A couple of weeks ago Allan Morton in Australia sent us a family tree of the Morton family, and this morning I was going through it, comparing his information with ours and entering people he had that we did not, and I entered the 20000th person into our family history program.
That was an interesting milestone, because we have been adding to the same database for nearly 30 years.
When we started our family history just after we were married in 1974 we did not have a computer, so kept all our records in paper files. It was only eight years later, in 1982, that we got our first personal computer, a NewBrain, but there was no genealogy software that ran on it.
In 1985 we got an Osborne Executive, which ran CP/M, and there was a genealogy program for that, called Roots/M, but as the computer had only two single-sided floppy disks, there was not much room for data, and we had different disks for each branch of the family.
The Osborne was one of the early portable computers, though “luggable” was a better description, it was bulky, heavy, and had no batteries. You had to plug it into the mains. Nevertheless we took it on holiday with us in our caravan, and spent several hours with a cousin, Don Stayt, who also had an Osborne, sharing family history information.
Our next computer was a Copam, which we got in 1987. It ran MS DOS 3.1, and had a hard disk. There was an outfit in Cape Town called the Joint Software Exchange which distributed shareware and freeware programs, and one of the disks in their catalogue had a selection of genealogy programs. I tried them all, and the one that seemed most usable was the Family History System (FHS) written by Phillip Brown. Like some present-day programs it came in two versions: a free one, which you could use with no limits, and a paid version, which had extra features. The original version also came with the GW-BASIC source code.
So in 1987 we began entering our genealogy into FHS, and we have been doing so ever since, using the same program for nearly 30 years. Perhaps that is some kind of record.
Well, it’s not quite the same.
In 1989 we got a newer version, and, having decided we liked it, upgraded to the extra features in the paid-for version. And in 1993 we upgraded to a version that was newer still.
FHS had its limitations. It did not have fields for recording religious ceremonies like baptisms and burials, and the only way of recording sources was in the notes field. But there were other programs that had those features and it was easy to export the data to the other programs using Gedcom.
And it is in Gedcom transfer that FHS excels, and has features that no other program has, which is one reason we continue to use it. If a 6th cousin twice removed is interested in family history, and asks fir a Gedcom file, FHS makes it easy to create it. It allows you select the blood relations of any person in the file — that person’s ancestors, descendants, descendants of all ancestors, but not ancestors of all descendants, since those are not necessarily related to the person you choose. You can, however, for completeness, include spouses, children of spouses, parents of spouses and spouses of children. FHS makes it easy. Every other program I have tried makes it very, very difficult.
The other thing that FHS makes easy is exporting a range of RINs (record identity numbers). So if I look at Legacy (one of the other programs I use) and see that the highest RIN is 19676, I just tell FHS to export from RIN 19677 upwards to a Gedcom file, and import those into Legacy. It is much more difficult to do the other way round — export a range of RINs from Legacy; in fact it’s so difficult that I’ve never tried it.
So we continue to enter our data into the same program that we have been using for 29 years, and have now reached 20000. And as long as the program continues to run, we will continue to enter the data into it. Well, until it reaches 32000 records or thereabouts, because that is the limit of the number of records it can hold. But we haven’t reached that yet.