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My Research

I began researching my family the summer of 1978. In the beginning all my information came from relatives, especially my grand-parents. I would talk to them and make notes. A tape recorder would have been great except they cost money and I was not financially stable being young and married with two small children. So paper and pens were my primary means of documentation. Unfortunately I was not that organized and had scraps of paper in stacks everywhere, which I’m sure my wife didn’t appreciate.

In 1984 I accepted a new job and moved from Ohio to California. This didn’t help my research as I did not have as many family members in California and those that did lived miles away from the Inland Empire. In 1984 I took my family to watch the movie WAR GAMES and I decided to buy a computer. The only product that fit into my budget was a Commodore 64 (64kb). Looking back I am amazed at what programmers could do with that little computer as compared to the 64 bit systems used today. I began trying to write my own database programs using the computer language BASIC. This was a real challenge with little programming skills and a limited static database. About the same time my employer decided to buy a computer system and purchased a CompuPro which used the CPM+ operating system and could support four users. Since the owner couldn’t afford to hire a professional programmer he hired his attorney’s son who was studying computer programming. He purchased dBase II by Ashton Tate and started programming a database. He soon went back to college and I had to finish the programs. Needless to say I learned a lot and we actually ran the company for about four years on dBASE II, inventory, accounting and all.

On the home front I finally bought a Packard Bell computer with the DOS operating system and a 20mb hard drive. At that time, I did not think I would ever fill that drive and it would last for many years. I purchased dBase II for home and started writing my own programs to store data. At that point in time bulletin boards were the trend. So I purchased PCBoard and setup a bulletin board. People today do not realize how far computer communication has progressed. At that time I had a 1200 baud modem on a phone line using X-modem which used CRC error correction. Sending text was fine but a digital picture of any size or a compressed database file could take hours not minutes. You cannot imagine the complaints from my family when our single phone line was unavailable, which was not fair on my part. However, bulletin boards had another great resource, GEDCOM files. The trouble was I knew nothing about GEDCOM and did not have a way to convert to or from dBase II.

In 1991 my wife bought me a great Christmas gift, Family TreeMaker.

I mentioned to my wife since I design machinery, and travel a lot, I did not have time to keep trying to write my own programs and could not use much of the digital information I had collected. So in 1991 she surprised me and bought Family TreeMaker for my Christmas present. This was GREAT as I could add the GEDCOM files I had acquired from the hours of bulletin board downloads. Once I finished adding my genealogy records, I started importing GEDCOM files. Little did I know there are some that do not research their information and distribute files without metioning there was no validation or resources for the data. To be honest I had not validated my info since it had come from family members. So I started buying census and family tree CD’s from various sources. I was so exited with the CD’s I started with census pages going through them one by one.

Soon I became alarmed and then angry. I had added a lot more people to my database from GEDCOMs than from my family interviews and guess what I found? Many GEDCOMs were wrong and I had created my own database nightmare. In addition to incorrect people, place names were a mess. Family TreeMaker did not have a way to standardize place names at that time so I had every type of entry error you can imagine in the place fields. As a result I had to start over creating a new database and manually entering every piece of information. I started looking for alternatives to Family TreeMaker and tried quite a few. One of the unique ones was Wholly Genes. It had tons of options but unfortunately was not user friendly and difficult to use. I finally settled on Family Origins. The narrative reports were not as fancy as Family TreeMaker but it worked well and was extremely useful maintaining sources and place lists. Eventually the Family origins programmer, Bruce Buzbee, wrote Roots Magic which is what I use to this day. If you are interested here is a link to the History of Roots Magic:

The History of Roots Magic

Regardless of software used, I manually enter everything to this day and do not import any GEDCOMs, although I do import Geocodes. That is not to say my database does not have any errors. There are errors and I correct them when found. There are other issues like cemeteries changing names or are listed in the wrong place. I have found some death certificates are incorrect especially when the information was provided by a non-family member such as hospital staff or a neighbor. Some families have a favorite name where you can find people with the same name born the same month in the same county and the same year.

A New Resource – The Internet

My resources up to this point had been from family members, cemeteries, census CDs, probate court records, LDS Family History Centers and many incorrect GECOMs. When the internet started, it opened a new world of opportunities for genealogists. RootsWeb was one of my favorites at that time and still had bulletin board style posts available where people exchanged information. In 2000 I moved back to Ohio. I also joined Ancestry.com and have been a member ever since. It is certainly not free but offers a wealth of information and family collections. However some Ancestry Trees are incorrect. A noticeable trait on Ancestry.com is members copy each other’s trees so mistakes move from one tree to another so be careful and validate the information before adding to your database. The same is true on Find-A-Grave. I have found children attached to the wrong parents and marriages with the wrong spouses as well. Always validate your source. In the years to come, there will probably be one resource as Ancestry.com seems to be buying everyone.

By 2016 my database had grown considerably. I had researched information for cousins and many others related by marriage. So instead of constantly printing narrative reports or emailing GEDCOMs I decided to create my own web page. After some careful research I settled on TNG The Next Generation of Genealogy software and a Synology Disk Station.

TNG was written by Darrin Lythgoe. There are numerous options and many MODs are available to customize the program. Support from the author, TNG WIKI and the TNG forums are excellent. As of this writing, TNG is a real bargain at just $32.99. I believe you will find this to be the best and most flexible genealogy software on the market.

Synology makes great products and there are many built-in features. However online instructions are often vague and tech support responses are often slow. The user forums are a great resource and often provide the most timely answers. Synology tends to limit control of many features which often prevents novice users from messing up the OS. That said, Synology offers a great product that can run websites, add network storage, serve up audio and video files, surveillance and many more features. The product is a great choice if you want to own and control your website instead of using a host.

While TNG and Synology are both excellent products some learning is required to setup a website. I have instructions on another website for TNG and Synology which you can visit by clicking here.

Last Edit October 28.2017