Mar 6, 2021

(+) What is the Purpose of a Genealogy Program?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

If you record your genealogy research efforts on paper, you might want to skip this article. However, if you use a computer program as an aid to your genealogy research, read on.

Is the genealogy program you chose a database of results, or is it a tool to help your research while that research is still a work-in-progress? Perhaps a bigger question is, “Will my genealogy program help me evaluate evidence? Or is it simply a place to record the results after I have done all the research?”

I suspect that many genealogists do not use their favorite genealogy programs to full potential. In fact, some genealogy programs make it difficult to accomplish what a computer does best: organize, filter, and retrieve information whenever it is needed.

Many genealogy programs appear to be nothing more than a place to record your research CONCLUSIONS. Keep that word in mind for a few minutes: “conclusions.” I would suggest that your genealogy program should do much, much more. Sadly, most of today’s genealogy programs do not.

With many of today’s genealogy programs, you must first look at all the available evidence, weigh the possibilities of inaccuracies, and then decide which facts you wish to believe. Only then, after you have done all the hard work, are you able to enter the information into many genealogy programs. However, that doesn’t fulfill my needs, and I bet it does a poor job of meeting your needs as well. Sadly, many genealogists accept such limitations as normal and never stop to think about what their real needs are.

What I need is a research TOOL. I need a database that helps DURING the process of gathering and evaluating genealogy information. During this process, I often don’t yet know what is accurate versus what is not. In fact, if I find contradictory information, I need a user-friendly database to collect all the possibilities, help me compare and evaluate all that evidence, and thereby help me determine what is most likely to be the truth. Computers should be great at such tasks. Sadly, most of today’s genealogy programs are lacking in such capabilities. That includes the online programs (The Next Generation of Genealogical Sitebuilding,, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, and others) as well as today’s Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iPad, and Android genealogy programs.

For example, I have a great-great-grandfather who has remained a mystery to me for many years. The problem is that I have found TOO MANY records of his birth date and birth place, and the various “facts” all contradict each other. Which one is correct, if any?

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