Alpha to Omega is a Windows program developed to allow you to print a memorable book of ancestors and descendants that you can display or share with family members. The program creates books and family group sheets in a manner that I have not seen with any other genealogy program. I had a chance to use Alpha to Omega this week and thought I would describe its operation.
The program can be used by itself. However, I suspect that most people will use it in conjunction with their present genealogy program. This program will enhance whatever program you currently use because it offers features that are not available with any other program.
Installation was simple: insert the CD-ROM disk, and then follow the instructions that appear on-screen. The entire installation required about two minutes. A tiny user's manual is included with the CD, but as usual, I didn't open it.
The first screen that appeared was very simple: the program's logo in the center of the screen and three pulldown menu items across the top -- File, Settings, and Help. That seemed a bit sparse; so, I almost opened the user's manual. Resisting that temptation, I clicked on File and then on New Genealogy Book. Indeed, I found the program easy to use without the manual.
I was asked for the name of the two ancestors that I wished to start with. I entered that data and then found the next screen looked like a normal genealogy program's data entry screen: the user is prompted for names, dates and places of birth, death and burial. Other data elements to be entered include father's name, mother's maiden name, and current address. (Hmmm, if they have a burial date, why ask for a current address? Perhaps the current address is Evergreen Cemetery or something similar.)
I entered the information about a few of my ancestors and found nothing unusual. Data entry was straightforward and somewhat similar to any number of genealogy programs. I found that I could create the entire book by entering all the data manually. I quickly grew tired of the exercise, however, as I already had all that data stored in another program on my disk drive. In fact, I also have a recent GEDCOM export made from that program. I decided to abort and try a different method. Instead of entering all the data by hand, I wanted Alpha to Omega to read the data in my present GEDCOM file.
I went back to File and then selected "Create Book from GEDCOM." Ah, life suddenly became much easier! Alpha to Omega quickly read my GEDCOM file and then displayed a list of all the individuals in that file. The program prompted me to select the base individual. I clicked on my great-great-grandfather's name. About a half second later a descendancy chart of great-great-granddad appeared on my screen. I want to emphasize the speed of that; I don't think I had time to blink before a descendancy chart of nearly one hundred persons was displayed.
Everything looked normal, so I clicked on "Finish." This time the program took about five seconds to process the nearly one hundred individuals and their relationships, then displayed a "Family Record Editor" of great-great-granddad and his spouses and children. This screen is a full editor; I could change any of the information shown. I found that I could also add and delete spouses.
Next, I found that I could "walk down" the family tree by selecting View and then Family Tree to see the descendancy chart, click on any individual in that family tree, and then select Family Record Editor to go back to the edit screen. It really is easier than it sounds. I could change any of the information that had been imported from the GEDCOM file.
Once I was satisfied that all the data was ready to go, I selected Print Preview. All the screens of this new book appeared on my screen, one page at a time. I I clicked through them, page by page. If I found anything that I didn't like, it was easy to back up and correct the original data in the Family Record Editor and then select Print Preview again to see the results.
Once I was satisfied with the data as seen on my screen, I selected Print. I found that I could print a single Family Record page (often called a Family Group Sheet in other programs) or a complete genealogy book showing all of this person's descendants. A third option is to print a single, blank Family Record page. This printout without data can be very useful when interviewing distant relatives or when researching a family at a records repository. It becomes a "fill in the blanks" document. You can then transcribe the data into your computer when you get home.
The book that this program printed is very interesting. In my case, it was 86 pages. The first page was a cover sheet, followed by a second-page, machine-written introduction that essentially explains the layout of all the data found. Family Record pages followed that, one page per family. Where there are multiple spouses, there are multiple Family Record pages. Near the end of the book there is a List of Descendants, showing each person in alphabetical order and a reference to the page number where that person may be found within the Family Records. That is followed by a similar "List of Non-Descendants;" others mentioned within the book who are not descendants of the base individual. In other words, this is a list of all the spouses who married descendants and the spouses' parents.
The book format is very "clean" and easy to read. I suspect a non-genealogist can pick this up and understand the information within seconds. This is an excellent reference to give to relatives who are not as interested in genealogy as some of us.
Keep in mind that this book centers on Family Record sheets (often called Family Group Sheets elsewhere). It is not a "Register Format" book, and it contains no narratives or biographical text notes. It contains only the data elements contained within the database: names of the individual and parents, spouses, and children, as well as the dates and places of birth, death, and burial.
I was going to take some time to describe the Family Record printouts as they are in a somewhat different format than anything I have seen before. Luckily for me, Ray H Brandt, the author of Alpha to Omega, already wrote such a description; so, here is the author's description of the printouts:
My interest in genealogy goes back to 1980. My mother and sister had already gathered genealogical data from a number of relatives, and they needed someone to type up the information. The economy was in a shambles and my business was slow so I volunteered to do the typing. We developed a form that we liked and this form was used for our first book. An electric typewriter was used to add the data to the form.
Over the next 15 years, or so, I created a number of genealogy books for both my family and for my wife's family, using various ancestors as the "starting page" of the book. I modified the form we had created earlier and had a printing company reproduce the new form onto continuous-feed computer paper and used my new personal computer, and a "data-base software", to fill in the forms. But I was not able to print the forms and the data at the same time. I decided that the only way that I could make it possible to print the form and data at the same time was going to require a software program. Thus the seed for "Alpha to Omega" was planted resulting in a neater looking family sheet and eliminating the difficulty of typing information "on the lines" of the preprinted form.
Several years ago, my sister began using the Family Tree Maker genealogy program and introduced me to the features of that as well as a few other programs that she had access to. We liked the ease of data entry in most of the programs and found most of the report capabilities fun and useful. However, none of the commercial genealogy programs had the capability of formatting a family record sheet according to our preferences. In all of those programs, the husband's name and his vital information is entered at the top of the sheet with the wife and her information below. The format we preferred was to list the descendant at the top and the spouse below. Using our format we don't have to guess which person in that particular book is the descendant because the one listed at the top of the page is always the descendant.
Another feature of Alpha to Omega is that our sheets are numbered, and number references are a part of the information for children on the family record sheet to guide you to further family record(s) of a particular child. For example, John Doe and Mary Roe's hypothetical seven children, listed on page 17 of their family book, each have a page reference to quickly take you to the family record sheet of their extended family. It is much easier to quickly flip to page 43 (page 43 would show up on page 17 opposite Henry's name) of the book for Henry Doe's sheet with his wife and children, than to browse through pages 18 - 43 to locate Henry's sheet.
Alpha to Omega prints out a cover page (Title Page) to provide identification of whose descendants are in the book and it also provides indexes of the descendants and of the non-descendants that are in the book.
All this is a bit difficult to visualize. I'd suggest you look at the examples shown at http://www.alphatoomega.us/index.cfm?id=16. Click on each small image to see a magnified version. There you can see the various printed pages as well as the data-editing screens.
For an even more detailed look, you can view a 53-page PDF file that I created at http://www.eogn.com/examples/alphatoomega/kennedy.pdf. You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to view this. Also note that it is a 240-kilobyte document; it may require several minutes to download on a dial-up connection. Once visible on your screen, this document will show the full capabilities of Alpha to Omega - The Genealogy Bookmaker.
This is a nice program that can add a lot of capability to your present underpowered genealogy program. If Family Record (Family Group Sheet) printouts are important to you, the format used on Alpha to Omega may prove to better suit your needs. Take a look at the examples mentioned earlier to decide for yourself.
Oh yes, let me mention the user's manual. I never needed it. However, there is a slim ten-page user's manual included within the CD jewel case. It appears to contain all the basic information required to operate the program. There are no built-in help files. The Help entry on the pulldown menus simply contains one "About" screen giving the program's name and version number.
Alpha to Omega sells for $42.55 plus shipping and handling. For more information about Alpha to Omega - The Genealogy Bookmaker, or to order the program online via PayPal's safe and secure shopping cart system, go to http://www.alphatoomega.us.