enough time on my various computers today.

Introducing the GenTower

21 Nov

This is my new PC (codename: GenTower) and it has one purpose in life, to be my genealogy PC. As you can see it is not really new, that is rather given away by the presence of a 3½” floppy drive on the front.

Introducing the GenTower

Interestingly I have never bought a new PC in my entire life, only a new netbook. All my other PCs have either been second-hand or upgraded from existing PCs. I just can’t bear to throw away a PC that is still working, without at least pulling parts out of it for re-use.

The truth is that most of what I will use it for is not going to be that demanding, it doesn’t need an expensive graphics card or a water-cooled processor for viewing census images. What I do need is more memory and a newer operating system than my current PC provides.

It already has more memory than my current PC, but importantly it has the capacity for more, so I will probably add the maximum I can over the next few months, dependant on the price of course.

The hard drive is a reasonable 80GB, which doesn’t sound a lot these days, but knowing that my family history files all still fit on a 4GB memory stick makes me think that 80GB will probably be sufficient for the time being, unless I happen to come across a large hoard of family photos that need scanning.

It has a DVD player, but I will probably swap that with the DVD writer from my current PC. I can’t actually see much use for the 3½” floppy drive, although I do still have some old DOS games on 3½” disks, but I expect they are probably unreadable now anyway.

For some strange reason I am overcome by the desire to have a 5¼” floppy drive in the machine as well. I don’t really know why, I can’t imagine that I would ever use, but I think it would be really cool just to have it sitting there alongside the DVD writer.

The operating system on the GenTower is Windows XP Pro, which is a step up from the Windows 2000 that I have on my current PC. I know I am still a couple of operating systems behind, but XP should be good enough to keep me going for another couple of years at least, and at least now I will have a PC that will be capable of handling a newer operating system.

Most of the software I need will be removed from my old PC and re-installed on the new one. Having Windows XP will give me a greater choice of software to use, because so much new software doesn’t support Windows 2000 and several online services don’t support Windows 2000 either, like Dropbox.

Before I can start using it there is much to be done, in it’s previous life the GenTower was a business machine and today, after having a good look around it’s hard drive, I decided that best option was to do a complete restore, back to it’s original factory settings.

That has cleared out a lot of rubbish, but it has also cluttered it up with a few bits of unwanted and out-dated software (like Norton Anti-Virus 2004), so my next task is to remove all that, get some fresh virus and firewall protection on it and then plug it in to the internet.

Then I will point it to the Microsoft Update website and let it spend several hours updating everything in sight. Only then will it be ready for me to plug in all my other devices and start cluttering up the hard drive with my family history.

I think I may have found a tool to manage my to-do lists and projects

3 Jul

I have been looking for database software to enable me to store information about houses or properties that are connected to my family tree, such as current address, maps or grid references.

I still haven’t found what I was looking for, but I may have found the solution for managing my to-do lists and next actions on my different projects.

I am still evaluating (or playing around with) it but I think TreeDBNotes could be just the tool for keeping track of my research. I am just trying out the free version, and it looks pretty flexible, I particularly like the tree structure.

I am thinking of having one folder per family surname, and then sub-folders of different types, such as one for the individual people I am researching, another for general research goals, perhaps another for the ancestral home, the possibilities are endless. The folders can be colour coded and have different icons, depending on the category.

The actual notes side of it looks very flexible (I normally use a basic text editor like notepad), with the ability to insert all sorts of different objects such as images and tables. The text can be formatted in many different styles, just like you would expect in a fully featured word processor.

There are only two drawbacks I can see at the moment and they could both be my fault. Firstly I haven’t been able to get the global search to work. I would like to be able to search across all notes in the tree.

The second problem I can see is that I might spend more time formatting and editing the notes than I would actually doing any research. It may be the case that I need to set up some predefined folder types and templates to stop me getting carried away.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else is using TreeDBNotes (or something similar) to track their research, in the mean time I will continue playing with it using it and see if it is a help or a hindrance.

Family Historian 4: first impressions

2 May

Having just installed version 4 of Family Historian (FH), I had to give it a try (I should have been doing the housework!) and get a taste of the new and improved features.

The biggest difference appears to be the addition of a project management element, previously FH had really only been about handling the GEDCOM file, but now it also tries to take do the job of the organising other media as well (such as photos and census images). This appears to be causing concern amongst some existing users (who already have folders structures in place) but should be a great help to beginners.

Personally I think it is going to be a great help to me, I don’t have many images linked to my GEDCOM at the moment, and this will hopefully encourage me to include more.

I am not sure if this is the intended purpose but I am going to use the project capability to create two distinct parts to my family history research. One is the completed research with images and photos, and the other the research material/notes and work in progress.

As an example, I have lots of scanned photos (I am sure I am not alone) which need cropping, retouching, resizing and generally having work done on them. Using this new project system I will have one folder (and sub-folders) for the original image (which will be kept untouched) and another folder (as part of the FH project) for the ‘public’ copy.

The handling of media has improved, and I can now easily see the few images I do have linked. I was really impressed when I clicked the ‘Open in default player/editor’ button and my editor opened up almost instantly. I am sure this has nothing to do with FH especially, just that I did have much else running at the time, but I don’t think I have ever seen it open so fast.

The other major addition is the focus window, this is a more traditional way of viewing and editing the individuals. It shows the family of an individual (parents, spouses and children) in a clear and logical way as opposed to the list based view in the record window. The information here is not directly editable, but it is easy to bring up the property box alongside the focus window and edit the details there.

I think I will still be using the record window for most of my work, but the focus window is a great way of exploring your tree and jumping to other individuals. It has four tabs in total: Spouses & Children, Parents & Siblings, Ancestors and Descendants.

It is great to have a built in pdf printer, especially one which supports such a wide range of page sizes, that is going to make getting a large chart printed so much easier and quicker.

There is so much to explore with FH, even prior to this latest upgrade I hadn’t used even half of the features, and now when I look at a menu I have trouble remembering whether it was there before or not.

Personally I would say it is well worth the money, I know it is going to be another distraction to getting my actual research done, but research is only half of the job, presentation and explanation of the results should be just as important.

I would recommend anyone looking for family history software whether they are a beginner or an expert to download the 30 day free trial and give it a try.

Family Historian 4: purchase and installation

2 May

The arrival of the weekend has given me chance to sit down and upgrade Family Historian to version 4. As I previously reported the new version has just been released and I have purchased the upgrade to version 4 from my old version 3 (which was itself an upgrade from version 2).

I had decided that I would purchase the download version (having no desire to bring yet another CD and box into the house), so I visited the Family Historian website and clicked on the Buy Family Historian link at the top of the page. Here I selected the product I was after and was transferred to the kagi.com website for payment.

I was delighted to see the ‘Check of with PayPal’ button there, that meant I didn’t need to enter all my details or even get out of my chair to get my debit card. The transaction went through quickly and I headed to my email inbox to await further instructions.

This is where there is only one slight negative point, it wasn’t immediately obvious after the transaction had been completed that details would be sent by email. It did say earlier in the check process that this was the case, but I think I would be helpful to have it at the end of the process as well.

The emails arrived within a couple of minutes, I printed out the email with the licence key for future reference, and clicked on the download link and saved the file. Installation was quick and easy, just a few clicks and enter the licence key and it was done.

All in all it was a pretty easy process, without any problems. Like I said earlier it would be nice to have seen a prompt to go and check your email after purchasing, or perhaps I missed, but that would be my only complaint.

Family Historian 4 available from Calico Pie

26 Apr

The latest version of the UK authored, Windows family history program Family Historian is now available from the Family Historian website.

I have been using Family Historian since June 2002 (version 2.0.7) and have had no call to change in all that time. I love the flexibility in it’s diagrams and queries, and it’s records window just seemed so intuitive to me when I first started, although I know it is not to everyone’s taste.

Details of what’s new in version 4 can be found on the website where you can also download a free 30 day trial (existing Family Historian users should make sure they read the note about installing the trial version over their existing version before downloading).

I will be downloading the upgrade shortly and will give you an update on it’s new features in due course.

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