I already use a variety of family tree programs. For a start, I have my personal private very protected family tree on The Master Genealogist, where I keep the true details of all ancestors with notes, sureties, copies of documentation and all living people’s history. The Master Genealogist on my computer does not ever come into contact with the internet and never will.
Then at the other end of the scale I have my family tree posted on Wikitree, stripped of living people and presenting the facts as I know they will suit all family members. If someone did jail time for rape or even if someone was a hopeless drunk, you won’t find that fact there – I’ll simply state that they were in jail or had health problems. The details on Wikitree are my children’s main ancestor lines. Other sibling lines have filled out as I receive cousin contacts and as other members have connected with my tree, but that one is a call to fellow genealogists to review my research and help me celebrate our ancestors. It’s accurate, but socially acceptable.
In between, I have MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder and I have a very large tree hosted by MyHeritage. This one costs me a packet and every year I consider cancelling my subscription, but it is so useful that every year I find the money to keep it running. It has become especially useful since I DNA tested.
In Australia, more people seem to use MyHeritage than use Ancestry. I chose MyHeritage in the first place – well, partially because it was cheaper – but also because ancestor searches located more of my relevant trees on MyHeritage than on Ancestry. I always get matches on MyHeritage with family details.
I also have a small tree on Ancestry. I started a basic tree on each but since the smart matches came from MyHeritage that was the one I went with. I don’t really update my Ancestry tree but I do jump in and check it every so often. I have made about three valuable contacts through that site. However, I have made many more through Wikitree and MyHeritage.
Also, I have a growing tree on Genes Reunited which has netted me some contacts that I have found nowhere else. It is definitely the one for researching ancestors in England.
Almost last of all, I have an ancient copy of Cumberland Family Tree which is how I started out, and I keep a very old version of my tree for the times I need some reassurance that I am moving forward. I used Cumberland in the early 1990s and when I load that tree, I have all my notes and theories about brick wall ancestors which I have now resolved. I can remember just how stymied I was and I can see just where my thinking had blocked me from seeing the truth. It’s quite motivating and it helps me now when my current brick walls get me down. Nothing is unsolvable. Really.
I now have two more trees to add to this enormous list. One is on Tribal Pages and I started it in order to learn how to view other people’s trees, since it looks as if trees are private and all you publicly see is a list of names but not their relation to each other. Someone on there has solved a mystery which I am still puzzling over but I can’t put their list of names together to figure it out. I sent a message to the person who made the tree but lately no one is replying to my emails and I don’t know – are my emails going to people’s spam folders, are they not getting there in the first place or is the person subtly saying they don’t want to talk? I really don’t want to be pushy so I haven’t sent a second message. Instead, I built a tree including the branch I am puzzling over in the hopes they will spot it and contact me.
Finally – REALLY finally – after discussion over the ending of support for The Master Genealogist, the TMG email list casually and unofficially reviewed a whole lot of replacement options and one was the very simple and basic Personal Ancestral File Version 5.2 . I downloaded it out of curiosity and for a basic, quickly up-and-running low space low graphics program, it’s very intuitive and easy to use. I wouldn’t use it for my main family tree, but it has assisted heaps in my DNA tree research.
As the administrator of the Normanites Project explained, the best way to find a connection is to take your matches’ tree and build it out to find your own link. This is so much easier than doing it the other way. If I build out my own tree, I have to check each new name to see if it is in the other tree. If I build out their tree, I don’t have to do this. I know exactly who I have in my tree.
Don’t ask me how I know, it’s a mystery to everyone around me. I have 16,000 individuals in my MyHeritage tree and anytime I spot a name that is in it, I recognise the name as being somewhere in my tree. It’s an uncanny knack I have which has no use in the world of employment because computers can do it too. Very useful for visiting large cemeteries, I know which graves to take a photo of.
So now, as well as my own ancestor trees, I use PAF to very quickly build the trees of my matches. I don’t need anything other than vital dates and locations. I will add notes which might turn out relevant, so I don’t try to place a man who was born in England into a family which emigrated from there ten years earlier.
I now have 39 pages of matches and still growing. For each five matches, on average, one comes with a provided tree and two come with ancestor surnames – one of which is the one with a tree. Three have no information at all. For the ones with provided trees, I only need to build on the likely connection. Once I have created the tree and entered the names and dates, those details enter my mental database and when I see them pop up in a different matches’ tree, I can build them onto that tree rather than create a new one for them.
I have found the connection between several distant cousin’s trees, but still have not worked out their link to me. However – at least I know which branch I am interested in. That can be the subject of another blog post.
I needed to explain this to set the scene for the next stage in my DNA related research.