I am a big fan of programs that are designed to do one thing and then do it well. Ancestral Author is one of those programs. A few days ago, creator Rod Sullivan issued an updated version of Ancestral Author.
Ancestral Author is a Windows program that reads the genealogy data you already have in your favorite genealogy program. It will then publish fully hyperlinked documents, with title page, table of contents, name index, source citations, outline view, and chapter and section headings. It creates NEHGS style register reports automatically from GEDCOM files, producing genealogical reports that can be printed on paper or PDF files.
PDF files can be read on Apple Macintosh computers, Microsoft Windows computers, Linux and Unix computers, and others. PDF is the universal portable document standard, used by businesses, governments, and private individuals around the world.
To use this program, you first create a GEDCOM file from your genealogy database, and then tell Ancestral Author where to find that file. Ancestral Author will read the GEDCOM file and then publish PDF (Portable Document Format) files of the data.
NOTE #1: For more information about GEDCOM files, read my "GEDCOM Explained" article at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2004/11/gedcom_explaine.html
NOTE #2: All modern genealogy programs will create GEDCOM files although the terms in the menus may vary from one program to another. Your program may say "GEDCOM" or "Export" or some other, similar words. In effect, then, Ancestral Author is compatible with all of today's genealogy programs.
NOTE #3: For more information about PDF files and their advantages to genealogists, look at: http://www.ancestralauthor.com/Specs/AboutPdfs.htm
PDF files display on the screen or print from 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 your own computer - regardless of what computer or printer may be used to print it.
Ancestral Author's PDF files include hyperlinks; 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. Similarly, you can click on a name in the index, and you are brought immediately to the page for that person. You can also place PDF files on the Internet where anyone can view them with a Web browser, and you can send them by email to anyone interested in your genealogy. You can see a sample of one such PDF file at http://www.ancestralauthor.com/download/sample.pdf.
With one PDF file created from your GEDCOM, you can do all of the following:
- print a high quality genealogy document,
- conveniently read and browse your genealogy on your computer or handheld device,
- publish your genealogy on the Internet, and
- email it to a fellow researcher.
Ancestral Author creates very attractive genealogy reports in PDF format. 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. Ancestral Author creates very attractive pages. In fact these reports are much more attractive than what this artistically-challenged genealogist could ever create alone!
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 PDF files into the online databases available at Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, Familysearch.org, or elsewhere. PDF files also cannot be easily be imported into somebody else's genealogical database.
Using Ancestral Author, I effortlessly 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.
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 appear in a pop-up window. There's no need to scroll to the end of the document to look up the source/reference citation.
Installation of Ancestral Author is easy: download the program from the author's web site, double-click on the new file, and follow a few on-screen instructions. Less than a minute later, the trial version of Ancestral Author will be ready for your use.
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 a few more items. 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.
Version 2.5 was released a few days ago and adds the following new capabilities:
- Ability to choose alternate page sizes (LEGAL, LETTER, A4, A5, A6, B4, B5).
- Support for single-column name index as an alternative to the double-column name index that was already supported.
- Support for divorce records (GEDCOM's DIV tag).
- Added "FILE SAVE" operations.
- Added support for Title, Byline, and Header wrapping. It is no longer necessary to use forward slashes (/) to force multi-line headings. If no forward slashes are present, the program will automatically wrap the headings to fit on the page.
I found Ancestral Author rather easy to use. You can either use the drag-and-drop method or let the program "wizard" walk you through the steps. I was particularly impressed with the speed of Ancestral Author; reports are created within seconds.
Author Rod Sullivan says that Ancestral Author requires Windows 98 or Windows ME 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 that 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 CD-ROM disks that you create and distribute, or by simply emailing the file to others. Rod Sullivan has a winner.
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