Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Family Search and Your Software

For the LDS genealogists out there, a lot of questions are popping up about the new Family Search (nFS) program and how that will (or won't) integrate well with the most popular genealogy software programs for individual users. Hopefully, this post will help break down the issues you might face transitioning to nFS, and specifically, how that will affect the desktop software you use for your family history work.

First, let me make clear that nFS does not allow users to directly download gedcom file formats like the old Family Search. To add information to nFS, you can enter individuals one at a time or upload gedcom files, just as you used to be able to do. However, if you find a group of individuals that link into your family tree on nFS and you want to get them into your genealogy program on your computer, you cannot download those names as a batch directly from nFS. This is where the software you are using becomes key. Batches of names can be downloaded from nFS if you use a desktop software program that is a Certified Affiliate for nFS. A certified affiliate is a third-party software provider that has gone through the process of applying and being approved to offer software that is compatible with nFS.

One more point to keep in mind. PAF does not integrate with nFS. If you want to continue to use PAF as your genealogy software, you'll need a separate piece of software from one of the certified affiliates called a PAF add-in. Basically, this extends the functionality of PAF to work with nFS.

The LDS church lists the current certified affiliates on their developer website, which is difficult for the normal internet user to find. The list is still small at this point, but I will include it here so you can see your current options.

Windows users: You have many more options at this point than us Mac users. Ancestral Quest, Charting Companion, Family lnsight, Generation Maps, Get My Ancestors, and Roots Magic 4 are all certified affiliates for nFS. These software programs are already available and integrate with nFS. As with all software programs, each of these have very different features. Ancestral Quest and Family Insight are PAF add-ins, meaning you can use those to integrate with PAF if that is the current software you use. Ancestral Quest has the most features available that integrate with nFS, including the ability to search and read nFS, print reports using data from nFS, full syncing capabilities (syncing into and from nFS), and the ability to update nFS directly from your software. Pricing on these software programs runs from free (for Get My Ancestors) to $35.00 for CD-Rom versions.

Mac users: I wish I had more helpful information for you at this point, as I'm in this group, too. As you all probably know, PAF stopped supporting its old Mac version several years ago. PAF is an option if you have a virtual Windows desktop on your Mac or if you have Leopard and can run BootCamp. I tried this for a while. I had the virtual Windows software, Parallels. It is a pain to run each time, it frequently would shut down in the middle of working on PAF, and let's face it -- I don't like Windows. There's a reason I'm a Mac user. I currently use the Mac software Reunion but I really don't recommend it for LDS genealogists as its handling of LDS ordinance data is skeleton at best. I still can't get it to run slim reports on missing ordinances. In addition, Reunion is not currently planning to become a Certified Affiliate for nFS, which means no syncing with nFS. The current certified affiliates that are available for Macs are Family Insight, Get My Ancestors and Grow Branch. Get My Ancestors is a free utility that can sync with fNS, but then you have two software programs. I haven't tried this one, yet. Family Insight is a $25 software option that is more of a full program, not just a small utility with few functions. However, I can't seem to find reviews or information on it, and I don't like purchasing programs that I'm not sure are what I really need. Grow Branch is an online software to build your family tree. However, this software requires that you pay for this company to assist you in your research, and it isn't cheap. For now, we Mac users have very few options for nFS integration: 1) keep using PAF on a virtual machine or BootCamp and get a PAF add-in; 2) use a great Mac software program and keep writing letters to the software company to urge them to become nFS certified; or 3) try one of these small utility programs or the more expensive online research program.

Remember, new Family Search is still in its beta stage. I trust that the developers and architects of this program at LDS headquarters will continue to try and make it easier to use and integrate with. In addition, as nFS moves out of the beta version, I am certain that other genealogy software providers will be encouraged to become certified affiliates to continue to cash in on the LDS portion of the genealogy software market share. As this happens, more options for software and integration with nFS will become available.


Phi said...

Jessica -

I'm not a Mac user myself, but I understand that MacFamilyTree 5 is attracting some pretty positive attention. They also have an iPhone/iPodTouch version so you can pack your genealogy aroound with you. The interface looks a bit unusual, but not too far "out there." Plus ... they have indicated that they are in the process of working with FamilySearch to become certified.

It might be worth a look!

Jessica Hall Grayless said...

Thanks, Phi, for that. I will check it out. I appreciate the heads up. I have an iPhone, too, so anything that provides syncing with my iPhone would be a huge plus.

Cecille said...


You said, "The LDS church lists the current certified affiliates on their developer website, which is difficult for the normal internet user to find." Could you please let me know where the site is? I am a Family History Consultant in Virginia and lately we have received many questions from members moving on from PAF. I copied the information you and Phi provided but I'd like to keep current with the certification of NFS-compatible software.

Thank you,

Aschnakenburg said...

The link for FamilySearch certified programs is:

For those of you looking into FamilyInsight it works on both Mac and Windows. Opens and saves to both PAF and GEDCOM files. The FamilySearch Sync function is pretty complete, it even has a unique separate function. There aren't very many Mac specific reviews on the program yet because it has only been on the Mac for about 6 months, but there is a free 60 day trial so you can find out for yourself before you buy it. Also, I've worked with Ohana Software for about 8 months now and know that they plan on making FamilyInsight a full featured program in the future.

Hope that helps in your search!

The Main Website for FamilyInsight is:

Jessica Hall Grayless said...


The current URL for the list of certified family search developers is at

This hasn't changed in the past several months, but, you never know. For now, this should give you the updated information you need.

Oma and Opa said...

I am moving from a PC to a Mac before the year is over. I like everything I have been introduced to the Mac by my son, grandson, and granddaughter. The Mac appears to be so much more reliable. The only hesitation I have is my obsession with family history - I have to stay on top of it. I will have windows running parallel just because of PAF. Any suggestions before I sign on the bottom line??