With FamilySearch's recent announcement of the discontinuation of their genealogy software, Personal Ancestral File (commonly known as PAF), I have reflected on my personal history with genealogy software.
After graduating from high school in 1993 (has it really been 20 years already??) I registered for classes at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho. I began the registration process a little too late (couldn't decide which school I wanted to attend) and when choosing my elective classes, there was only one left - Genealogy 101 taught by Blaine Bake. It was in this class that the course of my life changed forever. I spent most of my freshman year in the library looking at census records and newspapers on microfilm. I discovered that I loved genealogy.
Since I also enjoyed working with computers, it wasn't long before I became proficient in working with the Personal Ancestral File software. I began with the DOS version 2.2, and quickly became addicted.
When I proposed to my fiancé in April 1997 in the Family History Center on campus, we were up to PAF 2.31. I remember how fun it was to upgrade to the latest edition.
Three days before our wedding, I learned that PAF 3.0 was available. I purchased it while on a trip to Utah, and I remember driving home to Oregon thinking about both my soon-to-be-bride and my new software (but mostly my bride). I couldn't wait to get home, install PAF 3.0, and begin adding my wife's genealogy.
A year after our wedding, we made the decision to continue my schooling at BYU in Provo, Utah. I began as an accounting major. Then one day, our accounting professor (Norm Nemrow) paused, and encouraged us to pursue our dreams even if that meant accounting was not part of it. He taught that if you like something enough, you can be successful at it. That day I returned to our apartment and announced to my wife that I would be changing my major to "family history." I don't remember her exact reaction, but I don't think she was too encouraged. Looking back, I'm glad I switched majors.
While at BYU I was employed by the library's Family History Center as their computer specialist. It was here that I began to explore the different genealogy software programs. I obtained copies of each and installed them on the computers in the center's lab so patrons could have a choice. Legacy Family Tree version 2.0 was one of the programs I encountered. While I liked some of the programs, I was impressed with Legacy's customer support. When I had a question or a suggestion, I would email it to Millennia and they would usually respond within a day or so. I loved how they listened to genealogists' ideas and implemented them in Legacy's free updates. I guess Dave and Ken liked my suggestions enough that they invited me to work for them part-time, demonstrating Legacy to bookstores and local genealogy groups.
I continued to use both PAF and Legacy for a while, until I learned how much more Legacy could do to help me with both my research and my reports. I was filmed for the "Legacy 3.0 Family Tree Video Training" and my career with Legacy took off. I've loved every minute of it.
And so, after all these years, genealogy and computers have come a long way, and I want to give PAF a big thank you! You were there for me when I began my genealogy journey. You've helped millions get started with their journeys. And now that PAF has been officially discontinued, we've worked really hard to provide genealogy software that can be a good replacement. If you know someone who is looking for an alternative, please invite them to view our new page at http://legacyfamilytree.com/paf.asp where they can download the free, standard edition of Legacy or upgrade to its deluxe edition. And it is simple to import the existing PAF file into Legacy - no GEDCOM or special tools required.
And while we haven't announced it yet (probably my next article), Legacy Family Tree has just received official "Tree Share" certification from FamilySearch, making Legacy the only program to be both FamilySearch certified AND include built-in Research Guidance. If all goes as planned, we'll have a new update for you by the end of the month. Here's to an exciting genealogical future!