Sunday, October 15, 2006

Keeping track of family history research

Family history research is like a jigsaw puzzle with many puzzles all mixed together.  Our job is to first determine which puzzle pieces are ours and then put them together.  Keeping track of these pieces is a real chore.  Organization is the key.... 

As a computer professional I tend to organize my things electronically these days.  I looked at the software solutions the were available for storing family history and was surprised at how many there were.  I checked out reviews, watched demos and finally ended up with a "trial" version of Family Tree Maker.  This software was very easy to use.  I could store the information I'd found, display it in various ways, produce reports and nice family trees suitable for framing.  There was an Internet research feature that was disabled and required the full version and subcription to be active (the hook).  I hate when software vendors do this but they all do, give you a taste to entice you and then bait you with the part you really need.  FTM does this to the max.

 I finally took the bait while shopping at Costco a couple of weeks ago.  I saw Family Tree Maker version 16 on their software table for $40 and decided to become legal.  One nice thing about buying the software is that it came with a 9 month subscription to, an Intenet genealogical research website.  I had already done a trial subscription there and knew how useful this was.  Installation and registration of the software was very easy, almost too easy.

And here's the really annoying part....  As part of the registration process, you are required to give them a credit card # to activate the subscription to  Why, you ask?  If you read the fine print you are signing up for an automatic annual renewal that will cost you $155.40 if you don't cancel at least 2 days before the renewal date.  To make matters worse, they don't really tell you when the renewal is and make it very difficult to get in touch with the right people to actually cancel.  How many people are going to remember this 9 months out?  Maybe users of the sofware will want to keep the subscription intact but I find it downright sneaky the way has done this.  This has become a very common practice among software vendors desiring a steady income stream from complacent users.

Anyhow, enough for my rant.  The software is actually very useful.  The Internet search feature saves a lot of time by passing saved family information to to focus searches in their databases and saves found data and citations back into FTM.  It's so easy to spend hours searching through bits of history. 

I've already marked my calendar to call on June 15, 2007 just to let them know that I'm on to their game.

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