Genealogy/Family Tree software

I've been passed some scans of a hand written, hard to read, family tree going back generations and with possibly some gaps between the 11th century and now.
I'm not interested in Genealogy, but there seems to be a family push to get things together. I've already been persuaded, and have started, to scan in old photo albums full of pictures of so far totally unidentified ancestors, so I suppose a readable tree would be useful to someone.
Does anyone have views about suitable free Windows programs for this?
Is it possible just to type it into, say, a basic spreadsheet, or do any of the specialist programs use standard database formats so that data typed in will be reasonably future proof and recoverable? What is Gedcom compatibility and is that any use?
Basically, I'm asking what to type the data into so it might be usable by someone in the reasonably foreseeable future.
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Bill

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On 2/9/2018 2:08 PM, Bill wrote:

You might want to ask advice over at <soc.genealogy.britain>
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On 09/02/2018 19:24, S Viemeister wrote:

Ideally find someone in the family who is interested in it and get them a copy of the latest version of Family Tree Maker with a free 30 day Ancestry subscription. If the paper version is any good you can strip mine the Ancestry database to confirm what is written down. Be sure to follow the instructions to cancel your free trial carefully.
I'd be very suspicious of anything claiming to go back past the 1600's unless the name was very very unusual. It gets incredibly difficult when the records are handwritten in Latin and origin is "out of county".

I reckon Legacy on Windows is pretty good as free software goes. Options online here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_genealogy_software
Whatever you use make sure it can import/export GEDCOM.

Possible but a lot easier into a database intended to cope with multiple spouses and quirky unmarried couples and couplings.

+1
Also check your data against IGI and/or Ancestry as you do data entry - nothing worse than adding loads of duff relations to a database.
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Martin Brown
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On Sat, 10 Feb 2018 15:07:14 +0000, Martin Brown

You will find plenty of duff data in both Ancestry where uploaded trees are frequently copied by other interested parties without any checking so just propagate errors. Beware the "granny hunters" whose primary purpose seems to be filling a pedigree chart with names and dates with little care for accuracy or connected social history. Even transcribed official documents contain errors and step back one - census enumerators were past masters at that when transcribing from the Schedules to the enumerator's books. Also, transcriptions of early BMD indexes which could be excruciatingly difficult to read are to be treated with suspicion. In both of these document types that initial transcription cannot be directly checked as the sources no longer exist.
Of course the IGI is fraught with problems especially where the information is submitted rather than transcribed; this can be checked against the Batch Number. If an event it identified by just a year rather than a full date and place it will usually be a guess rather than from primary source documents. One of the problems is that trees that are uploaded may contain the word "about" in front of a year; the IGI strips the "about" off.
Regardless of where information comes from you must always check it against primary source information. If it has been transcribed by anyone the risk of errors is there.
All that said, it can be a most rewarding hobby!
Mike
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My Mother, who is a keen genealogist (and teaches a class on the subject) says to trust nothing unless you've corroborating evidence and preferably sight of the source material. And family oral history is worse than useless. (There was a story that my great-grandfather & his wife caught the flu, she died, but they didn't tell him for fear of upsetting him, he felt better and went into her room and there she wasn't and dropped dead on the spot. In actual fact, they died eight years apart...)
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On Saturday, February 10, 2018 at 3:07:18 PM UTC, Martin Brown wrote:

If you're using Ancestry, be prepared to think out of the box when searchin g. Some of the transcription is ludicrously inaccurate - I believe optical character recognition software was used for a lot of it, with manual input to cover the bits where the OCR gave up. You can alert Ancestry to any erro rs, but all they do is add a note to the transcribed data - they don't upda te the search indexes. Considering the price they charge, it's taking the p iss a bit.
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On Sat, 10 Feb 2018 09:05:44 -0800 (PST), Halmyre

Ancestry do add submitted corrections to searches but they appear in search results as the original so it appears initially as if they have done nothing until you click to view the item then the change becomes evident.
They do not replace the original which is quite correct as submitted changes might be for reasons other than Transcription Error. They might be because of prior knowledge such as an Emumerator's error or even because a householder made a mistake on a census schedule. So Ancestry are doing it right. It might be better if they also showed correction in initial search results but that would greatly complicate query reports. This would become worse if there were multiple notifications on one record. So even if something that you think looks wrong appears in search results do look at them; you might get a nice surprise!
If you think about the Ancestry annual charge in terms of the alternative cost of travelling to archives then it is cheap.
Mike
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And it might be free at your local library. It is in ours but they don't publicise the fact because the staff can't deal with customer queries.
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On 09/02/18 19:08, Bill wrote:

The format you want is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEDCOM It's ascii, and AFAIUI *the* defacto standard that anything decent can use.
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Basically why not just tidy up the stuff you've got, and anything additional you can find in Word or your DTP program of choice and print out a few copies on archival quality i.e acid free paper, along with copies of the scans date of transfer etc put the copies in archival quality envelopes with Family Tree written on the outside and distribute copies to however many relatives might be interested, either for themselves or to save for their children.
If you're serious about the 11th century - or have not simply been told like a lot of other people that you're descended from William the Bastard/Conquerer/1st then its likely that one of your more illustrious rellies, given that clearly you're not all peasants may have already done some of the work.
Stuff written on paper is far more future proof and is more likely to be looked at in the future than is stuff on somebodies computer which will doubltless be buried amongst loads of other stuff - files etc.
michael adams
...
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michael adams formulated the question :

On paper, if it goes back far, it can become very unweildy and needing large pieces of paper to get it all in. Then when it needs modification, as more people are discovered, you need to start again. It is much easier on a PC.
A free site, where you can build up such a tree is https://www.familysearch.org
The site seems very reliable, well supported, with plenty of facilities. It is the one I have used and my tree is traced back to the 16th century. The more relis you find, the more appear.
Your own research, is often supplemented by the efforts of others, in the form of hints you are sent. Its well worth reviewing the hints to confirm their validity, before accepting them.
It is a really fascinating subject - I found several interesting mentions of my ancestors in local papers from the 1500's.
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Doing it on PC indeed makes it easier for the compiler right now, but my suggestion was mnainly directed at the question "who is this for" or in the end who is going to benefit from Bill's work in the future, say in 50 years time or whenever ? While they may all crowd around the computer screen right now if sufficiently encouraged to see the results of Bills efforts, (even assuming they actualy undestand what they're looking at - not that Bill's rellies are thick or anything. just "normal") will they still be doing that in 60 years time ?
From his original question, Bill's not familiar with genealogy, but why should we assume any of his family are that interested in PC's either ? Reference has been made on here to GEDCOM compatability; which indeed will make sense to genealogy enthusiasts or anyone curious enough to follow the topic up on Wiki. But why should anyone assume that any one of Bills relatives in the future will be sufficiently intersted in the topic to immerse themselves in the subject sufficient to make sense of what Bill has left them ? That's even assumimg that they find these files on a computer, a disk, USB stick, in the clousd or wherever and can actually identify what they are. And have access to a computer screen large enough to make sense of a family tree before just giving up.
As to the large paper size, even going so far back as MSPublisher 95 its been possible to print large sheets as posters comprising loads of separate panels. Maybe all I'm saying to Bill is, whatever software you chose to use, you're probably better off in the long term printing it all out if you "want to be sure" it's to be of any long term benefit to anyone.

I stand to be corrected but AFAIAA there were no local papers in the 1500's. The earliest newspapers started in the mid 17th century - "Courants" which carried mainly foreign news about the outcome of European battles as this would affect market prices for imports etc and were circulated in cities. Amsterdam, London etc. Printing domestic news of any kind was subject potentially to strict censorship and penalties, prison etc. The provincial press only got started in the 18th century based on largish towns.
michael adams
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michael adams explained :

Agreed, a silly error - unable to find the actual stored documents on my system, I had to make a wild guess as to the rough publication dates.
One reference made mention of a reli who had gone out in the middle of the night, to help sort out the mess of a mail coach which had crashed with a hay cart being driven by a drunk. There were deaths involved and reli was called to court to give evidence about the incident. They had drunken drivers even then.
Another was a then young reli who had been having a drink with his girlfriend. The girlfriend worked for a farmer and the farmer had become rather attached to the girl. Said farmer stormed in the pub and stabbed the girl to death, reli was in the court to give evidence.
Another I found, was something about the sale of a large property and land, but I wasn't able to find out enough details to be able to make proper sense of it.
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As the OP, my problem is that I don't, at the moment anyway, find it at all fascinating. I just felt, and have been gently encouraged, that it might be sensible to get what we have typed up so that others don't have to struggle so much with the handwriting on the old manuscripts we have.
There is a box with the family tree in two large sections inside. A family member has scanned this in as a bunch of A4 sheets that would have to be assembled to make any sense. The current keeper of the box is mentally and physically unwell. His son, who worked for Oracle, was killed - vanished - in the Twin Towers but had been working on computerising the family tree. Unfortunately no-one knows what happened to what he had done.
I am very grateful for everyone's suggestions. My problem with the ones I have looked at so far is that they appear to be aimed at someone interested in the research rather than just recording what we have.
The ones I have tried include Wikitree and Family Tree Builder but they both seem associated with sites that require registration and want to "Help with my research". This put me off as I already am up to my ears scanning in old photos of unknown family members from decaying albums, and attempting to label them. Readers of another forum may remember that it took me a week getting my W98-only handheld scanner (with Japanese software) running satisfactorily on a VM.
I'm beginning to think that the simplest thing would be to start typing up names from the top down and assembling it all using ascii art, then or simultaneously, putting this into whatever simplest GEDCOM supporting program that I can find.
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Bill

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In which case forget the web sites, research and ASCII art, but install a simple free programme (see my comparison list), and start filling in the boxes with what you've got. But I'd start from the bottom up, i.e. the most recent member of the tree (which may be you), rather than the top down.
--

Chris

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Agreed. And it needn't take that long, depending of course on how good you are at typing. I'm no great shakes, but I found it quite quick, and I enjoyed the sense of achievement when I saw my tree (work-in-progress!) on screen.
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On Sat, 10 Feb 2018 13:17:58 +0000, Bill wrote:

Wikitree requires registration only for reasons of privacy.
As for the "help", that is completely optional.
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I am especially wary of the privacy element because of other family members.
For example, a recent birth was not put in the Telegraph because a member of the family is paranoid about full names and dates of birth being accessible in the public domain. In my own case, I logged in to Twitter, apparently successfully, after several years of ignoring it, only to find that I had assumed the identity of someone in California. It wasn't easy to reach a human in the Twitter organisation to retrieve my identity. I have no idea whether this was malicious or just that Twitter's database was broken. Worrying either way.
The video interview full of woffle with the two fat ladies on Wikitree's homepage put me off, but I have registered to give it a go.
--
Bill

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On Sat, 10 Feb 2018 15:39:33 +0000, Bill wrote:

Create a Wikitree account and have a look. There are multiple levels of privacy, and anyone still alive has their details locked by default.
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While I'm sure you can build a family tree using a spreadsheet, a dedicated family history programme will give you a whole lot more and make researching a lot easier and better structured.
There is a standard format that allows the exchange of family trees between different programmes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEDCOM Most family tree programmes will allow saving in that format, as well as their own particular format.
I use RootsMagic, not for any particular reason; it was the first I hit on, a few years ago. I find it OK; it does what I want. There may be better ones, but it's the only one I've tried. At the time I got it, it wasn't free. https://www.rootsmagic.co.uk/
But there are also quite a few free programmes out there. http://bit.ly/2BjP0Yx and a comparison chart here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_genealogy_software
I see RootsMagic does a cut-down free version. Bearing in mind my version is 3.2.4, and they're now up to version 7, the free version is probably not very different from what I use.
Unless someone has a very unusual surname, I'm extremely sceptical of any family tree claiming to go back much beyond 1750. Before then, you're relying on Church registers, which give much less information about the individual than say the official birth, marriage and death registers and census returns, that came in later and were much more detailed. Without that detail it's almost impossible not to go down the wrong road at some point. I stopped researching my tree some years ago, having got back to about 1780, for that reason. There were just too many possibilities to choose from.
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Chris

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