Four years ago, I published an excerpt from an e-mail sent to me by a newsletter reader:
I am 81. My wife died recently and I have sold my house. I will spend my remaining days visiting family and friends.... So I will have no PC. I will rely on library facilities and friend's PCs. I will carry my GEDCOM database on CD. But most will not have a genealogy application on their PC. Many public facilities will not allow you to install applications because of the complications involved in making entries to their Windows Registry. For the same reason I cannot install the genealogy application on web storage such as Yahoo Briefcase. Is there a way around this, or perhaps a site which has a genealogy application available for all to use?
I was unable to find an answer to his question four years ago. Thanks to advances in technology, there is a simple answer available today. It works well. I have tested it over the past few days and have been pleased with the results. In short, I am using "PAF on a Stick." In fact, the CD-ROM disk that my correspondent suggested isn't required. The solution I found is even simpler.
I can carry this genealogy program and a rather large database in my shirt pocket at all times. It is convenient and easy to use, and the results will satisfy many genealogists, although not the more demanding experts.
In this case, "PAF" stands for Personal Ancestral File, a free genealogy program for Windows that is produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The "stick" is sometimes called a memory stick, a jump drive, a thumb drive, or a USB disk drive. These are different names, but all refer to the same thing: small devices that contain some amount of memory and a USB connector. For the remainder of this article, I will call them jump drives or memory sticks. Whatever the name used, these small devices emulate disk drives when plugged into a computer's USB connector.
I am using a tiny Sony jump drive that weighs about a half ounce and is roughly the size of my thumbnail. I purchased the jump drive for $35, but I have since seen it advertised for less. It easily carries the genealogy program and a database of thousands of individuals, and it still has lots of room left over for other programs and data files.
The use of a jump drive makes sense when you do not carry a laptop computer with you. My correspondent had neither a laptop nor a desktop system. He wanted to always use borrowed systems at Internet cafes, public libraries, or a friend's house. He wanted to use a program that did not require installing software on the computer. He wanted a freestanding program and data that he could easily take with him. The process I will describe will work for him as well as for anyone else who perhaps does have a desktop system but not a traveling laptop. Indeed, you can take your database and genealogy program with you and use it on any Windows computer. It will work in Internet cafes, at Kinko's, at a public library, or on any borrowed Windows computer built in the past few years.
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