Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Changing my tune, maybe

I have been thinking more about charts lately. In the last entry I bemoaned the fact that I could not find a Windows-based genealogical program that provided for the creation of top-down displays of descendants, or drop charts, so afterwards I decided to explore the subject further.

It turns out the two most popular programs for the Mac have great charting possibilities. They are Reunion, now in its 8th incarnation, and Heredis, which originated in France but is thoroughly Anglicized. I have been playing with the idea of replacing my ailing laptop with a Mac (with pressure from my Mac-toting offspring), and this discovery may be the final bit of encouragement I need.

The features I would like (and which seem to be possible in these programs) include:
1. The ability to construct the aforementioned drop chart
2. The ability to shade or color some boxes in different ways to distinguish among the folks whose whole line stayed in one place, and those who moved on.
3. The possibility to include certain not-yet-documented individuals in a way that immediately shows their tentative status (like the use of a paler shade, or italic text)
4. An initial display for a family which includes the birth and death dates of the offspring and some sort of marker to indicate at a glance whether work has been done on those children's descendents (or if they have any)

I have resisted making big changes in my genealogical software in the past, preferring to spend my time doing research rather than learning new ways of arranging the information I already had. In every kind of hobby there are the people who are more interested in the equipment and trappings than in actual creation. Knitters may have more fun collecting a variety of needles and gauges, bobbins and pattern books than settling down to produce something. Some would-be writers are more concerned with having the most feature-filled word-processing software, or most elegant fountain pen and paper, than turning out a chapter or two. I used to do letter-press printing for fun, and I knew people who collected presses, type cabinets, and pounds of the most exquisite metal and wood type, but never turned out a single broadsheet.
That was, and is, their choice, but not mine. However, it may be time for a change.

Now for an abrupt change of subject.

While perusing the various comments by users of Reunion, I came across a question that dogs most of us at one time or another – "how far afield should I go?" In other words, where does one draw the line (or should it be drawn at all) when gathering names? An uncle's wife is related by marriage, but is it worthwhile looking for her siblings and their families?

The answers were instructive in their variety, from the simple "don't go there" to the obvious pride some responders took in the sheer numbers of names they had collected. It would seem the right answer(as is so often the case) is: whatever works for you. I would certainly try to include spouses of relatives – they are often the parents of one's cousins, after all. And those spouses' parents seem to me to be worthy of inclusion. How much further you want to go is really up to you, your interests and your time constraints.

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