Those of you who have already discovered Ancestral Author may want to skip to the end of this article for information on a free upgrade. If you are hearing about this great shareware program for the first time, allow me to introduce you.
First, a quick review of the more common ways to share the results of your genealogy efforts with others - and the shortcomings of those options. You can create a GEDCOM file and upload it to a number of different online genealogy databases where your information is merged with that of others. Another method is to place your own GEDCOM file on a personal home page or some other sort of web page. Then others can download your file alone and examine its contents. Still another method is to place your genealogy online as text, typically in the form of HTML files or using one of the higher-powered genealogy web publishing tools, such as The Next Generation.
The first two options result in your losing control of your data. Some people couldn't care less, but others prefer that unknown individuals not take data and then rebroadcast it elsewhere. The third option reduces the likelihood of someone simply taking all your data and republishing it as their own, but it still does not eliminate the possibility.
For many, the most practical answer is to publish PDF (Portable Document Format) files of one's data. PDF files display on the screen or are printed on another person's computer in exactly the manner that you want. You can create nice looking hardcopy with high quality fonts, graphics, and a layout that is identical to what you see on the computer - regardless of what computer or printer was used to print it.
PDF files can be read on Apple Macintosh computers, Microsoft Windows computers, Linux and Unix computers, etc. PDF is the universal portable document standard, used by businesses, governments, and private individuals around the world.
PDF files are hyperlinked; so, it is easy to follow genealogical relationships. Just click on a hyperlinked name, and you are immediately brought to the page for that person. Flipping pages to get from parents to children to grandchildren is unnecessary. Just click on the children, and you are instantly brought to the page. Click on a name in the index, and you are brought immediately to the page for that person. PDF files can be placed on the Internet and viewed by anyone with a Web browser. They also can be sent by email to anyone interested in your genealogy. With one file you can:
- print a high quality genealogy document,
- conveniently read and browse your genealogy on your computer,
- publish your genealogy on the Internet, and
- email it to a fellow researcher.
In some respects, PDF files are safer to distribute than GEDCOM files. They are less subject to abuse. It is not possible to automatically upload them to Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, Familysearch.org, etc. Nor can they easily be imported into somebody else's genealogical database.
PDF files are not "bulletproof." There are programs available today that will convert PDF files to Microsoft Word or ASCII text format. However, there is no method of automatically extracting data from a PDF file and creating a genealogy database or a GEDCOM file from it. Even with this caveat, if you prefer to maintain some control over your data, PDF is a good publishing method. You control how it appears on the other person's screen or printer, and you make it difficult for others to automatically merge your data into "foreign" databases.
For more information about PDF files and their advantages to genealogists, look at: http://www.ancestralauthor.com/Specs/AboutPdfs.htm
For a better solution, you can turn to a great program called Ancestral Author to create very attractive genealogy reports. These reports can be uploaded to your web site, e-mailed to distant cousins, placed on floppy or CD-ROM disks, or simply printed and hand-delivered to someone else. Not only does Ancestral Author reduce the export capabilities, but it also creates very attractive pages. In fact these reports are much more attractive than what this artistically-challenged genealogist could ever create alone!
Using Ancestral Author, I easily produced a PDF file that contains a customized document of my genealogical research, with lineages documented in a Register Style report. One of the great things about Ancestral Author is that the Register reports are hyperlinked. Click on a name, and you are brought to the page on which that person appears. The index is hyperlinked, too. This feature distinguishes Ancestral Author from 'printer driver' methods of creating PDF, such as Adobe Acrobat or PDF995.
Another nice feature is that PDF 'annotations' are used to document sources. These annotations look like 'post-it' notes and appear in the register report next to the documentation for an individual. Click on it, and all the source citations relevant to that individual are displayed in a pop-up window. There's no need to scroll to the end of the document to look up the source/reference citation.
Obviously I am excited about the possibilities of using PDF to document research. I think the format offers some unique features that enhance genealogical documentation. Ancestral Author can do all this by reading a GEDCOM file produced by your present genealogy program. All modern genealogy programs can create GEDCOM files; so, in effect, Ancestral Author is compatible with all of today's genealogy programs.
When I first discovered Ancestral Author, I downloaded the program from the author's Web site. I then double-clicked on the new file and followed a few on-screen instructions. The installation was completed within seconds. To launch the program, I double-clicked on the new Ancestral Author icon that had just appeared on my desktop.
Ancestral Author prompts the user for a number of items of information. It asks for a title page, location of the GEDCOM file, location of the new PDF file to be created, type of report, footnote style, and more. Once the information is specified, the user clicks on DONE, and a new PDF file is created. You can see a sample of one such PDF file at http://www.ancestralauthor.com/download/sample.pdf. Keep in mind that similar reports can be created from your present database, regardless of the genealogy program you are using at this time.
The file that I created about five minutes after I first saw the program looks just as good as the online sample, except that I had not added any graphics. My file also had a watermark on each page that said, "Unregistered." Once I obtained a registration number and entered it into the program, the watermark no longer appeared on the reports that I created.
Ancestral Author will create three different kinds of reports:
- Standard Descendant Report - This is the most common type of report. It produces a register report showing the descendants of the root individual down to N generations where "N" is a number that you specify.
- Lineal Descent Report - This report shows the descent of one individual (DESC) from another (ROOT), without reporting on collateral lines. In addition it shows N generations of descendants of DESC that you specified.
- Greatest Ancestor Report - This report is useful if you don't know the names of any individuals in the GEDCOM. If no name is given for the ROOT individual, Ancestral Author will find the person with the most descendants and use him/her as the root of the report. It will then generate a report showing N generations of descendants that you specified.
I found the program rather easy to use. You can use either drag-and-drop method or let the program "wizard" walk you through the steps. I was particularly impressed with the speed of Ancestral Author. My aging 600-MHz Windows 2000 system read a 3,000+ person GEDCOM file, found the selected individual, and generated a 12-page report, all in about five seconds.
Author Rod Sullivan says that Ancestral Author requires Windows 98 with 64 megabytes of memory or Windows 2000 or Windows XP with 128 megabytes of memory. It also requires about 5 megabytes of free disk space. The only other program you need is Adobe's free Acrobat Reader, so you can display the reports you create. You do not need any other "special Acrobat tools" in order to create PDF files when using Ancestral Author.
Ancestral Author is distributed as a shareware program. You can download it and use it for a while at no cost. The only hindrance is the "unregistered" watermark on each page. If you decide that you wish to keep the program and want the watermark removed, you can pay $24.95 via a safe and secure Web site. You will then receive a registration number by e-mail within 24 hours.
This is a very nice program, one that will appeal to many people. It allows you to share genealogy information in an attractive format that cannot be easily extracted and placed into other databases. It can be used on the Web, on floppy disks, or on CD-ROM disks that you create and distribute. Rod Sullivan has a winner.
Version 2.3 has been available for about a month now. Your Ancestral Author reports can now have up to 10 sources per event and up to 150,000 hyperlinks per report, and numerous enhancements have been added to the handling of Notes from your GEDCOM. Current users of Ancestral Author will be happy to note that they can upgrade to version 2.3 for free. You simply download the new version, and your existing registration key works with it.
To learn more about Ancestral Author, to look at the sample PDF file, to download it, or to pay the registration fee, go to: http://www.AncestralAuthor.com