Category Archives: Genealogy & Technology

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.



5 Free Tech Tools to Manage Genealogy Research

It might seem to be a bit early in the season for the dog days of summer, but they have arrived in Tucson with a predicted high this week of 110. That means it’s a great time to be inside, whether because of the pandemic or heat, and learn about some tools to help you manage your genealogy data and documents, aside from the regular software programs like Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic.

There are a number of computer programs available that may not have been specifically designed for genealogy researchers, but which are excellent tools to help manage the accumulation of information we find about our ancestors.

Today, I’d like to share several programs that I’ve tried out. Each piqued my interest, but I am the first to admit that I’m not an expert with any of them. All have free versions and four of the five have upgraded Pro versions that offer more options.

First – How many times have you struggled to read a land deed, will or some other document while transcribing or abstracting it?’s Transcript is the perfect solution. I always use this program when transcribing documents. It is freeware and downloadable. All you have to do is upload the file that you want to transcribe and you are ready to go. The text can be enlarged (a lot!), which really really helps when trying to figure out that old handwriting or even text that has faded. (Note that it doesn’t enhance faded text, just enlarges, which sometimes is enough.)

I will admit, though, that I don’t save files in Transcript. Instead, when I am finished, I copy and paste the file into Word and save that way.

The home page includes an image of what the program and text box look like (right bottom corner):

I am not a super techie person, so when I say this program is easy to use, that means it is super easy! Pro Version = $19 one user license.

Second – Do you have images to which you’d like to add captions? Canva might be just the program you are looking for. Canva actually does much more than captions, as it is a design program. However, the only feature I’ve tried out is captioning images.

After creating a free account, begin by clicking the turquoise button in the top right corner CREATE A DESIGN. Choose your format and you will be ready to go.If you are heavy into design, there is a  Pro Version = $9.95/month.

I just added a simple caption here to share with you, but if you click on the image, you will see that the text box is more than double the height of this postcard. If I had a photograph with multiple people in it to be identified, or I needed to create a source citation, there is space to do the task.

I learned about Canva from Alice Childs in her guest post last April, Using Canva to Add Source Citations, on Diana Elder’s and Nicole Dyer’s Family Locket blog. Her explanation of how to use the program is excellent! Be sure to visit to learn more about navigating Canva. Tutorials

Third – How do you create source citations and how do you store them? Some genealogy software programs include templates for creating source citations. I will be the first to admit that I find those templates cumbersome and I still haven’t mastered the art of creating them correctly. I’ve made due using my old college paper bibliography style of citing sources and typing the citations in the notes section of my software program.

Zotero, described as a research assistant, is an alternative that might appeal to you if (1) you aren’t hung up on using those software templates and (2) you are comfortable with my belief that a citation is correct if there is an appropriate amount of information in its details to allow other researchers to find the same book, document, or whatever.

Zotero was created for the college/university community so citations don’t always adhere to Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained format. However, the citations can be manually tweaked to match EE. Tutorials

However, I would also recommend Donna Cox Baker’s book (paper version, not ebook), Zotero for Genealogy if you decide to go full in with Zotero.

Fourth – How do you keep track of the books you own? Have you ever purchased a second copy of a book you forgot you had? LibraryThing is my choice to solve that problem. Catalogue your book collection online so you don’t have to wonder if you already own that one! This is also a social media site to share with other book lovers. There was some great news in March 2020 – LibraryThing now offers users the ability to catalogue an unlimited number of books. There used to be a free limit of 200. Tutorial

FifthCenturial is a unique program that I recently learned about and have been playing with. It is a source-based genealogy software program that is used to build your family tree. Never again will you wonder where you found a piece of information, whether in a document, a book, an online image or a family letter. That is because you CAN’T enter a person without first adding a source of some kind. Tutorial

I decided that this is my summer learning project. Right now, I’ve only just taken the first steps of downloading and entering a source. I am using the trial version (Pro version = 20 or 24 euros per year, depending on whether you use continuous renewal), which limits me to 20 sources. However, that is plenty to give me a taste of what Centurial can do. I will be writing a post or two, sharing as I’m learning!

I hope I’ve given you new ways to enlarge your genealogy resource toolbox. If you are like me, whether or not I find a new resource a “good fit” with my research habits, I enjoy learning about what’s out there. 

Have fun and, please, stay safe and healthy!


50 Essential Genealogy Tech Tools

Two weeks ago, I published a couple of “Essential” lists, 50 Essential Books for my Home Genealogy Library and 50 Essential Websites for My Genealogy Research.

fhtess65, who writes Writing My Past, shared her “tools of the trade” and asked for those that others used. I decided I needed to add this third “50 Essentials” category so I am sharing it with you today – the essential software and apps that I use, have tried, or, in a few cases, am familiar with, for my research. My tech tools list will be set up a bit differently than the other two lists, as I will group resources into categories. Through the years, I’ve tried out various tech toys, both free and purchased, and at times, I still use more than one in a category for different reasons.

I will put a dollar sign in front of the products that need to be purchased. I’m not including any prices because prices change and it’s always good to look for sales and discount opportunities.

If there is a tutorial (or more than one) available, I will include
Tutorial after the product name with the link embedded. Also, many of these products have zillions of tutorials available. I just chose one or one page of multiple tutorials on the company website.

Group One – Genealogy Database Software

I believe it is absolutely essential to use a database program housed on your own computer as the primary  work space. Sharing uploaded trees is a terrific way to collaborate and find new cousins, but there are many dangers in only having an online tree. First, links break or are changed frequently. If your documents and images are not saved on your own computer, when the links don’t work, your item is gone. Websites come and go; databases also disappear when contracts with companies end or when the compiler chooses to take them down. I just don’t get people who say they primarily work in an online tree. With all the years I’ve put into my research, I want to keep control of it on my own computer! 

The choice of software is up to each user. I was a longtime Family Tree Maker buff, but became disenchanted with it over time and began looking at other programs. I still haven’t made a final choice and it is possible that my choice will be to use more than one program because of various options they offer.

I purchased each of these a number of years ago, when they were on sale, and have found features I really like in each. RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, Heredis and Legacy all have basic versions you can try out and use. Family Historian offers a 30 day free trial of the full version. To my knowledge, Family Tree Maker has no free trial.

  1. $ RootsMagic 7,  Tutorials
  2. $ Family Historian 7, Tutorials
  3. $ Legacy 9, Tutorials
  4. $ Family Tree Maker 2019 – when it is finally released. I currently have the 2014 update.
  5. $ Ancestral Quest 16, Tutorials
  6. $ Heredis 2021 –  Tutorials
  7. $ Reunion– Mac only, Tutorials

For those who want to host their own family history website:

8. $ TNG – The Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building, This is on my wish list. Tutorials – read only

Group Two – Image Manipulators

Images need to be saved, restored, cropped and who knows what else to make them useful and accessible. It’s particularly important to be able to web clip images that don’t have a “right click and save” option. I purchased Snagit because of options it has for images on my blog.

9. Irfanview – free, used at the Family History Library Tutorial
10. Screen Hunter – free version works well Tutorial
11. PicMonkey – free photo editing Tutorials
12. $ Photoshop – I can only do the very basics. Dave is in charge of more advanced editing. I have never used $ Photoshop Elements, but it is less expensive and others say it has a much easier learning curve.
13. $ Snagit, Tutorials
14. UMarkOnline – watermark your images

Group Three – Transcription Programs

Transcribing old documents is a necessity. I use both a free program and Champollion, which I purchased, because Champollion has the fabulous capability to enhance and clean up old documents.

15. Jacob Boerema’s Transcript, 
16. $ Champollion 2.0, Tutorial – DearMyrtle Hangout

Group Four – Maps and Timelines

Anyone wanting to use Google Earth’s overlays and more advanced options should check out Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. She has done quite a bit with Google Earth and genelogy.

17. Google Earth, Tutorial (There are tons of them out there.)
18. $ History Lines – creates an ancestral timeline with historical events noted that occurred within the person’s lifetime. I particularly like the Swedish timelines as I have learned so much about that country’s history. Tutorial
19. WhatWasThere – A collaborative effort – upload family photos to mark the way it used to be. Fun site and particularly helpful if a building or street looks way different today than it did back then. Tutorial
20. HistoryPin – similar to WhatWasThere; another fun site, Tutorial
21. TimeToast – create a timeline for a person, family, town or whatever. Tutorial

Group Five – Writing Organization & Story Telling

22. $ Scrivener – organize your thoughts for lengthier stories and projects. A free 30 day trial is offered and it’s 30 days of use, not 30 calendar days, which is great! Tutorials
23. Trello – another thought organizing system using cards. Free version is fine for most people, unless you want more sophisticated collaboration with multiple people. Tutorial
24. Cozi – an organizing app for the family calendar, but easily can be used for family history to keep yourself on track. The free version comes with ads, but there is an ad-free (paid) upgrade available. Tutorial
25. Adobe Spark – free; make images, videos and web stories; easy to use. Tutorial
26. Microsoft Sway – free; similar to Adobe Spark; also easy to use Tutorial
27. $ Microsoft Word – still my favorite tool for just writing, Tutorial
28. $ Evernote – free for one or two devices and basic use; pricing tier for various storage capacities. Some people use Evernote for everything, including their primary note and image storage site, which it is not meant to be. I use it for note taking at conferences and libraries and then transfer those notes to permanent places (like my genealogy software program) when I get home. Tutorials
29. Microsoft One Note is another option similar to Evernote, although I’ve never used it. Tutorial
30. $ Livescribe Smart Pen – This is on my wish list. I’d love to try it out! Tutorial

31. $ Coggle – an app for mind mapping and collaboration. There is a very limited free version, better for just trying it out. Tutorial

Group Six – Research Analysis and Logs and Organizational Tools

For comparisons of Evidentia and CLOOZ, I’d suggest the videos and then the trial versions.

32. $ Evidentia – Ed Thompson developed this program to help a researcher analyze where the holes/gaps are to help with future steps in searching. It is NOT MEANT for analyzing every single person in your tree. You’d never have time to do anything else, including eating or sleeping. Also, unless you use source citation templates in your software, this program won’t give you much information. There is a free 14-day trial. Tutorial
33. $ CLOOZ – also a documenting/analyzing program; free trial version available. Tutorials
34. $ Research Ties – This is an online research logging system. You can export your log if and when you end your subscription. Tutorials
35. Zotero – tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.  Tutorial
36. Library Thing – Catalogue your book collection online so you don’t have to wonder if you already own that one! This is also a social media site to share with other book lovers. 200 books can be cataloged for free. Otherwise, it is $10 per year for more or $25 for a lifetime membership.  Tutorial
37. $ Custodian 4 for Family Historiansdatabase software which helps you to store, index and organize information. This is also on my wish list. There is a trial version.
. Rename Master – bulk rename your files, Tutorial
. Bulk Rename Utility – a second utility program to rename files in batches. Tutorial

Group Seven – Source Citations

40. Citation Machine – generates citations in multiple formats. Tutorial
41. Record Seek – easily creates your source citations from the web, Tutorial

Group Eight – Keeping Up with Social Media

42. feedly – kind of an electronic file cabinet that keeps track of the blogs you want to follow. I follow over 200, but feedly send me links to only the ones that have new posts since I last read them. Blogs are a great way to keep up with the genealogy news AND to find new cousins. There is a free and paid version. Tutorial

Group Nine – Reference Tools for Historical Data

This last group consists of websites, but they are tools that can assist in your research. Tutorials aren’t needed for these.

43. Calendar Converter
44. Census, U.S. – 1920, 1930, 1940 Enumeration District Finder
45. Cousin Relationship Chart
46. The Inflation Calculator
47. Tombstone Birthday Calculator
. Weather History

Group Ten – File Storage

49. Dropbox
50. Google Docs