Trying Out Centurial – Evidence Based Genealogy Software

A couple of weeks ago, I posted five suggestions for managing genealogy research. The fifth item in my list was Centurial, a Dutch-based genealogy software program that is evidence based.

What does an evidence based program look like?

Well, to begin a family tree, you must first enter a source, whether it be a document, a photograph, or a vital record, etc. The Centurial tutorial began with the image of a gravestone and showed how to enter the information and then add a person.

How does it work?

I initially tried to add a different type of record – a marriage certificate – and then add my grandparents. It was easy to add one person, but then when I added my grandmother, she was in the person list, but I couldn’t figure out how to attach her in the tree to my grandfather. I got so frustrated that I deleted the program. That was about a month ago.

For my second try, I decided to mimic the steps in the tutorial and chose a photo of my grandparents’ gravestone. That attempt went much better and it only took me about six views of starting and stopping the tutorial to make sure I was clicking in all the correct places.

Next, the tutorial showed how to add a vital record from FamilySearch, so I did the same and found my grandfather’s birth record in Calais, Maine, which is digitally available on FamilySearch.

The demo about how to choose the pieces of the citation to add into Centurial’s boxes went too fast. I had to stop and start the video at least six more times to be sure I had the correct bits in the right places. I’m still not sure I do because the Maine Vital Records collection had a more vague citation than the German collection used in the video lesson.

With that, I think my patience was worn out and normally, with non-tech stuff, I have a very high patience level.  After about an hour, I had accomplished:

I had originally planned to go a bit further with Centurial, because when we are required to first enter a source in a citation format, the problem of not knowing where information was found will never happen.

In theory, this is the right way to do genealogical research.

In reality, I have found several shortcomings with this program, just by dipping my toe in the water, so to speak.

First, I don’t find this program at all intuitive. Without the tutorial, I wouldn’t have gotten the two steps ahead that I managed.

By the way, there are only three very short tutorials, all created in 2017, when the first edition of this program came out. I didn’t find any manual, either and without either videos or a manual, or both, I will be hopelessly lost when trying to add to this tree.

Second, and I would normally have an image here, but I can’t figure out how to get back to the data box for my grandfather’s information, I followed the presenter’s steps. The person data box had a place for surname, given name and nickname. I would normally have put my grandfather’s name in the given name box. I actually did that by mistake first. His name “Vernon” was converted to “V.” as his given name. Why, I don’t know.

The presenter said to insert the first name in the nickname box, so I deleted my try and followed the directions. That box kept his name as Vernon.

I was curious to see how Centurial’s information would export in a gedcom and then open in RootsMagic. Look what happens to the names because Centurial uses the nickname field:

They are duplicated with quotation marks around them. My grandmother has no maiden name listed, but that isn’t an error. Their gravestone doesn’t included Coleman, so I left that field blank.

Third, I haven’t found any place to add my own notes. Let’s say my grandparents had an original gravestone that was somehow destroyed and the current one was a replacement, in a different style with different information and no image existed of the original stone. Not true, but if it was, I didn’t see any place where I could explain and save the information.

Fourth, the learning curve for me would be fairly steep until I mastered quite a few steps. Centurial has an import gedcom function, so I created a practice tree in RootsMagic that included just my grandparents.

It changed their given names back into the first initial format. I didn’t attach any sources, but inserted my grandfather’s birth and death dates. I then added a photo of the gravestone, but couldn’t figure out how to connect it to Vernon.

Gedcoms move the information back and forth between the programs, but just correcting all the names would be a massive job (I have about 8,000 people in my tree.) I also don’t know what other errors would pop up in a bigger sample tree.

Fifth, users don’t purchase this software. It is by subscription and costs 20 euros per year with continuous renewal or 24 euros for a single year. That gets expensive over time and it doesn’t look like exporting your tree if you want to switch to another program is going to be a clean move.

To conclude, I love the idea of evidence-based software. However, practically speaking, it would take forever for even a person skilled at using Centurial to re-enter my family tree data manually and I’d be back to the same error issues if I decided to gedcom it to another program. There also seem to be a few quirks in the program, like not being able to save a name in the given name box.

My curiosity about Centurial has been satisfied!

If you have used this program, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and share your experience.



One thought on “Trying Out Centurial – Evidence Based Genealogy Software”

  1. Thank you for confirming that my own experience with Centurial wasn’t unique…I thought I was missing something. The idea is good, but like you, I don’t like programs that have such a high learning curve (with no really good guidance) AND a subscription-based payment system. I won’t do subscriptions for software.

    I keep meaning to get Evidentia, but it’s hard to justify yet another piece of software, when I barely have enough time to work in the programs I already own.

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