Tuesday, August 19, 2014


In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion around spreadsheets with DearMyrtle hosting a couple of Hangouts on the subject and other bloggers writing posts.

I am a bit of a spreadsheetaholic and use either Excel or a Google Sheets every day to organise my personal life and for some genealogy applications. I was however surprised when I saw some people using spreadsheets for things that my genealogy program does.

One of the main views on Family Historian, the genealogy software database I use,  looks just like a spreadsheet with data displayed in colums each one of which one can sort. One is able to add or remove columns from this display to suit one's needs, any field in the database can be added as a column.

At present these are the colums I have in my display:
Name, Record ID, Sex, Living, Dates, Birth Place, Death Date, Burial Place, Relationship to Root (me), Updated.

If I want to see who is buried in a particular cemetery prior to a geneajourney I just sort by that column by clicking on the column header. To see those entries I haven't updated for a while I can sort on the Updated column. Sorting by the Relationship to Root Column allows me to cluster all my closest relatives together.

 I often add or delete columns when I am after particular information. If I wanted to find all the School teachers or Plumbers in my list I could add an occupation column and osrt on that, If I wanted to find all the Methodists I could add the Religion column and sort by that.

This display is also very useful for identifying where gaps appear in one's data, white spaces (and I have lots of them) indicate that work needs to be done.

So because of this feature in Family Historian I don't need to use external spreadsheets as much as I would if I was using another software package.


colevalleygirl said...

PLus you can always create a query to pick out data that meets specific criteria and display that in a spreadsheet-like grid as well...

Shauna Hicks said...

Hi Jill Every time I hear you talk about Family Historian I want to change over - was it hard to migrate your data into?

Anne Young said...

Hi Jill, this feature looks terrific and like Shauna I am very tempted. I use external spreadsheets focussing on my direct line to prompt me in my research. I found I was getting distracted by the twigs on some of the more remote branches and forgetting to revisit my more direct forebears :) regards Anne

Unknown said...

I like that your software sort of creates your spreadsheets for you. It sure is tempting ... the one you show here is a lot like the Genealogy-at-a-Glance one that I posted about over the weekend, but with more information.

Like Anne, I try to use mine to keep me from the ever-present rabbit holes that are my way way way collateral relatives ... sometimes it even works :)

GeniAus said...

Thanks Hilary - Yes being able to get results of a qery in spreadsheet format is very helpful. When FH expert Jane Taubman taught me this it opened up a whole new world.

Shauna - I guess it depends what program your data is presently stored in. It takes not time at all to import a gedcom file but some data may not go where you expect it to.

These guides on the the Family Historian User Group for importing from Ancestry website, Family Tree Maker (FTM),
Genbox,Generations,Legacy,Personal Ancestral File (PAF,Roots Magic, The Master Genealogist,
The Next Generation (TNG) should assist in getting your data into the right lace.

GeniAus said...

Jenny Lanctot, I did enjoy your series of spreadsheet posts.It was when I saw your genealogy at a glance that I realised that Family Historian could do that for me.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

I'm leaning more and more to family Historian with your encouragement...just,procrastinating.

Hilary Gadsby said...

I am going to post a link to this in my new community.
I has intended to discuss more on my blog connected to the page and community.
I also hope to do more videos and maybe a HOA with some of the users when I get more confident.
If I do a HOA it will probably be on a Wednesday morning in the UK at a time to suit the Australian audience since most users are in the UK and your part of the world.

Alex Coles said...

I can't believe I've never configured my columns in Family Historian. Thanks Jill!

Shannon Thomas said...

Great post Jill. I often think the same thing when I see the spreadsheets. I use Legacy and in the Index tab you can view up to 15 different columns of information and you can save your column configurations (up to 10 different ones). In Legacy you can also export any of your searches to a spreadsheet. I've often wanted to use spreadsheets but I feel like entering my information a second time is not valuable for me.

GeniAus said...

Thanks for all the comments. I get so excited when a blog post initiates conversation.
Pauleen - Go for it.
Hilary - Haven't got the Community Link yet
Alex - Pleased to have found another FH user
Shannon - Didn't know that about Legacy.

Jane Taubman said...

An extra trick, is your record window columns can be saved as a query, and you can load the columns from a query to the records window.

Additionally, if you need to export the information from any query to a spreadsheet, you can save the results of query to a CSV file which can be opened in any spreadsheet program. Which can be useful for exporting summary information to your Phone or tablet when out and about.

GeniAus said...

Thanks Jane. I'll try to remember that. FH is such a powerful program.

Hilary Gadsby said...

I love the queries in Family Historian and find them invaluable.
Just wish I understood the Plug-ins.

Jan Murphy said...

One of the things on my To Do List (very back-burner) is to learn Lua so I can understand the FH plugins better. That's one of the (dis)advantages of having a husband who programs -- when you ask the question "what do you know about Lua?" the answer is "here", followed by a stack of books.

Jan Murphy said...
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