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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Creating Family Trees
October 21st, 1998

The Mac particularly lends itself to producing graphic documents. I have used them for everything from organizational charts and floor plans, to complex computer operated slide shows. There are also several packages that are oriented toward family amusement and fun. A few years ago I created a simple family tree for a family reunion. It was a big hit and following the reunion, family members gave me additional information with which I was able to update the charts. I made the charts by drawing them, a lot of work, so I was intrigued with the concept of family tree software. The Internet has opened the world of researching family histories to a broad spectrum of people, not just to those who have had the time and money for long tedious searches. Now, anyone with a computer, modem, and Internet provider can perform complex searches from documents all over the world.

There are many software packages available for creating family trees Broderbund makes a complex packet that allows you to search numerous data base, some for which you pay a fee to activate and some that are free. I did not review this program as it is only available for PowerMac. However, there are several free services available through the program and I will provide information on them. There is another commercial software package designed to make family trees on a Mac and that program, Reunion 5, will run on any Mac that has System 7 or better. While researching this subject I reviewed family trees that ran several hundred pages. I think we can say these are serious students of their family histories. If you want to do such an in-depth genealogy survey of your family it may be worth your while to invest in one or more of these packages. However, if you are more interested in creating a memento that includes a diagram of what is most readily available, then the following should be of interest. Such charts can make nice wedding or holiday gifts.

There are a couple of good shareware programs available for the Mac, and if you simply want to put together readily available information, I highly recommend one or the other of them. Both are only $15.00 each. The one that best meets my needs is Gene 4.2.1. This is a real bargain for the amount this program has to offer. Gene was created by Diana and David Eppstein of Irvine, CA. To obtain this program via the net, go to and do a search for Gene 4.2.1. It will run on any Mac that has System 7 or better. The program will guide you through the steps necessary for the download. With my machine and Internet connection (56k) it took about 10 minutes for the download.

The program was both easy to use and user friendly, in that it anticipates a number of necessary steps and automatically pursues them. There are accompanying directions, but I did not find them necessary. Pull down options include file, edit, card, pictures, trees and windows. You create "cards" for each person and event so your first step is to create a card. Let us say we have Jane Mary Doe. There are several options under card, but you will have to start with "person". (If you don’t, the program will quickly prompt you do so). You will type in the name of the person, their birth date, place of birth, mother, and father, or any part of that information that you know. Next you go back to "card" and select another subject. You can move on to another person or stick with Jane. Suppose you choose "marriage". A new template comes up and asks you for the name of the spouse, date of marriage, place of marriage, and justice of the peace or minister who performed the ceremony. Again, you put in what you have. When you put in the name of Jane’s husband the program will immediately identify that there is no person card on him and it will ask if you want one created. The created card will immediately come up so that you can put in the personal information on the husband. It will also already have a note at the bottom concerning the marriage. You continue to create cards for "person", "marriage", "death", "divorce", "adoption", etc. As each card is created, directly related cards are automatically modified with pertinent information. If Jane had 10 children and 2 husbands all that will be added to her "person" card as you create the other cards. Not only will it be added, but it will be added sequentially.

Once you have all the cards completed you may ask for family trees concerning descendants, ancestors, or relations. Any option you choose can be saved and/or printed. The program also allows you to insert photographs.

The second shareware program is Heritage 3.11, produced by Tag Software. This program also runs on any Macintosh with system 7 or better and can be accessed from in the same manner as Gene. It offers many of the same options as does Gene, but they are set up differently. For one thing, rather than individual cards by subject, there are person cards that allows you to enter events, photographs and biography information.

Which one you may decide to use will probably be predicated on which one you feel most comfortable with. Each program allows you to try it out before you register and send your $15.00 so you have ample opportunity to experiment.

Suppose that you have all the information you care to have on the members of your family except for the date of birth and death of poor Jane’s scoundrel first husband. One option that you have for getting this information is to go to the Broderbund site and see what you can find. This process will take some patience and some time, but it can be interesting and informative.

Start by accessing Take a few minutes to read the instructions. You will note at the top of the page that there are several categories including, classified ads, message boards, user home pages, and search. The search option allows you to type in information and ask for a search. The results will be displayed for your review. Unless you have purchased the software, you will not be able to access every one, but you will have ready access to home pages, social security death records, and existing family trees that have been posted on the net. While searching for a family member from Georgia I was able to find records from counties, cemeteries, and war records. The system will easily allow you to move about as your search indicates. How far you choose to pursue your quest is up to you.

So, there you are with some guidelines for getting started. I wish you luck if you decide to create a tree for your family and ask that you write me if you find other really useful tools that might be of help to other readers. Thanks for stopping by.

As always your comments and questions are welcome.

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

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Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

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Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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