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Software: What Every Genealogist should Know about Computers

Since many homes have a personal computer, and almost all libraries have computers you can use to access the Internet, one way for genealogists to organize and record their information is by using family history programs. Available online and at your local computer or media store, programs that help you with your research are often easier to use than you think. Don't let your lack of computer skills discourage you from looking into buying one of these programs. All these resources work in different ways, so make sure you do your research before purchasing something, since they can cost as much as a few hundred dollars.

If you don't know a lot about computers, your first step is probably to employ the help of someone who does. You can ask your local librarian for help using the Internet, or you can take a course at your local community college. Often, these are one-time only events that are offered for free and taught by students. If this is not an option for you, ask for help from someone in the 16- to 25-year-old range. The younger generations grew up needing to know how to use computers to get by in their daily lives, so someone of this age can help you get started with your research.

Begin by searching online for product descriptions and reviews. A good place to start is with companies who sell many different types of software, because these reviews tend to be more unbiased. Amazon.com, which became famous for selling books, sells many types of genealogical research software programs, and not only does the company post reviews, but you can read user reviews to the product as well.

Decide what factors are important to you. First and foremost, set a budget and try to stick to it. Realize that you will get what you pay for, so the more tools you want, the more you will pay. Online, you can access many free services, but the disadvantage to this is that you are not always able to record all of your information, and unless you can do that, the program is not very useful, since you'll have to use it in conjunction with a written notebook or other computer files.

After you set a budget, look at your options within that price range. Tools commonly used on this type of software include family health charts, family trees, pedigrees, timelines, and basic information pages. What type of tools do you need? By comparing products, with the help of someone who knows a little bit about computers, you can choose one that is right for you and your skill level.

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