Monday, October 30, 2006

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter: The End of PAF?

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter: The End of PAF?: "October 29, 2006

Personal Ancestral File (often called PAF) is one of the most popular genealogy programs available. It is produced by the LDS Church (the Mormons) and is made available to everyone at no charge. Millions of genealogists around the world use Personal Ancestral File.

There is one problem: the program hasn't had a significant update in years. In fact, it is a rather old-fashioned genealogy program by today's standards. Other free programs now offer more features than what is found in PAF. Even more features can be found in programs selling for rather low prices.

Remember when PAF used to sell for $35.00? Those days are long gone.

Now a senior representative from the LDS Church has confirmed the rumors that have floated around for years: the LDS Church will not expend any more funds to develop a modern version of Personal Ancestral File.

LDS Church Historian, Elder Marlin K. Jensen, gave the keynote address at the October 6-7, 2006, Northern Utah Family History Conference and Symposium. He told how Personal Ancestral File was a major force in genealogy in past years. However, when the LDS Church senior executives look today at all the things that the Church could do to promote interest in genealogy and to provide resources to genealogists, it is obvious that commercial organizations are already providing excellent free and low-cost genealogy software. Any efforts by the LDS Church to 'compete' with the commercial organizations will not help meet the Church's goals to promote interest in genealogy and to provide appropriate resources to aid genealogists.

Instead, Jensen reports that the LDS Church's executives feel that the Church would be better served by concentrating its expenditures on the items that the Church can do best: digitizing microfilm and improving in-home access to original records, primarily via the web site.

Comment by Dick Eastman: This strikes me as a good idea. We already have a number of excellent genealogy programs, including one besides PAF that is available free of charge. Having the LDS Church spend money to support and improve "one more free genealogy program" is not the wisest use of the Church's funds earmarked for genealogy.

I'd much rather see the LDS Church spend that money on items that are difficult for other organizations to provide: convenient, in-home access to millions of genealogy-related records, improving its web-based genealogy software and promoting interest in family heritage throughout the world.

To be sure, this will be disappointing to present users of Personal Ancestral File who will sooner-or-later need to switch to a newer program. (There is no need to rush, however.) However, I suspect those same users will also welcome the access to more records and the other benefits created by the re-allocation of these funds.

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