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May 15, 2003

Untangle Family Roots With Simple Software

By J.D. BIERSDORFER

Q. I would like to create computer records of information about my ancestors. Are there genealogy programs that are appropriate for computer beginners?

A. Genealogy study is a popular pastime, and dozens of software programs and hundreds of Web sites can help you trace your family's history. Much of the software designed for home users is straightforward and easy to learn.

The programs differ in the kinds of research material and special features they provide, like template options that determine how your findings can be displayed or printed. With so many titles from which to choose, you may want to narrow your search by making a list of the tasks you want the program to perform.

Do you want the option of printing family tree information in several different styles, or in booklet form? Do you want CD-ROM's containing the Social Security Death Index, census records and other information, or would you prefer to rely on research sites and archives on the Web? Will you need to import and export information in specific file formats?

Two basic Windows programs designed for beginners and costing less than $20 are Family Trees Quick & Easy by Individual Software (http://www.individualsoftware.com/) and Generations Family Tree by Broderbund (http://www.broderbund.com/).

Those companies also make more advanced programs, Individual's Heritage Family Tree Deluxe and Broderbund Family Tree Maker, that enable you to publish family trees on the Web, incorporate multimedia clips and gain access to archival resources.

Another Windows program that has drawn positive reviews from genealogy magazines is RootsMagic ($29.95 at http://www.rootsmagic.com/). Among the software choices for Macintosh users are Reunion ($99; http://www.leisterpro.com/) or Gene ($15; www.ics.uci.edu/~eppstein/gene).

Lists of family tree programs, reviews and other resources can be found at directory.google.com/Top/Society/Genealogy/Products_and_Services/Software.

Several sites, including http://www.genealogy.com/ and http://www.ancestry.com/, are good starting points.


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