Copyright © 2005 Steven L. Lubetkin. All rights reserved.
Those of us who have been bitten by the genealogy bug are often discouraged from doing detailed research on our ancestors because we’re not sure how to create a research strategy that will help us figure out what documents to look for and where they might be located. GenSmarts, a software add-on program that works in collaboration with your existing genealogy software, could be a great help in moving your research forward in an organized way.
GenSmarts is the brainchild of Aaron Underwood of Long Grove, Illinois. When he was younger, Aaron assisted his father’s genealogy research by manually creating “to-do” lists organized by location and document type, for his dad to use when his business trips took him near repositories where he needed to look up family information.
Later on, Underwood realized that he could leverage his software development skills to create a program that would evaluate genealogy records and prepare the to-do list automatically.
“It goes through your [genealogy] file, and builds a profile of each person, where they existed, where they lived, over time,” said Underwood, “and compares that to a set of known records to produce a set of predictions or research suggestions,” regarding documents that should have existed for that individual.
Then GenSmarts prioritizes the records based on data that’s missing from your database. It will give higher priority, for example, to a research task related to a missing marriage date, rather than trying to find documentation for a date of death that’s already in the database, Underwood said.
GenSmarts integrates seamlessly with popular genealogy software like the Personal Ancestral File (PAF) software available free from the LDS Church; Family Tree Maker; Legacy Family Tree; RootsMagic; The Master Genealogist and several other programs.
GenSmarts opens as a dialogue box with tabs for several functions. The tab marked “My Genealogy File” displays an alphabetical list of every individual in the database you are analyzing. When you click on an individual’s name, GenSmarts displays “People Facts” about the person from the database, and it makes an educated guess called a GenSmarts Estimate (GSEST) based on other facts known about the individual.
For example, in my family tree, GenSmarts estimated a marriage for one family member as having taken place in 1891 because he had a child born in 1893 and one of his children got married in 1915. You can tag individuals as direct ancestors to give them greater priority in GenSmarts analysis. You can also generate an email message containing the “People Facts” by clicking an Email button on this tab.
The second tab, “To-Do List,” gives specific recommendations for places to search for information.You can sort the list by research priority, surname, date, or geography, and filter it to show specific subsets of records like direct ancestors, records available online, or tasks related to missing data in your collection.
You can configure GenSmarts to recognize your subscriptions to online genealogy services like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org. If a particular record is available online, simply click a button labeled “Available Online” and GenSmarts initiates the search sequence to find that record within the online service.
The Research Locations Tab lists various research websites and document repositories. GenSmarts shows all your records that could be updated with information from that repository. This can help you make the most of your time if you are planning to visit a library or archive.
The Data Cleanup tab identifies and corrects records with missing or inaccurate place names, and the Query tab provides advanced search capabilities based on names, dates, and family relationships.
GenSmarts offers a trial version for download on its website. The trial program will analyze a limited number of records and offer some samples of its research suggestions. The program sells for $24.95, and this is a small price to pay for the program’s ability to make your genealogy research more efficient.
To hear more about GenSmarts, you can listen to our first podcast, an interview with Aaron Underwood.
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