Wednesday, August 13, 2008

PAF (Personal Ancestral File), GEDCOMs and You

A common question might be,"I've got a program already so why get and use PAF (Personal Ancestral File)?"
  1. It is free. It is pretty powerful too. It gets the basics done for recording information and support resources. You can supplement it with the free PAF Companion for charts and other output in color.
  2. If your are just starting to keep records on the computer the format used helps you to understand the process of recording individual data and the support documentation. There are enough user groups, family history centers and individual who already use it so there is a huge pool of experienced and willing users to help you get started correctly.
  3. It allows standard, easy data and file transfer with other researches. This can be done either by a copy of the PAF file (.paf) or by a GEDCOM file (the acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication file)*. The PAF program was the first widely distributed and used software for Family Research efforts. It may still be the most common one in existence. Most individuals who have upgraded to more expansive commercial software still have a copy of the current PAF on their computer. (It is just handy to have around).
  4. PAF will be the basis for creating and keeping records to interface with upcoming version of FamilySearch (now being developed in and tested as newFamilySearch). For those who are doing and keeping records for Latter Day Saint Temple work using PAF and a commercial add-on package will become extremely important to help merge and submit file information directly from home.

There will be a need of some commercial programs to accomplish the data integration process between PAF and FamilySearch. Whenever you shop for an add-on package to use with PAF be sure it is FamilySearch Certified so it will work with future developments in the on-line FamilySearch environment.

Many commercial companies have introduced genealogy software programs that normally can work with PAF and GEDCOM files, plus they offer additional features that PAF does not have. The variety of features, functions and enhancement is great so choose carefully before you commit to buying. Talk to users whose research habits are similar to yours. Look for free trial offers to do a test run. Once bought you may be living with it for a while. Invest wisely. Just be sure of it is a FamilySearch Certified product. Something inexpensive like the upcoming FamilyInsght may be a choice to consider.

The continued goal is to make the process of family research easier and more fun without avoiding the responsibility to document all entries quickly and clearly. Some say if it is not documented it is only a myth.

  • *For a brief description of what a GEDCOM file is go to For all the details go to: where the GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5 is described in full by its creators, The Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yes, the 1996 date is the most current version. Other updates such as the 6.0 versions or XML versions have not yet been defined and agreed on by the gemological community.

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