Tech Tuesday: I Don't Believe PAF is the Best Program For A Beginner

With so many products that are FamilySearch
certified, I no longer see the need for PAF.
I'm having an ongoing debate with a local family historian about whether or not Personal Ancestral File (PAF) should be used any longer. With so many FamilySearch certified programs (programs that are compatible with the website), I no longer see the need to tell people to only use PAF.

Having used PAF for many years, I loved how it was free and very useful. I was able to organize my family information and print reports. I could notice when there were potential problems in my trees and input sources. What I couldn't do was sync my family tree with anything. I had to manually type in each new piece of information. If I found a new bit of information, I had to copy and paste or view and type it into my program. This is VERY time consuming. When I was at the Family History Center recently, I saw a woman with a huge binder of family trees. She was importing these names, dates, and places into PAF one by one and has been working on this at the Family History Center for many weeks.

I remember those days. About a year ago, I lamented about the frustration of not being able to save information directly from family search to my computer. Then a friend told me about RootsMagic Essentials. It's a FamilySearch certified program that syncs with New FamilySearch (the site that has the family trees interconnected, and should now be available to non-LDS persons). The best part is that it is free!

I gave the program a try and I will never go back to PAF. First thing I noticed was how nice RootsMagic looked. Call me crazy but the presentation does make a difference. I love the colors, the sleek design and feeling like I'm using a product designed for the 'modern' day. Now, not everything that looks great, is great.

The pay off for this free program (I know, so punny) is the sync feature. Let's say you have a family tree in an alternative program. You can import a GEDCOM file into RootsMagic. Then, when you connect to your account, you match your family to names that are already in the FamilySearch 'tree'. Once you've made a match, you can merge similar records into one (and separate them later if need be). You can easily download or upload information to the new FamilySearch site (i.e. vital information, residence information, etc). If you have a new name not found on FamilySearch (it will make you check before you upload), you can add that name.

If you have a name not included on a tree on FamilySearch but FamilySearch has a record for your person, you can connect them easily. RootsMagic will search for a possible match for the person you want to add. Let's say you have a person connected to their parents and their spouse. Then let's say on new FamilySearch, the tree you've already matched your person to, is found connected with their parents but not their spouse. However, new FamilySearch has an entry for your person with their spouse. With the aid of RootsMagic, you will find this fact out through their search for additional matches feature and will be able to connect your person to their spouse and their parents without creating any new entries for FamilySearch to maintain.

I could go on and one about house fantastic this feature alone is. But I'll stop.

Let's go back to the woman in the Family History Center. As I entered information from most recent to the distant past, inevitably, I've found persons with trees already completed (or at least started). With RootsMagic, I will tap into that work (through the matching feature). Then, I can download all the family names to my computer without having to type in anything! This woman certainly has names on her records that are found on the new FamilySearch trees (not everything, but you'll be surprised how much has been done through the extraction program). She would save herself a lot of manually inputting this information in. Sure she could make changes once the individual (or family) is added to her tree. The point is, she's get a lot more done with a program that syncs with the new FamilySearch website. And she would help all the 'orphan' branches connect with the main tree. This can not be done easily with PAF.

Additionally, with the products page of website downplaying PAF (not like the older websites did) and the fact that PAF does not have any revisions, it will soon be an obsolete program and then what will people use?

So, if you're using PAF and find it awesome. Great. However, I don't like PAF and I don't think it's the easiest thing to teach people new to genealogy to use (as my friend says, the crux of the debate). I will continue to use RootsMagic. If a better program comes along (perhaps one that syncs with, (the records side), and new Family Search), then I'll switch to that.


  1. The most recent versions Family Tree Maker and Family Tree Maker for Mac sync with online trees. Though some are not always happy (it does crash upon occasion), I've used Family Tree Maker for so long that I'm sticking with it and have used FTM for Mac since it came out a year and a half ago.

    1. Thanks for sharing your comment. I know many people use Family Tree Marker. That's exciting that it syncs with I like being able to sync with New Family Search as well. Wish that was possible!

  2. I've personally seen the same thing where a person I know touts PAF continually, and promotes it to others. I don't know why this person does this, but it's frustrating to me. I used to use PAF (note the "used to" phrase), and have tried other programs. I now use Legacy Family Tree. It also syncs with new.familysearch. When my dad was alive, he used to use RootsMagic and loved it! It think it's a personal preference thing, but I agree that there are WAY better programs than PAF out there now. I mean, PAF hasn't been updated in like what 10 years now or something?

    1. Jana... exactly! I can understand if the person was using it personally because she's used it 'forever' and doesn't want to change. But, if the person is promoting in the role of genealogy consultant/specialist, then she's really doing a disservice.

      I am glad that there are plenty of Family Search Certified programs. It saves me from having to do more typing then I want. I just wonder if there is a program that syncs with new.familysearch and


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...