Now that you have gathered the beginnings of your family tree, you have amassed a great deal of information. You are now encountering a new problem; how do you store your information?
You have two possible options. The most common is storage on a computer or CD/DVD, or/or a handwritten computer generated hard copy. Both methods and viable solutions will be discussed in this article.
Using a computer to research and record family data is the most commonly used application today. Research possibilities via the Internet have seen a rapid and explosive growth in the last few years. Use of the Internet as a research tool will be discussed in a future article.
Storing you family information on a computer or CD/DVD has been made relatively simple with the advent of genealogy software. There are many different programs on the market in all price ranges. There are also a few around on the net that can be downloaded for free.
Your local computer or home office center can help you choose a program to suit your needs and pocketbook. My personal favorite is “Family Tree Maker”, as they offer a variety of packages in suitable price ranges. This program is user friendly, entering data is easy and there are lots of options available for entering data specific to your family.
However, another option is to download a free program off the internet. If you choose to do this, be aware and don’t download a trial version of the program. This will only give you use of the program for a short time, and then if you want to keep it you must buy it. Otherwise all the data you entered will be lost in cyber oblivion.
I have downloaded “Personal Ancestral File” from the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (LDS) website. (www.familysearch.com) This program is easy to use. It is also superb for uploading or downloading gedcoms from family or other researchers (More on gedcoms in a future article)
No matter what type of program you choose to use, you will need some time to play around and get acquainted with the program before you actually start to enter your data. Most programs have tutorials or help pages and I advise you to make use of them. It will save you lots of time and cussing at the computer if you check this out first!
I also strongly advise you to back up all the data you enter into your program at least once a month, or more often if you are entering data on a heavy basis. I back my files both on my computer hard drive and on CD/DVD. This may seem like a pain, but after suffering a major computer crash and losing almost a year’s work I learned this lesson well. Now I have well over 16000 names in my database and I am very good about backing things up!
You need to also print a hard copy of your database. This is very handy for reference when you are not on the computer and also to take with you when you are visiting other researchers or out visiting sites such as records offices to gather information. Again, this is also a great backup if your computer fails and the dog eats the CD/DVD. You can print off new additions to the hard copy as soon as you have entered them, so this saves some time too.
For those of you who prefer pen to paper or fingers to typewriter keys, your first step is to visit your local stationer’s. This is the best place to find genealogy record sheets. There are a few different types available to you, and again this is a personal choice. Handwritten or typewritten, this may seem laborious, but think of the historical record you are creating. If your local shop doesn’t have the sheets, call your local genealogical society and they should be able to help you find them.
Most of these sheets are pretty straightforward. They are set up for one family unit, parents and the children and all the pertinent data. One per family unit and you are good to go. Again if there is any confusion about these sheets, there are often instructions included with the sheets or numerous sites online that can help you with this.
I hope this gets you a little deeper into your journey. Things may seem tedious at times, but the gains are will far outweigh the frustrations. In the next article, I shall begin looking into various research methods and the easy ways to get to where you want to go!