Personal Ancestral FileApplications Divers
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Personal Ancestral File is a sophisticated family history package published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). It is sold in IBM PC. Apple and CP/M versions. The CP/M version was originally designed for Kaypro computers, but Kintech Computers have adapted it to to run on PCWs.

Starting to use Personal Ancestral File is simple. It is designed to run on an 8512 using the two drives but it can also be run with a single disk drive, copying programs into the memory drive and using drive A for the data. Kintech say that copies delivered in future will be configured initially to run this way.

Set the computer to right paper setting by typing PAPER F66,GO,C,D and load the Family Records program. There is no configuring, no need to choose field names or data types or field lengths. All of that is preset.

You start with an individual and enter the name and what you know about date and place of birth, baptism, death and burial. The program allocates this person a Record Identification Number.

The easiest way to continue is to enter a marriage for this person next. You are prompted for information on the spouse, date and place of marriage, then for records of each child in order. Finally, the family is shown on the screen.

Any time you are about to enter information about a person there is a choice:

  • 1 Not yet in file
  • 2 In file, know Record Identification Number
  • 3 In file, don't know Record Identification Number

If you don't know the Identification Number you search for it using any combination of fields. A person can be added into the file, and linked into a family later on. There is provision for multiple marriages and unknown parents.

Getting it right

To define the places you will be recording needs a structure like the lines of an address, e.g. parish, town, county, country. Personal Ancestral File has four levels to a place name. You choose how to use them, but should be consistent.

It also has a quite sophisticated spell checker. When you enter a forename, surname or placename PAF looks it up iri a dictionary. If it's not there, PAF bleeps and asks you to type it again. If both are the same, it is added to the dictionary. Having to enter names twice is irritating at first, but a boon later on as PAF catches a wrong entry.

PAF also makes a number of consistency checks. When entering a marriage, if it finds a marriage already in the file for either partner it asks if you want to proceed. If you try to marry one woman to another the program will stop you. It also checks dates - for instance, if you enter an exact baptism date the program will warn you if it was before the approximate birth date you had entered before. All this checking improves the quality of information.

Browsing through the family

You can also browse through the records - called a pedigree search'. Choose any person and a chart of parents, spouse and children is displayed. You can home in on any of those people as principal for the chart, or move to a family with another spouse for the first person chosen, or display full details for anyone shown. You can browse up. down and across the family tree.

This browsing is an interesting way to show the information about the family to others. Younger members of the family get interested, older members start to supply additional items of information. It can be used to find people in the records, and make sure you have entered all the marriages.

To set out the information Personal Ancestral File has 12 different formats of lists and charts. For instance there is the Family Group Sheet -with information about a couple, their parents, their children.

The pedigree chart or birth brief starts from any person and gives date and place of birth marriage and death for parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

Descendants charts list all descendants in families from one ancestor for up to ten generations. Each generation is indented a few more spaces.

People can be listed in name or identification number order. Each person has dates of birth and death, name of father or spouse.

One chart that is missing is the conventional family tree, showing children along a horizontal line below the names of their parents. This is surprisingly difficult to program because of the variations.

You have to allow for cousin marriages, second marriages, marriages where the partners are related but of different generations. The easiest solution is to use a word processor to lay out a family tree.

A new family of computers

Families last longer than computers. How can you safeguard the information typed in. so you don't have to enter it again when you change your computer?

The Mormons' answer is a data transfer standard. GEDCOM. Personal Ancestral File includes a module which produces an ASCII file, a form which can be transferred to another computer. The Mormons are using this format to transfer data between micros and mainframes to build up a large family-linked database.

PAF also includes the Research Data Filer - a package within a package. Family Records is the main part of Personal Ancestral File, mainly for people known to be related. Research Data Filer is for source information.

You start collecting family history information by contact with relatives and looking at family papers. In due course you will find gaps which can only be filled by searching indexes to registers. Then you will have lists of births, marriages and deaths some of which are your family, others are apparently unrelated people of the same surname.

Sorting out this type of information is where a computer really scores. You can extract all records listing Thomas' as father, husband or son. sort them into date order, and print them. Then try all events in Daventry, sorted alphabetically by name. You soon start to get order out of chaos this way.

Research Data Filer is a two file relational database. One file has information about source documents, the other a list of events in the documents. The screen can be split to show one record of each file. Both files have the same document references, making it possible to match events to source documents. You enter full delails of where a document is kept and when you consulted it.

Research Data Filer is well constructed and easy to use, but not very different from many general purpose , databases. There is no link between Research Data Filer and the Family Records part of PAF.


★ PUBLISHER: Kintech Computers
★ YEAR: 1987
★ AUTHOR(S): ???
★ PRICE: £59.00


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