Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

More Comments About Genealogy Software

I am always amazed at the number of junk cars there are as you drive across the United States. Some of the yards have as many as three or more sitting out there rusting to death. At the same time, there is a huge market for "classic" cars. Every year, the Barrett-Jackson car auctions come to Scottsdale, Arizona and every year cars are sold for astronomical prices. Perhaps it is this same instinct that fills the farms and yards of America with junk cars that also makes a car sold in the 1960s cost a small fortune. Personally, I love to look at rare and collector cars. But I choose to drive an immensely more practical one.

I have no idea what this has to do with genealogy. But I also have no idea why people keep using old, abandoned, software programs that have been outdated for years. Software cannot be restored and become a collector's item. You are never going to get rich selling your old computer programs at a nationally advertised auction, especially one held in Scottsdale, Arizona. Like they say, one man's junk is another man's treasure. But software does not grow more valuable with age. Additionally, as genealogists who might put a few hours of research time and effort into their database, using a program that is no longer supported is not very smart (there are a lot of other words I could use here but will not out of courtesy to those do not know better).

Let's take Personal Ancestral File or PAF for an example. Because it is a DOS-based program, i.e. runs on PC computers and still runs on many computers, it is still being used extensively. Here is the reality of running a software program that stopped being developed or upgraded back in 2002,

The version of Microsoft Windows that was being used in 2002 was Windows XP N.T. 5.1. Windows XP was replaced by Windows Vista in 2007. I am still finding computers that are running versions of Windows XP. Guess what, if you are still using Windows XP, you cannot use any of the current browsers to access the internet, Chrome and FireFox have stopped supporting both Windows XP and Windows Vista. Many online websites will not work with the older browsers. If you are still using XP in order to keep your copy of PAF running, you are cutting yourself off of much of what is available on the internet. Not to mention the fact that the internal memory of those old PC computers will not support much of the currently available software both online and that sill available to purchase on disks.

An old Chrysler Imperial that I drove got about six miles per gallon of gas. Even if you loved that car, you would not want to drive it around too much. Even if you love XP and PAF, you have to admit that you are tethered by the limitations of the programs.

OK, I realize that all these observations are not persuasive to a "dyed in the wool" PAF user. You use the program because it is simple, it works and does everything you want it to do. You are also too old or set in your ways to change to a new program now. Also, you do not know how to move your data to another program. Did you know that both Ancestral Quest and RootsMagic both directly support and load PAF files? There is a simple path to having a new fully-functional program. Both programs are sold for $29.95, a ridiculously low price.

Here is the real problem. PAF will one day stop working. Your program will not be compatible with any existing operating software and your XP based computer will stop working some day. There is no path to making PAF a valuable collectors item.


  1. I took a look at the reviews for PAF. Here are two 5 star, yes, FIVE star, reviews from 2017 on the GenSoft site you mentioned:

    "I used PAF for many years and I loved it. It was so easy to use. I liked having it because no one could make changes on it like they do on Family Search. Recently I lost all of my data on PAF. I am crushed. I have the program but I can’t find all my information. I had thousands upon thousands of names and personal information. I spent 47 years gathering the information. Even my flash drive doesn’t work. I tried using the flash drive to upload on my computer."


    "For what it’s worth: have been using the LDS Personal Ancestral File program for many years, and I have yet to find a substitute that even comes close to PAF 5. I still have it on my Windows laptop - don’t have an installation disk because LDS offered it as downloadable from their website - but I subsequently switched to Mac a few years ago. Looks as if I may have to go back to my clunker of a laptop in order to use PAF 5 again. I used Wineskin to install it on my iMac, and it worked like a charm. But subsequent Apple operating system updates have made PAF 5 unusable again on my preferred Mac platform. And the current versions of Wineskin and Porting Kit don’t seem to work to get PAF 5 running on my up-to-date iMac. The Porting Kit developer’s response after my last failed attempt was that he may have let the Porting Kit licence expire, but he would re-instate it shortly. I’m still waiting. Wish there was some way to get an easily installable copy of PAF 5 onto my iMac. My genealogy work has suffered since PAF 5 stopped working on my iMac."

    and a four star review:

    "I think PAF was great. I have GED and BAK files from my PAF1and2 which were DOS format. I have lost my software. Can anyone help me get my data back? I’d like to get software that would read the DOS versions."

    Does make me scratch my head to think that people give four and five stars to a program they admit doesn't work anymore.

  2. Truly important topic. A lot of good genealogical work has been lost because it is kept in a format that no longer are readable. I included your article im ny "Friday Finds" at

  3. Maybe you're preaching to the wrong choir: If Windows XP users cannot use the current internet browsers, they are not going to get your message.

  4. TMG is another program, still used by many.An oldie but a goodie.(Not me, I'm using FTM, almost thought that was lost too, thankfully it is not.)