In another post I compared my local Walmart with the new Publix and Lin responded that she preferred her co-op. I think some of it could be that we prefer that which is familiar and the same is true with grocery stores and genealogy programs.
I had #1 in 1991. I had dabbled in genealogy and done some research, but I worked full time and went to school some and basically being a newly wed (5 years) was busy with a new home and a new baby and didn’t have a lot of time. Then #2 came along and I was a busy mom of two, but I needed SOMETHING to keep me sane. Genealogy seemed like the perfect hobby. I hate to sew. I can’t knit or crochet, though my blessed mom has tried over and over to teach me. I can not stand to scrapbook, though in those days few people had scrapbooks, most of us had photo albums. So genealogy it was. Hubby had an old Unix machine and I used Emacs (if you have no clue what those are, be thankful) to type in my family tree. Find a new kid, you just added him to the family. I used the Henry numbering system (again, be thankful) and added people and footnotes as I went. But along that time, this new thing called Usenet was coming popular and Hubby kept telling me about this news group for genealogist and this new program called Roots III. One Saturday he had to work and the kids and I went to work with him, and I used the Internet to read all I could about this new program. Seems I was lucky. If I bought it now, I could get a free upgrade to Roots IV coming out soon. (I highlight soon, because in the genealogy software world that means any day after tomorrow, but before H_ _ L freezes over.)
So I bought it and a new computer and began typing people and dates into the software. And so began a journey. There was Roots III, Roots IV, Roots V, Ultimate Family Tree V1-V3, and then UFT was sold to the people who owned Family Tree Maker, and I was scared that I was stuck. But then one day, Bob Velke sent an email to the UFT mailing list on Rootsweb saying he would offer a discount to any UFT user willing to try The Master Genealogist. I immediately downloaded the trial and have been a TMG user ever since. BUT…
That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried other products to see what they are like. I down load them and GEDCOM my data over, because none of them do a direct read of TMG data. And I play with them. Several of the most popular ones have crashed on me within minutes of me playing with them. And at the end of the day, I go back to TMG. Why? Well, I like it. And it’s familiar. It does what I need and it feels safe. The other programs are supposed to be more user friendly, but I can never find anything I need and I feel lost and it doesn’t seem friendly. Is it unfriendly? No more so than TMG’s screens are to new users. It’s just not familiar.
I always laugh when users of those programs talk about how friendly they are. I can make them crash within seconds of opening them. The screens aren’t self explanatory. You see friendly is often in our perception. If I am at the grocery store and you are checking me out (which means there is no self check out line), you might not think I am all that friendly. I don’t like talking in the check out line. But if you are a friend, or we go to church together, or I have used your line a million times before, you’d say I was really friendly, because I would talk. You see, you would be familiar to me.
So how does a new genealogist pick a program? Download the free trial. I don’t know of a single genealogy program that doesn’t offer a free trial. Play with it as much as you can for the trial period, which is usually a month. Try as many as you can. Join the mailing list for that software at rootsweb, or see if it has a user forum. Ask questions of the many users there that are passionate about that product. (Send an email to the TMG list and I will probably be one of the first to answer.) Then make the best decision you can for yourself. Your needs are different than mine. I like that I can manipulate the program just as much as the data it stores. You may not have that need. I like that I can customize everything about the data, from sentences, to sources, to repositories, to who can and can’t read it. You may want boxes where you fill in the blank and those are the only choices.
But don’t let cost be the main factor. I bought Roots III for over $200. If you look at the number of years I have been doing computer genealogy (18 ) and divide it by the amount of money I have spent on programs (around $400-500) I have spent around $22-29 a year on genealogy programs. (I also use other genealogy programs, besides TMG, like Second Site and Gensmarts) And the bulk of that was for that first one. Most software companies offer free updates for a year or more before a major update comes out. So for basically the price of a magazine subscription, I have used the most up to date genealogy program on the market for the last 18 years. I use it almost every single day for at least two hours a day. Name another hobby that only costs $22 a year, that will give you a close relationship with your mother-in-law. That will give you a picture of your great-great-great grandfather from a cousin you never met. That will show you where you get your stinginess from and you violet eyes as well. That will give your friends all over the world.
Yup, 18 years ago it was to keep me sane. These days it’s because I am passionate about my research. It keeps me from thinking about my baby graduating and moving into the real world, and it keeps me off the streets. LOL
But mainly it’s a familiar way to fill the evenings.