Family Origins® tips
and unofficial FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Family Origins is a genealogy program, and this web page contains user
contributed information about it. It consists of Frequently Asked
Questions and the answers to these.
You may have gotten here through a link from the www.formalsoft.com website. That
does not mean that this page is part of that website.
I am not an employee of any
company related to Family Origins. In fact, I work for a company named Micromuse. So
please don't ask me why technical support is so slow, or what to do if
you've lost your old program disks, or whether v10 can import files from
Family Origins is no longer being distributed nor is it being actively developed.
This web page is still relevant to the many people who still use Family Origins, and
it also contains a lot of information which can be applied to any genealogy program.
If you do want a newer program, the brains behind has created a new genealgy program
It is in no way complete nor will it ever be.
I personally can't take credit for
all the information here. A lot of the information here has been
gathered from the Family Origins users E-mail list, and this web page
should really be considered a companion to that email list.
In this document, "FO" is used to refer to Family Origins. The
format of this document is as follows: Each item has a title, which
version of Family Origins the item applies to and the date when the item
was created or last updated. I'm Danish which means dates are written
as: Day Month Year.
- Entering and editing data
- Printing and reports
- Other Family Origins Internet Resources
Entering and editing data
international characters, accented characters and diacritics
20. July 1998
The following methods exist for entering "non-standard" characters:
characters from Windows' "Character Map" application:
Ever since the Windows 3.1 days, Windows has had the Character Map
application that allows you to see all the characters in a particular
character set as well as their associated ANSI code number. After
loading the Character Map, one can highlight a wanted character (or
characters), click the <Select> button and then the <Copy>
button. Now switch to Family Origins. No need to close Character Map,
remember, Windows can run multiple programs simultaneously, just press
<Alt>+<Tab> to switch between the running programs. Put the
text cursor where you want to have the copied characters and press
<Ctrl>+<V>. Your Character Map application will almost
certainly look slightly different than pictured above. The picture shows
Character Map from Windows NT.
Characters by entering the ASCII (ANSI) code:
Contributed by Jacques
In the picture of Character Map above, we can see that the keystroke
for "Ò" is <Alt>+0210. What that means is that if you hold
down the <Alt> key and then (while holding down the <Alt>
key) enter 0210 on the numeric keypad, the relevant character will
appear. Highlighting any of the characters will show its ANSI code
unless the character can be entered directly from the keyboard. If there
are certain letters you need a lot, find the ANSI code with Character
Map, and enter them using the ANSI code number when needed. If you use
a laptop, there is usually a way to turn part of the keyboard into a
numerical keyboard. Just remember to switch back after having entered
your international character, or you will suddenly find yourself
entering numbers instead of letters.
Changing the keyboard layout:
The following method works if your operating system is Windows 95/98 or
If you are only interested in entering accented characters like
etc., they can be entered with only two keystrokes in any Windows
program including FO. To enter "á", you press <‘> followed
by <a>. To get a single "‘", you just follow it with a space or by
a letter for which it does not apply.
BUT FIRST, you must do the following:
Go to control panel,
then to keyboard.
then to the tab labelled language (in NT it says "Input Locales"),
It probably says Language: English (United States) and Layout: United
Click on Properties and change the layout to United
Now you will be able to enter accented characters like described above.
Shortcuts when entering
15. August 1998
The section on "Sorting events" mentions the date modifiers usable
within FO. FO has shortcuts to 3 of the date modifiers which when
entered, the program will replace with the "official" abbreviations:
"c"=Abt, "b"=Bef, "a"=Aft.
FO also has shortcuts for some of the months: j=Jan, f=Feb, m=Mar,
ap=Apr, ju=Jun, au=Aug, s=Sep, o=Oct, n=Nov, d=Dec.
15. August 1998
When adding facts in FO, they are shown in chronological order. If no
date was entered for the fact, it will be shown at the end of the list
of facts. Or an exact date may not be available for an event. This can
cause events to be shown and printed out of order. Many genealogists use
date modifiers in those cases. FO will accept any text in a date field,
but some text is properly interpreted as date modifiers. They
include: "abt"=About, "bet"=Between, "to", "frm"=From, "bef"=Before,
"aft"=After. Using the date modifiers results in the events sorting
properly. Some of the date
modifiers have shortcuts within FO.
Example: John Doe died 1.1.1900. You have a burial place, but no date.
Enter the burial date as "Aft 1.1.1900".
and selecting after clicking the flashlight
Affected version: at least 5.x and later
11. October 1998
After clicking the flashlight icon, a window will pop up, part of which
looks like the image to the right. Since v6 it has been possible to get
FO to complete a partially entered surname by typing comma. To get FO to
show the "Select Person" window like shown, I typed "po,". FO then
completed the surname itself, it added the rest of the surname without
me having to type anymore. If for example I had somebody called "Poe" in
my database, I would have had to type "pon," to get FO to finish the
"Pontoppidan" name. As you can see, I then enter the first characters with
no space between the comma and the given name. In FO7, this
"auto-complete" feature can be switched on or off in the "Options >
Program options" menu option.
As in any other Windows program, the scroll bar (to the right in the
picture) means you can use the <PageUp> or <PageDown> key to
scroll a screenful at a time. Or you can place the cursor in the
light-grey area between the slider and either arrow button (clear as
mud?) and press the mouse button. You again scroll a screenful at a
time. For faster scrolling, place the cursor in the thin horizontal
"bar" just below or just above the names (the area where I typed the
name). Now press the cursor, and the names scroll by even faster.
Anomalies in your data
11. October 1998
In FO a family unit with no parents entered can exist. FO does not
allow the manual creation of such a family, but importing a GEDCOM file
could cause it to happen. While the existence of such a family is not
dangerous to your data, it does mean that the list of "Individuals with
no parents" will not show the children of such a family even though you
obviously do not know who the parents are. In FO7, such families can be
found by creating a family list (from the "List" menu option, not from
the "Reports > Lists" option). They will be indicated by a blank
line, double-clicking on that line will take you straight to that
To get rid of this family unit without losing the child do the
following: Highlight the child. Choose the "Edit > Unlink from >
Parents" menu option.
Moving text to and
23. November 1998
The following information actually applies to almost any Microsoft
Windows application, not just Family Origins:
Many Windows applications have an "Edit" menu option under which you
can find the options to cut, copy and paste. These options can actually
be used for some amazingly clever stuff linking data from different
applications with each other. We will just use the options to copy or
move text from one place to another.
To copy text:
Highlight the relevant text either with the mouse or with the keyboard.
To use the mouse, place the cursor at the beginning of the text you want
to move. Then hold down the mouse button and drag the mouse over the
relevant text. When all relevant text has become highlighted, release
the mouse button. To use the keyboard, use the cursor (arrow) keys.
Instead of holding down the mouse button, hold down the shift key. Now
press <Ctrl>+<C>. The text will now have been placed in the
Windows clipboard from where it can be pasted.
To paste text:
Go to where you want the text to be placed, place the text cursor there
and press <Ctrl>+<V>.
If instead of copying the text you want to move it, use
<Ctrl>+<X> instead of <Ctrl>+<C>.
- Highlight the relevant text. Press <Ctrl>+<C> to
copy or press <Ctrl>+<X> to move.
- Place the cursor where the text should go.
- Press <Ctrl>+<V>.
I can't change the notes?
12. October 1999
FO has a limit of approximately 30.000 characters in a note entry. If
you cross that boundry you will not be able to add any more text.
A solution if you need more space for notes would be to move some of
the text to one of the events. Every event (such as for example a birth)
in FO can also have a note attached.
"Printing" reports to text files
Affected version: 5.x and later
20. October 1997
Several reports have 2 or 3 "Print to?" options where the choice is
between printing to:
Screen/Printer, Rich text file (*.rtf) or ASCII text file (*.txt).
The latter two options both create a text file.
ASCII file format
20. October 1997
An ASCII file (American Standard Code of Information Interchange or
something like that) has very limited formatting. It only contains the
ASCII codes of characters. There is no way to have for example a header
in a different font and text size than any other text. If you load an
ASCII file with, say Wordpad, it will look ugly if viewed or printed
with a proportional font such as "Arial" or "Times New Roman". Use a
font such as "Courier" which is a non-proportional font. The benefit of
an ASCII file is of course that it can be viewed on any system that
supports the ASCII character set.
Rich text format (RTF)
20. October 1997
A file in RTF format contains generic formatting information. Most word
processing programs can import and export RTF files and retain some of
the formatting such as fonts, text size, italics, bold etc. Rather than
supporting the native file formats of several different word processing
programs, RTF format allows almost any word processing program to load a
file created by Family Origins with the formatting applied by Family
Origins retained. It obviously depends on the word processing program
how well it "translates" RTF files. RTF files from Family Origins look
"prettier" in Microsoft Word than in Wordpad that comes with Windows 95.
Index in books
5. June 1998
When creating a "book" in FO there is an option to "Print index at the
end of book". When printing to the screen/printer or to an ASCII text
file, this index is created by FO. When printing to a "rich text file",
the formatting of the pages is up to the word processing program used to
import the resulting RTF file. FO therefore has no way of knowing on
which page a particular person is going to appear. Instead FO puts a
code into the RTF file which word processing programs such as Microsoft
Word and WordPerfect can use to generate an index.
In Microsoft Word 97, the procedure to create the index is as follows:
Choose "Insert" on the menu, "Index and Tables" in the submenu. After
deciding on type, format etc., click "OK". If in "Tools > Options
> View" field codes are to be shown, you will see the actual field
code generated instead of the index, uncheck the "show field codes"
Explaining custom reports
11. November 1997
By Jim Guest
The custom report is like a blank piece of paper where you design your
own form, and where you tell FO to put in only the information you want
and where you want it.
If you were to take pencil and paper and design a form with blank
spaces to be filled in with certain information, you would be creating
"fields". A field is what makers of database program called the blank
spaces they made for users to put information in.
For instance, if you had a blank space to insert a name, it would be
called a "name field". If it was for an address, it was an "address
Because some of these fields were going to require more information
that others, some had to be longer. A field (blank space) for a Surname
would not have to be as long as a field for an address.
And this is what you can do in Custom Reports. You can put in a Surname
field, a Given Name field and any other field you want and make up a
form that will use the information you have in FO. You can make the
field longer or shorter, or put them in any order you want.
If you want to make a custom report form showing only names and birth
dates of all the Smiths you make the form using the fields of your
choice. You then need to make a "query" which tells FO to put only
Smiths in it. Play around with it and you will find it quite
Sample custom reports
FO v5 shipped with 4 examples of custom reports, they (+2 others) can
be downloaded here (REPORTS.ZIP, 2 KB). 3 of
the sample custom reports are included as standard reports in FO v6. In
other words, they are examples of how to create a custom report rather
than an exiting new addition to FO.
Reports, a HOW-TO for Newbies (long)
by Howard Ford
13. September 1998
This is an effort to provide a very simple but detailed explanation of
how to use the Custom Report feature of Family Origins. It will give
explanations that are designed to paint a word picture so the users can
have a mental picture of the report before it is created. All
information relates to version 7. I do not know if it is different in
First, it is important to dispel any mental concept you might have
that the computer will be providing you with a formatted report such as
the Book report or the Pedigree report that Family Origins produces. The
design is in YOUR mind and you must teach the layout of the report to
the computer before it can create it. When you open the Custom Report,
about all the computer knows is it has a blank sheet of paper 8 1/2 by
11 inches on the screen and it is waiting for you to tell it what to
DESIGNING A CUSTOM REPORT
When you have the Custom Report Designer open on your computer there
are four buttons at the top. (From you Family Origins program select
Custom Report then click on "Design a new custom report" and you will
see the Custom Report Designer screen.)
1. DESIGN (Button entitled "Add Field")
Because you know what you want in the report it is up to you to
instruct FO how you want it laid out on the page. Remember, FO has no
design in mind like it would if it was printing a Book Report or a
Pedigree Report. FO knows it has a blank sheet of 8 1/2" by 11" paper in
front of you.
IMAGINING A CUSTOM REPORT
To start think about the design of your report image you have a blank
sheet of paper in front of you. To simplify this explanation we will be
designing a custom report that will contain three categories of data,
which FO will bring from your database to the report. Those three
categories will be, 1. name, 2. birth date, 3. birth place. There are
many different categories from which to chose.
Mentally see the sheet a paper, not your screen, but actual
paper. (If you would rather literally draw it out on a sheet of paper,
fine.) Imagine putting a list of names down the left side of the sheet
against the left margin. Draw a line down the left side at the margin
(about one inch from left edge of the paper.) The names of people
in your database will be listed in a column down the left side of
the paper next to the line. The names will need about 3" of space so you
would move to the right about three inches and draw a vertical line to
indicate the right edge of the NAME column. If you connected the lines
at the top and bottom you will have a rectangular box.
Next move to your right about one quarter of an inch past the
first box and draw another vertical line from the top margin to the
bottom margin. This is the left side of the second column of data, which
will be the BIRTH DATE column. You will need about an inch and an eight
width for that column. Now draw the line at that location and connect
them at the top and bottom forming a long narrow box.
Now, move to the right again a quarter of an inch and draw
another line from top to bottom margins and this will become the left
side of the third column of data called the BIRTH PLACE. Some birth
places have city, county and state so move to the right and give this
column about 3 inches (all the way to the right margin.) Draw the lines
so you see it as another box.
Now you see a sheet of paper with three separate rectangular
boxes. Imagine the data magically appearing in those columns. The entry
of all that data is done by FO in a few seconds. Even 50, 100 or 150
pages of data. It will reach into the data base and pull out all the
data and put it in the boxes according to your instructions. That is
amazing to me.
Here is a little computer talk. Those boxes or columns are
called "Fields." In our sample report is the NAME field, the BIRTH DATE
field and the BIRTH PLACE field. Now you see why the button is called
"Add Field." That is the button you push to set up the design of the
2. INFORMATION: (Button entitled "Add Text")
The Add Text button is the way to enter text into your report, that is
not in your data base. Since the report will be in columns, putting
HEADINGS over each column of data is very helpful. For example, If you
have a column of database names then the header (column title) at the
top of the page would say "NAME." If it is a column of everyone birth
date then the header could be "DATE OF BIRTH."
FO has two lines available for header information. It appears on
the screen with the word "Header" above it. You can put text on both
lines or on just one line. If you have only one line of text you may
want to put the information on the second line and leave the first line
blank. You could also put the text on the first line and type a line in
the space for the second line. That would give additional separation
between the column title and the data field. There is another bit of
information that you can add. Click on the "Option" button and fill in
the little open window with the TITLE of your entire custom report. Our
sample report could be called something like, "BIRTH DATA" or whatever
3. PRINTING INSTRUCTIONS: (Button entitled "Options")
Click on the Options button and the screen that appears allows you to
provide the sorting instructions. You can tell FO to sort the data by
one of the fields (columns) in your report. Click on the long "Sort by"
button and you get a list of possible ways to sort the data. It depends
on what you have in your report. In our sample case we could sort by
surname alphabetically. Scroll down until you find "Surname" and click
it and click OK. If your are most interested in a chronological order of
the dates of birth then you would select "birth date."
Next, set the font, style and size. Click where it says, "Font"
and follow through with the new window. I like Times New Roman, Regular,
The last decision on this screen is to decide if you want your
report single spaced, double spaced of whatever. Since they can be very
long and use a lot of paper you will probably set it for "0." If you
want it double spaced then put a "1" in the window, which means it
leaves one blank line.
4. CLOSE: (Button entitled "Close")
The "close" button will bring up a window to decide if you are ready to
proceed. Tell it to save the file and then you can indicate the name of
the file and the path in the next window. After the file is saved you
are returned to the Create a Report window to complete the instructions.
You can cancel out at that point if you chose too.
TURN YOUR COMPUTER ON AND LET'S DO A CUSTOM REPORT
With the Family Origins program running and your data base loaded,
click on "Reports" at the top of the screen then click on "Custom
Report" in the drop down window, which brings up the "Create a Report"
screen ready to design your custom report. You can also bring up this
report window by clicking on the "printer" icon. The "Create a Report"
window appears. You must then click on the file folder tab entitled
Once you have the Custom Report window before you it starts making
good sense. Ignore the file path that may be printed in the small open
box entitled "File name of report to print or modify." Since this is a
NEW report you ignore the button about "Modify selected report."
Once you press the button, "Design a new custom report," it jumps
immediately to the screen where you teach the computer the information
and format you want to appear in your report. There are three other
decision to be made on this screen but you will be returning to this
screen and you can make those decisions later. Go ahead and click on the
"Design a new custom report" button.
DESIGNING THE CUSTOM REPORT
Notice the blank page is divided into two areas. The top 2 lines are
entitled "Header" That word "Header" and the word "Details" will NOT
appear on your report. The Header is the area where you tell the
computer what you want printed at the top of each page over each column.
This is NOT the area for the name of you report. It is for the column
title (header) and not the total report header. You will be giving the
report name later. The program is very versatile allowing you to drag
and drop information where you want it. The fields will be set up in
the "Details" area to contain the data.
In the "Custom Report Designer" window click on the "Add Field" button
at top of screen. A window will open for you to chose the information
from your database that will go into that field. When you make a
selection for a data field the small framed field automatically enters
the Details area of the Custom Report Designer. It will appear at the
left margin on the first line of the Details section. You can click,
drag and drop it anywhere you chose. Because each new field appears in
the same location on the screen, I like to start with the right most
field (column) so it moves that field out of the way of the next new one
Some of my birth place information consists of several words so
I determined it needs about 3 inches of space. Think of the right column
on the imaginary design we previously talked about. The third column,
the one on the right side of the "sheet of paper" is the one we are now
working designing. Put your mouse cursor in the middle of the new
field, click, hold and drag to the right until the left of the field is
aligned with 4 1/2 inches on the rule at the top of the page. Now put
the mouse cursor on the middle dot on the right end of the field and
drag it all the way to the right edge of the page. You can stretch the
field to fit the need. The right field is now defined.
Click on the "Add Field" button again and chose "Birth Date" to
set up the middle field (column.) Put mouse cursor in the middle of the
new field that was just opened and drag it to the right until the left
of the field is even with the 3 1/4 inch mark on the above rule. Now put
cursor on the right middle dot of the new field and drag it over to
align with the 4 1/4 inch mark or a little beyond. Leave 1/8th to
1/4th of an inch between the two fields. For the third field
repeat the process and choose “Name -'Surname, Given’”. The only thing
you have to do to this one is put the cursor on the center dot on the
right side and drag it over to about the 3 inch mark, leaving a little
space between fields one and two.
Next, click on the Add Text button. A new window pops up. Type the
title of the right column that you want to appear above the data in the
right field. For the sample report type PLACE OF BIRTH, then click "OK."
The new field will appear in the first line of the Header area. There
will be a small line automatically placed on the report between the
Header and the body of the data. If you want a second line you can
provide it in the same way you enter the words except you enter an
underline. Stretch it or shrink it to fit your needs. If you do not want
to draw a line you may want to drag the PLACE OF BIRTH field down one
line and to the right so as to align it with the field on the right.
Now, click the Add Text again and type in DATE OF BIRTH and drag it to
the center data field letting it rest above that field. Thirdly, you
click again and type NAME and move it to the correct location. Anytime
you type more than the small field holds you can lengthen the field to
give plenty of room for the words. If you want to delete what you have
typed then click on that field and when the window comes up delete the
words or make changes. If you want to delete a text field then click on
that field and hit delete. If you want to delete a field, click on it
and press "Delete" on the keyboard.
Once you have competed the design process you click on "Close"
at the top of the screen. You will be given the opportunity to save the
report, not save it or to cancel. You will be returned to the "Create a
report" screen. There are three more decisions. If you want your name
and address to appear on the report as the one who prepared the report
then click on the little square box.
Click on the bullet to tell it if you want to have the computer
search all the records of just selected individuals. Click on the bullet
to tell it if you want it to be printed to screen/printer or sent to an
You have completed the report and ready to press the Create
button. Decide where you want all the custom reports stored on the disk
and provide the path. See, You did it.
Unsupported image formats
Affected version: 5.x
According to the help file for v5, only "Images that are in .BMP, .CMP,
.JPG, .PCX, .PCD, and .TGA formats can be added to individuals in your
However, TIFF files and GIF files can also be added even though this is
not documented. To add an image in one of these formats, enter the
complete name of the file with its extension.
It may not be a terribly good idea to use these "unsupported" image
formats as they will not be available at all in v6. The best format to
convert any TIFF and GIF files into is probably PNG which is new with
does Family Origins store the graphics?
Affected version: 4.x > 6.x
23. October 1997
Graphics images are not saved within the FO datafiles. FO keeps
information within the datafiles about where the graphics files
are stored on your harddisk, CD-ROM or wherever they are. Therefore the
- The FO backup procedure does not backup your graphics files.
- If you send your FO datafiles without sending the graphics
images to somebody else with FO, they will not be able to see any
- If you make a GEDCOM export, no image information will be
- If you move the graphics files from their original location
after having linked to them within FO, the pictures will not show up or
Family Origins doesn't store the graphics files, where should I put them?
Affected version: 4.x and later
7. August 1998
One of the very most important decisions to make about graphics and
Family Origins is where to store the files. Store them all in one
location that preferably won't change. This could be "C:\DATA\FOGRAPHICS"
for example. I just had to reconfigure my PC. In the process I had to
move all my datafiles from C: to D:, so now FO complains about not being
able to read the images (Note: v7 can globally search for and replace
for example a data path. With a global search and replace I could
easily have corrected this).
How should I
name the graphics files?
16. October 1998
Graphics files is one of the very good reasons for using the 32-bit version of FO
under Windows 9x. You can have up to 256 character file names. Make the
file names as descriptive as possible. There are many different kinds of
naming conventions that can be used. You don't have to use a
naming convention, but I personally find it easier to manage my scanned
photos by using one. Here is the one I use:
"YYYYMMDD, Surname, Given Name(s), Description".
An example of a real file name could be:
"19980901, Doe, John, School picture from 3'rd grade in Slagelse
What do I achieve with this naming convention? If I sort the files by
name, all the filenames of the images will show up chronologically.
within Explorer, I can decide whether I want the oldest or the newest
shown first. I am currently in the process of writing a batch file which
can create text files with the filenames sorted by name or by date.
Look back later for more details on this.
graphics file format should I use?
31. October 1997
When a graphics image is saved, one usually has the option to save the
image in one of several different graphics file formats. Most graphics
file formats usually compress the information required for the image to
save disk space.
Some compression methods store all data, allowing you to zoom in
without loosing any detail (loss-less).
Some compression use methods to recognize and get rid of image data
that might be difficult to see at standard resolutions. Such a
compression method would show the detail lost if you zoom into the
relevant area (lossy).
With some file formats you can choose the colour depth (the number of
colours that can be stored for each pixel (dot) in the picture. 8 bits
per pixel allows up to 256 different colours, 24 bits allows up to 16.7
million different colours (true-colour). The higher the colour depth,
the more space is required for the file.
For much more information on graphics images and tips on using
scanners, see www.scantips.com.
Below is a table showing how much space a particular
graphics image took up when saved in various graphics file
formats. The program used for the conversions was "Microsoft Photo
||Size in KiloBytes
||Supported in Family Origins?
Size of a black and white picture
from a census record
The graphics file formats I use with Family Origins are JPEG and PNG.
JPEG I use for pictures of people, PNG I use for scans of census
records, letters etc.
||Size in KiloBytes
||Supported in Family Origins?
|JPEG (24 bit)
|PNG (8 bit)
|GIF (8 bit)
|BMP (8 bit)
|TGA (8 bit)
|TIFF (8 bit)
|PCX (8 bit)
|PNG (24 bit)
|BMP (24 bit)
|TIFF (24 bit)
|TGA (24 bit)
Size of a colour picture at various
|PCX (24 bit)
images are an example of a lossy file format. Not all of the detail is
preserved. This makes it an extremely space efficient file format.
Pictures of people or landscapes can frequently be saved in JPEG format
without any noticeable loss of image quality. A picture of a letter or a
census page would not be a good idea to save as JPEG. JPEG always saves
in 24 bit colour depth mode, causing the image to be quite large since
there is little detail the algorithms can get rid of.
images are loss-less, keeping every detail in the image. This image
format is quite new compared to most image formats. It was created in
response to Unisys demanding license fees from programmers incorporating
support for the widely used GIF file format. It supports both
grey-scale, 8 bit and 24 bit colour pictures.
20. July 1998
If you use the "Browse" button to add a sound item to the multimedia
scrapbook, the "Sound to add?" window will only show files with the
".WAV" file extension. Family Origins will in fact allow other audio
formats to be played as long as the decoder for it exists on your
system. Simply enter the filename WITH the extension.
10. June 1998
GEnealogical Data COMmunications is a data format which can be used to
transfer genealogical data between different genealogical computer
programs. The data format originated with PAF (Personal Ancestral File)
and has become the de-facto standard. GEDCOM files can obviously be used
for other things than simply transfer data from for example "Brothers
Keeper" to Family Origins. You and another family member may be working
on data for the same families. With GEDCOM you can give a subset of
your data to other people.
There are different versions of the GEDCOM standard, transferring data
between different programs may therefore result in only some of the data
being transferred across correctly. In some cases data stored in one
field in one program will turn up in an altogether different field in
Near the top of a file in later versions of the GEDCOM format you can
find an entry telling you which version of the GEDCOM standard is being
used for that particular file. In a GEDCOM export from FO v6 the entry
One of the lines (VERS) tells you which version of the GEDCOM standard
this file adheres to, in this case 5.5. Another line (CHAR) tells you
which character set is being used, in this case the ANSI character set
is used. PAF for example uses the ANSEL character set, and an import
into PAF version 3 from Family Origins would therefore result in
international characters, diacritics etc. to be lost.
1 SOUR FamilyOrigins
2 NAME Family Origins(R) for Windows
2 VERS 6.0
2 CORP FormalSoft, Inc.
1 DEST DISKETTE
1 DATE 9 JUN 1998
1 SUBM @SUB1@
1 FILE GRAABEK.GED
2 VERS 5.5
2 FORM LINEAGE-LINKED
1 CHAR ANSI
Family Origins allows three different kinds of GEDCOM exports, General,
Ancestral File and TempleReady. The only difference between a "general"
and "ancestral file" GEDCOM export is that "general" results in a file
using the ANSI character set, "ancestral file" results in a file using
the ANSEL character set. TempleReady results in a file using ANSEL
character set, but notes (sources as well?) will not be exported no
matter what options you chose.
Knowing which GEDCOM version and what character set a particular
genealogy program supports is a big step towards ensuring GEDCOM
transfers are as trouble free as possible. The following table lists
various genealogy programs and the GEDCOM version supported.
|Family Origins 4, 5, 6
|Family Tree Maker (pre-v4)
|Family Tree Maker 4
||May also support v4.
|Ultimate Family Tree (UFT)
|The Master Genealogist (TMG)
||See note regarding TMG.
Gedcom 5.3 was never an "official" standard and caused problems. Some
changes from 4.0 to 5.3 were negated in 5.5. It should be noted that
there is no official body that certifies whether a particular program
adheres to a particular GEDCOM version.
TMG Note: TMG v3.5 has included a Genbridge
program which will do native imports of datafiles from the following
Ancestral Quest v1.0; Ancestral v1.0 Backup; Brother's Keeper v5.x;
Brother's Keeper v5.x Backup; Everyone's Family Tree; Family Origins v4,
v5, v6; Family Origins v4, v5, v6 Backup; Family Gathering; Family
Gathering Backup; Family Roots v3.x, v4.x; Family Tree Maker v3, v4;
Personal Ancestral File v2.x; Personal Ancestral File v2.x Backup; Roots
III; Roots IV; Roots IV Backup; Roots V; Roots V Backup; Ultimate
Family Tree; Ultimate Family Tree Backup; Visual Roots; Visual Roots
While TMG will not export back to those formats it does have flexible
export to v4.0 and v5.5 GEDCOM so this could still be useful when a
GEDCOM transfer is patchy.
The information on GEDCOM versions supported by various genealogy
programs will obviously change as programs are updated. Some of it comes
from the personal experience of Merv
Leeding, the newsletter editor of Victorian GUM (Genealogists Using
GEDCOM and Family Origins
28. August 1998
by Dale DePriest
Actually the questions included here are probably some that you never
knew to ask. These are questions that related to the ability of Family
Origin 6.0 and 7.0's ability to generate and read a correct GEDCOM file.
Note these questions are specific to GEDCOM 5.5 and does not reflect
earlier implementations. In fact some of the things not permitted in
GEDCOM 5.5 are in wide use in the industry and dropping them would hurt
the interchange of information.
How is a GEDCOM file organized?
The file is generally a plain ASCII file that can be read by any
editor. (Technically it can have some foreign characters in it as well
and is usually called an ANSEL character set.) It has lines that start
with a number and a keyword. The rest of the line may contain
information related to the keyword. The information is divided into
sections as defined by the initial number. The major sections all begin
with a 0. Within each major sections are other sections that expand on
the information. The first section begins as: 0 HEAD. It contains header
data about the file. The last line in the file begins as: 0 TRLR. It is
a trailer record that marks the end of the file. Between these two
major sections are other major sections defining individuals, family
groups, source data, repository data, etc.
Within the individual sections, marked with INDI, there is an
entry for each person in the database. The information about the person
is defined as level 1 data, which relates to personal information or
events in Family Origins (hereafter referred to as FO). A sample person
entry might look like:
0 @I1@ INDI
1 NAME John /Smith/
2 SURN Smith
2 GIVN John
2 DATE 2 JAN 1901
2 PLAC Anytown, USA
1 NOTE This is a general note about John.
2 CONC This is a continuation of the note about John.
Which facts generated in FO are not supported by GEDCOM?
By support I mean both syntax and grammar. Syntax is the definition
shown above for the structure of a file. FO generates correct syntax for
GEDCOM. Grammar means that a program should be able to understand the
content of the information contained in the file. For grammar there are
two facts that are not supported in GEDCOM in version 6.0:
excommunicate and Namesake are not in the list of level one events as
defined above. These might be considered to be extensions to GEDCOM, see
the next question. Don't use these unless you are sure the receiving
program can read them.
Version 7.0 has added a few more but they are clearly marked as
extensions. See the next question. Again they are not likely to be
understood by another program.
What data can FO output that is considered to be an extension to
Any data beyond the ones defined in the 5.5 specification (plus their
substructures) could be considered an extension. GEDCOM defines an
extension as starting with an _ character to indicate that this is known
not to be directly supported by GEDCOM. Examples in FO 6.0 include the
email tag used in the submittor record and the address record and the
_NAME tag used in the address record. I really like these extensions
and GEDCOM will probably adopt EMAIL as a standard in the future.
In 7.0 the TODO list is an extension as is the correspondence log.
Which facts can have sources and notes in FO but not in GEDCOM?
GEDCOM standard does not support notes or sources for AFN or REFN.
Which optional outputs are not supported in GEDCOM?
Surprisingly to me, both Address and Phone number are not supported by
GEDCOM as level one data. In my opinion they should be. According to
GEDCOM standard these should be inside a Residence tag. I prefer the
residence tag to be used for past addresses myself and like the ADDR tag
for current addresses.
Are there legal GEDCOM 5.5 constructions that are not understood
Yes, lots of them. It would be surprising to find a program that
actually understood both the syntax and grammar of all the 5.5
constructions. Some programs map data that they don't understand into a
generic note. FO discards this data and reports this in the list file.
Can the user defined facts be used to support GEDCOM defined
facts that are not currently supported in FO?
Surprising to me, No! The user defined facts all become one of type
EVEN which is the supported event tag. You cannot use this feature to
define mapping from foreign programs which I had originally hoped to do.
Foreign GEDCOM files with level 1 tags that are unknown to FO will be
ignored on input. You could edit the GEDCOM file and modify it to map
these facts to the supported general event structure but it is a lot of
What FO data is lost by outputting GEDCOM and then re-importing?
For version 7.0 there is no data lost that is related to your database.
For version 6.0 the loses include the todo list and the links to
the Multimedia images. This means that if you were to export a GEDCOM
file from 7.0 and import the data into 6.0 this data from the GEDCOM
file would be ignored.
What legal data can FO output that would be meaningless to GEDCOM?
Certainly FO outputs syntax that has meaning to GEDCOM. However, the
grammar may not be understood by other conforming GEDCOM compliant
programs. I would not recommend using some tags for this reason.
STILLBORN generates a generic event type data in GEDCOM while the
standard wants this information in an AGE construction that FO doesn't
support or understand. Similarly AKA should not be expected to be
understood by another program although the information will be preserved
for interpretation by the human reading the data. Depending on what you
meant when you used AKA it might be a nickname or an alternate name for
the same person. A nickname is defined in the GEDCOM name structure but
not supported this way by FO 6 or 7. If you meant an alternate name for
the same person such as an adopted name GEDCOM defines that the NAME
structure be repeated but I doubt that many existing programs would
properly interpret this.
What explicit data is required by GEDCOM but only implicit in FO?
All event structures as defined above will either exist or not exist
for a given individual or family. In GEDCOM 4.0 the existence of an
event name implied that the event exists for the given person or family.
In GEDCOM 5.0 and above this is not true! An event exists if there is a
Y after the event name or a date or place is given for the event. You
could have a note or source about an event without implying the event
exists according to GEDCOM 5.5. I can't defend this but that is the way
it is written. Importing BK files would break if FO enforced this rule
on input but I would like to see conformance with the rule on output.
FO currently works like BK.
What unusual thing happens if you output a shorter file over the
top of a FO generated GEDCOM file?
What I experienced here is that the old data is not zeroed out. If the
new file is shorter then old data is still stuck on the end after the 0
TRLR record. This data should be ignored by any program reading the data
but it is probably a minor bug. (I haven't checked this behaviour in 7.0
so it may be fixed.)
What happens when legal GEDCOM data that is not supported by FO
FO will generate an error in the .lst record and ignore the data. It
doesn't matter whether it is legal 5.5 data or not. It only matters if
FO can understand it. For this reason I would recommend a trial import
of any foreign data into an empty database before adding it to your live
data. This way if you need to hand edit the GEDCOM file to get the data
you can do that and re-import. You only get one shot if you are going
to your real database.
Will FO generate a GEDCOM file with syntax errors?
I have discovered that an email address generates a technically illegal
syntax for GEDCOM. Email addresses have an @ in them somewhere and
GEDCOM states that there must always be a pair of them. If you want one
then you must have daled@@cadence.com in the GEDCOM file to be legal.
You can add this manually but I wouldn't worry about it too much as I
doubt if many program would be confused by this error. I have been in
contact with the GEDCOM people and they haven't yet decided how to
Can the same event data appear multiple times in a GEDCOM file?
Yes. For the most part FO will handle this ok. For example you could
have multiple BIRTH entries in a GEDCOM file and FO will import all of
them. In some cases FO will ignore multiple entries but you should see
an entry in the list file. Many other program do not support multiple
entry of facts and will produce undefined behaviour usually keeping only
the first or last of the supplied entries and may or may not report
What Date conventions does FO and GEDCOM understand?
GEDCOM understands dates in the form they are generated by FO. It is
possible to modify dates to indicate date ranges and date uncertainty.
FO will let you add any text to a date field but will not interpret some
of it as a date and gedcom will accept but not understand some of it as
well. You can also just leave out the part of the date that is unknown
to indicate uncertainty. FO understands other abbreviations for some of
these modifiers as well as the full spelling of the word and will
translate them to the modifiers understood by GEDCOM. Some programs do
not like entries in the GEDCOM file date fields that are not actual
dates as defined in the GEDCOM standard.
||A single date that is between the dates given which are
separated with the keyword AND.
||A period that begins on the date
||A period that ends on the date. FO does not understand this
keyword except in a FRM statement.
||An estimate that is based on an algorithm (similar to ABT
but without any supporting documentation)
a GEDCOM file to an existing Family Origins datafile
13. December 1998
Primarily contributed by Dick Wells.
- NEVER import a new GEDCOM file into your live data.
- Always import a new GEDCOM file into a test or temporary
- Always check your GEDCOM Error List file. If Family Origins
encounters any problems when importing the GEDCOM file, it will create
an error list file with information about the problems. The filename
will be the same as the name of the GEDCOM file, only with a .LST
extension. - Make necessary corrections and start over until it imports
clean or until you can live without the information FO is not importing
Then, start your clean-up of the temporary database.
Standardize Surname conventions (Capitalization, Compound names, etc)
Standardize Titles (both prefix and suffix). Remove as necessary from
the name field.
Standardize Locations. Adding counties, spelling out abbreviations,
Standardize the sources used. Include a repository if necessary for
those source documents others have.
Add a source for where this GEDCOM originated.
FO7 will ask whenever a GEDCOM file is imported whether a global source
should be entered for each individual from the GEDCOM file. That may not
be enough documentation though.
If you already have some of the individuals in your database, and the
GEDCOM file adds information you previously didn't have, you may want an
indication of where the information in each event or fact came from
(unless there are already sources for this information in the GEDCOM
file). One of the GEDCOM
utilities, ADDSOUR, can help with this. In the Windows version you
can specify "source placement" under dates and places. Unfortunately,
any event without a date and place entered will not have a source
attached by ADDSOUR.
Run the Problem List Report to identify problem areas.
Correct those problems you can, and document all problems in the
Identify all people in the GEDCOM who are already in the live database.
It is recommended that you add a note as to the record number of the
individual in your live database for merging purposes.
Once you have a clean temporary database
and are ready to combine it with the live data, make backups of both
several times. Then GEDCOM export the temporary database and import it
into another test file. Make sure it is clean. Make a duplicate of your
live database and import the GEDCOM into it. Never use your live data.
Perform your merges, and test the new database. Do not make any changes
to your live database during this time. You are in the process of
building a new live database.
Once everything is the way you want it,
use the Rename function to change the database names. Create a new set
of backups again. Now you are ready to go forward with your work.
Each of the above steps is really a series of detailed steps. Make
sure you understand what you are attempting to do and how to do it. Also
make sure you know how you want the data to look when you are done. If
you do not have a set of standards for your data, develop it first.
This is especially important in the area of sources.
GEDCOM data received
28. August 1998
GEDCOM files are stored as ordinary ASCII text files. Some E-mail
programs, when sending an attached GEDCOM file, will therefore
incorporate everything in the GEDCOM file into the message body of the
E-mail. Some E-mail programs will also automatically split lines that
are longer than 76 characters. You as the receiver may need to recreate
the GEDCOM file. Some people have reported that FO is intelligent enough
to ignore everything but the real GEDCOM data. To try that approach,
just save your E-mail as a text file, but give the file the extension
If you would rather save the GEDCOM data as a "proper" GEDCOM file, do
Save the received E-mail as a text file and then open the text file in
an editor (Wordpad will do). Remove everything before the lines that
look like this (if what you have received was created in another
genealogy program definetely WILL look different):
Remove everything after:
1 SOUR FamilyOrigins
2 NAME Family Origins(R) for Windows
2 VERS 6.0
2 CORP FormalSoft, Inc.
1 DEST DISKETTE
Now save the file again, remembering to give the file the ".GED"
extension. You should now have a proper GEDCOM file. If long lines were
split by the E-mail program, you will have to put the lines back
FO to import more GEDCOM data generated by other genealogy programs
14. October 1998
This information is by no means comprehensive, but does include
information about how to get FO to accept more GEDCOM data from other
genealogy programs. The information covered here is what modifications
must manually be made to a GEDCOM file.
Family Tree Maker - FTM
Replace it with the AKA tag. Once replaced, FO accepts the information
following the ALIA tag.
_FA1 to _FA4 tags:
When exporting from FTW, follow these instructions. On the screen
labeled "Export to GEDCOM", press the Fields to Export (or Items to
Include) button. There you can change the mappings on the field. On the
Export to GEDCOM screen choose Family Tree Maker for Windows as the
destination. By going to the Fields to export you can change the
mappings. So, Fact 1 in their Family Tree Maker file can be mapped to
BAPM or CHR or any other available tags.
This is an FTW special tag that is supposed to mean "Sealing to
parents". However, the GEDCOM specifications have no such tag, replace
it with SLGC.
Here are a few other things FO7 will not import from an FTM
gedcom file and why:
(by Wayne League
1 NAME John Irvin /Porter/
This 2 SOUR line will not be recognized by FO because it is referenced
to the name above it, and in FO you cannot attach a source to the name.
If you change this 2 SOUR to 1 SOUR then FO will accept it as a general
source for this individual.
2 SOUR @S6318@
In the above structure, the last two lines will not be recognized by
FO7 because the CAUS tag is not recognized by FO. The 3 SOUR
source line goes with it and will not be picked up either.
2 DATE MAY 1945
2 PLAC MINOT, WARD COUNTY, ND.
2 SOUR @S6318@
2 CAUS HEART FAILURE
3 SOUR @S6318@
1 _MDCL Heart disease, No High blood pressure, . . .<snip>
I guess _MDCL must be FTM's idea of "medical" but FO will not recognize
it nor the 2 SOUR line with it.
2 SOUR @S6318@
0 @F003@ FAM
The last six lines above denote two events, Private-Begin [??] and
Seal, but they are referenced to the family record no. F003. FO
does not recognize family or marriage events other than those already
set up in the program. These six lines will not be recognized by
FO7. If they had been referenced to an individual record then FO7 would
have imported them.
1 HUSB @I0005@
1 WIFE @I0003@
2 TYPE Private-Begin
2 DATE Private
2 TYPE Seal
2 DATE Private
(BTW: If user created events like this are encountered in a
gedcom file, and they are correct in form, then FO will create them in
the imported database even though they were not there before the
0 @S6318@ SOUR
The above structure is a source reference from an FTM gedcom file. FO
will not recognize these lines:
1 TITL World Family Tree Vol. 6, Ed. 1
1 AUTH Broderbund Software, Inc.
1 PUBL Release date: August 22, 1996
1 NOTE @NS63181@
3 MEDI Family Archive CD
0 @NS63181@ NOTE Customer pedigree.
If the 1 NOTE @NS63181@ were referenced to an individual then FO7 would
pick it up and create a general note for that individual which would
read: "Customer pedigree." But this type of note referencing
within a source structure like this will not be recognized properly by
FO. In this instance, FO will create a comments field in the
source which will read: "@NS63181@".
3 MEDI Family Archive CD
information on web pages created by Family Origins
Affected version: 5.x and later
12 August 1997
You may have entered information about individuals that you don't want
displayed on the web pages that Family Origins can create. Family
Origins will actually give you complete control over what information is
put onto your web pages.
Choose "Edit > Fact types". You will then be presented with a list
of the facts that can be used within Family Origins. Choose one you
don't want displayed on your web pages and choose the "Edit fact type"
button. On the right of the window that pops up is a section titled "Use
this fact in:", remove the checkmark that is placed before WWW. Repeat
this procedure for any of the fact types which you don't want to appear
on your web pages.
spouses are not linked on web pages
11. October 1998
When looking at web pages created by FO, you may find that some spouses
are not linked to each other. If you look at a person who is not linked
to anyone on the web pages, you will find that there is no marriage
event in FO for that person and his/her spouse.
with upper-case/lower-case file names for web pages
Affected version: 5.x, 6.x?
11. October 1998
Some web sites are case sensitive about file names. If you upload web
pages created by FO to such a site, this is likely to be a problem. The
files created by FO start with an uppercase letter, within the web page
files, links reference other files with a lower case letter. You will
find that links can't be found.
Open a DOS prompt, go to the directory where your web page files are
currently stored and execute the following command: "RENAME D*.htm
a web site on Parsons Technology's web server
Affected versions: 5.x and later
27. October 1997
Parsons Technology provide space on their web server for pages created
by Family Origins. A program is provided for uploading the web pages to
Parsons Technology. The first time this program is used, a place is
created for your web pages. The location is stored in a configuration
file. If the web pages are updated and the web page upload program is
used again, the new pages will normally overwrite the previous pages. If
for whatever reason the configuration file from the first time no
longer exists (you have a different computer, you deleted the directory
and then re-installed etc.), a new place will be created, and you will
find that you now have two different locations with your web pages. Any
www surfers who know about the old location of your web pages will see
no indication that newer pages are available. The old pages will still
be there as will the new pages. You must speak/write to Parsons
Technology technical support to resolve this and any other problems with
web pages stored on their system.
information on the internet
1. September 1998
Many people are uncomfortable with having fairly detailed information
about living relatives available on the internet. FO7 therefore has the
option to "privatize" information about living relatives, leaving out
potentially sensitive information such as birthdates, birthplaces,
previous marriages etc. Be aware, that the option to privatize the
information on the web pages does not privatize the information in the
GEDCOM file that you can opt to put onto your web pages. To privatize a
GEDCOM, use one of the GEDCOM
What is the
GENDEX.TXT file for?
Affected version: 7.x
1. October 1998
When you create a web site with FO, the directory containing all the
files will also contain a file named "GENDEX.TXT". This is a specially
formatted text file for the Gendex website. The Gendex website contains
a searchable database of names.
You as a user can access this database, search for information and
potentially find other genealogical websites on the internet with the
names you searched for.
If you have created a website with you genealogical research, you can
tell the Gendex database about your website. It will read the GENDEX.TXT
file and add its information to the database. This will then aalow other
people on the internet to find your genealogical information.
The important points to make are:
Latest update: April 2004 the gendex website ceased to be a website about genealogy.
- The Gendex website will only index your information if you tell
it to do that.
- The Gendex website reads the GENDEX.TXT file and uses the
information it contains.
- If you don't allow the Gendex website to index your
information, there is absolutely no need for the GENDEX.TXT file and it
can then safely be deleted.
Upgrading and datafiles
28. August 1998
As Family Origins for Windows has progressed through the versions, so
the structure of the datafiles has been changing. The changes to the
datafiles make the datafiles used by a particular version of FO
incompatible with any previous version of FO. Installing a new version
of FO has always required a conversion of the datafiles used. Using the
previous version of FO to load the "new" datafiles runs the very real
danger of damaging the datafiles. If for example you keep both FO7 and
the 32-bit version of FO6 on your system, FO6 would automatically
load the last datafile that FO7 had opened. This in self would probably
not result in any damage. If however you were to make any changes to the
data the possibility of data loss would be very high.
Therefore, the only way data can be transferred to older versions of FO
is to export the datafile to GEDCOM and then import the GEDCOM file into
the older version. As new features have been added to FO, this step
would result in some data not being transferred. A few examples:
- FO 5 didn't have to-do lists. Doing a GEDCOM transfer from FO 6
to 5 would lose any to-do information.
- Any GEDCOM transfer prior to FO 7 or from FO 7 to a prior
version would lose all information about multimedia scrapbook items.
Location of data files
30. August 1998
It is often a good thing to have datafiles in another directory than
the one where the program files are stored. FO does not have a program
function to tell it where it should store datafiles. So by default it
will always suggest the FO program directory when trying to open an
existing file or creating a new one. There is a way around this.
The Windows 9x way: Create a directory where you want your datafiles
stored. Click on the "Start" button. Choose "Settings", "Taskbar and
start menu". Click on the "Start menu programs" tab and then click on
the "Advanced" button. Explorer will now start, highlighting a folder
called "start". Go into the folder where the FO icon is and right-click
on the icon. Choose "properties" on the menu that appeared. In the field
"start in" you enter the path for where you want the data files
located, the directory you created.
10. June 1998
I once discovered data corruption problems in a Family Origins database
by running the "integrity check" option of the TGC
program. After TGC pointed out the problem I discovered that there
were indeed problems even though Family Origins was quite happily using
the datafiles. I now do it every now and then and would recommend every
Family Origins user to do the same. I eventually had to use option 3 to
resolve the problem. I had backups from before the problem was
introduced, but since then I had added too much data to make it feasible
to revert to an old backup.
Here are potential methods for resolving data corruption.
As is usual when performing almost any of these actions, a backup
is a good thing, two backups is an even better thing.
- Use the "File > Pack (compress) database" menu option.
- Delete the index files and get the program to rebuild them.
This suggestion was picked up on Parson's discussion group from one of
their own technical supporters. The following files need to be deleted:
FOWIN.INI (located in the Windows directory), <your database
name>?.CDX. After deleting these files, you will be presented with
Family Origins start-up questions. Open your current database and let
Family Origins re-index the database. This will most likely not be
helpful if option 1 didn't make a difference.
- Do a GEDCOM export, create a new database, do a GEDCOM import
to the new database.
- Use a previous backup instead.
Version 4 used a proprietary backup format. Since version
5, FO has been using the ZIP compression format to backup FO datafiles.
Since the backup method supported by FO has been the same since version
5, the following comments on backup all pertain to any version 5 or
higher of FO.
- Any FO program can restore a backup made by any other FO program
- Only the FO data files are backed up, not the multimedia files.
See the section on "Where
does FO store the graphics?".
- Since the backup files are stored in ZIP format, they can be
viewed and decompressed by any program supporting the ZIP compression
format such as PKZip, WinZip, etc.
2000 and data integrity in Family Origins (Y2K problem)
16. January 1998
Family Origins does not have a year 2000 problem. The year 2000 problem
with computers stems from programmers saving harddisk and memory space
by using only two digits to designate a year. for example 011698 might
designate 16. January 1998. A genealogy program which only saved the
last two digits of a year could obviously only store dates of people
living within a 100 year range, say 1900-1999, and would therefore be
utterly useless. I very much doubt whether any genealogy programs have
problems with the year 2000 as they have always had to store the full
year of any date.
change entries in the user dictionary?
12. October 1999
The file SPL_USER.TLX (located in the FO directory) contains any
entries added by the user to the dictionary. If there is a need to
change any of the entries therein, the file can be opened in a text
editor and after any changes saved again as an ASCII text file with the
exact same name.
Bug fixes or other errors
No program is ever bug free. Updates to bugs found in FO are usually
available within the Parsons Technology Compuserve forum and on their web site.
24. August 1998
- Version 5 had a problem when generating descendancy web pages.
It also did not sort correctly if your database was very large. The
problem was corrected in version 5.0a.
- If your data has names that contain more than one character
outside the normal english alphabet (such as the Danish æ,
ø, å or other extended characters and diacritics) the web
pages that can be created are not encoded correctly. Only the first
character is encoded properly. This was fixed in version 6 of FO.
- When entering data in the address list, FO sometimes would put
previously entered data in any fields you had not filled in. So if for
example the first address you entered also had an E-mail address entered
and none of the other entries had E-mail addresses entered, they would
all have the same E-mail address. Fixed in version 6.
- Some JPEG images are not accepted by Family Origins due to a
bug in the image library. It has been found that a JPEG file that is
grey scale or black and white but saved as a JPEG colour image will
cause problems. A solution is to bring the image into a paint program
and save the images as a grey scale JPEG image.
24. August 1998
- There are no bugfixes for the 16-bit version of FO. The 32-bit
version has a problem with printing wall charts. The problem was
corrected in version 6.0a.
- Due to a bug in the image library, PCX and PNG colour images
may print with a blue tint. Version 7 uses an image library where this
has been fixed.
- If you modify and run/query a custom report several times after
each other, FO will eventually crash.
- When backing up, FO should backup a total of 35 files. Many
users have reported that only 22 files are backed up. In ordinary use
this is no problem. The missing files are index files only and can be
re-created by choosing the "Pack" option. For more information see the section on 22 vs. 35 files.
- Not really a bug, but be aware that v6 (v5 too?) will
immediately start converting a datafile created by a previous version of
FO. Version 7 has the courtesy to first ask whether you want the
1. October 1998
- Some users of FO v7 have reported an error: “Error Starting
Program. The FOWIN32.exe file is linked to missing export COMCTL32.DLL:
Init. Common Controls.exe.” when trying to start the program. The
problem can be cured by downloading COM32UPD.EXE
from Microsoft and then executing the downloaded program.
- When upgrading from version 6 to version 7, to-do lists may no
longer print correctly. This has been fixed in the 7.01 update.
- Some users have reported that FO crashes when operating a
scanner from within FO. This is a problem with the image library used by
FO. This has been fixed in the 7.01 update.
- FO now has a global search and replace option. If the fields
for the search and replace are empty when the operation is performed, FO
crashes. This has been fixed in the 7.01
1. October 1998
An update to Family Origins v7.0 has now been released. Details about
what has been fixed and the downloadable patch itself can be had at http://www.formalsoft.com/files.htm.
Download the file FOWIN701.EXE and run the program. Some users have
reported problems updating to v7.01. To ensure troublefree updating
ensure the following:
- Family Origins must be exited, otherwise you get an error
message stating that "The following file, C:\Program
Files\Parsons...\Fam...\FOWIN32.exe has been modified since this patch
- You need to know where FO is stored on your harddisk. The patch
assumes that FO is stored in "C:\Program Files\Parsons Technology\Family
Origins\". If it isn't, and you don't specify where it is, the update
will fail. If you don't know where FO is stored, try the following:
Click on the <Start> button, select "Find -> Files or
folders". Specify "FOWIN32.EXE" in the "Named:" field. Be aware that if
you still have FO v6 installed, you should find 2 instances of the file.
Backup of 22 vs. 35 files
13. December 1998
Affected versions: v6.0 and later
Some users of FO have the "problem" that choosing to backup within FO
only backs up 22 files. The backup should back up 35 files. There
is no potential loss of data even though only 22 files are backed up. A
particular FO database consists of "real" data files and index files.
The index files allows the program to quickly find for example a
particluar person, place, source etc. rather than search sequentially
through the whole data file. They do not contain any of the data entered
by the user. Those installations that only back up 22 files are not
backing up the index files. No "real" data has been lost in such a
It can however cause problems if you restore a 22-file backup.
Restoring a backup which contains only 22 files would result in FO using
the same index files that existed prior to the restore, and they might
therefore cause FO to look in the wrong place in the datafiles. This
can result in error messages, it could possibly result in dataloss.
Therefore, whenever a 22-file backup is restored, one should
immediately perform a database pack or (menu option: File > pack
(compress) database). This step will create new index files for the
current data files. If this function is always performed after a restore
from a 22-file backup, this feature should never cause any problems.
there anything I can do to make Family Origins backup all 35 files?
12. October 1999
The reason that only 22 files are backed up is that the length of the
datafile path is too long. In a default FO installation, the program
files are stored in "C:\Program Files\Parsons Technology\Family Origins"
(or something like that). If the datafiles created are stored in the
same location, the filenames are added to this, and when they add up to
more than approximately 58 characters, only 22 files are backed up. If
for example the datafiles are all stored in, say, "C:\Data\FO\" all 35
files will be backed up.
This is probably something we can partly blame DOS (the first character
based operating system thatshipped with the original IBM PC) for. DOS
always had a limit on the number of characters used in a pathname. If I
recall the limit was 68 characters. If you add the filename and the
extension to the path where FO is stored you will see that short
filenames will be alright, long ones will break the limit. In this day
and age it ought not be a problem, so there is most likely a bug in the
data compression code library (licensed from another company) that FO
What is new in Family
5. August 1998
Under NT 4.0, Family Origins v5.x may not let you create new databases
or rename existing ones. It may be required to enter the filenames in
uppercase characters to work around this.
The 32-bit version of FO 6.0 works fine under Windows NT. There is a
problem with the installation if you want the 32-bit version installed
from CD-ROM though. See the section on "forcing" a 32-bit
installation. I have not tried the 16-bit version under NT.
32-bit vs. 16-bit
Affected version: 6.x
7. August 1998
Since v6 of Family Origins, there has been both a 16-bit and a 32-bit
version. There are really only 3 differences: The font used in some of
the windows differs, the performance of some functions (such as backup,
packing the database) is faster in the 32-bit version and the allowable
filenames (16-bit version only allows 8 character filenames, 32-bit
version allows 256 character filenames).
The long file names can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage.
Multimedia files can now have long descriptive names. If you and a
family member both use FO, one the 16-bit version and the other the
32-bit version you need to stick to 8 character file names or you won't
be able to share FO datafiles.
If you bought FO on floppy disk, you will have received either the
16-bit or the 32-bit version. The Family Origins CD-ROM contains both
versions. The installation program does not recognise Windows NT 4.0 as
being a 32-bit operating system and therefore defaults to installing the
16-bit version of Family Origins, rather than the 32-bit version.
Here's how you can tell which version is being installed: During the
installation procedure, a window will appear asking you to "Select
Destination Directory". If it suggests "C:\Program Files\Parsons
Technology\Family Origins" you are installing the 32-bit version. If it
suggests "C:\FOWIN" you are installing the 16-bit version.
Here's how to tell which version you have installed: Choose the "Help
> About" option. If it says "Family Origins v6.0" you've got
the 16-bit version. If it says "Family Origins for Windows 95"
you've got the 32-bit version
The following explains how to"force"
a 32-bit installation: On the CD you will find the subdirectories
"x:\famo\16" and "x:\famo\32". In the "x:\famo\32" directory you will
find a program called "Setup32", run that to install the 32-bit version.
5. June 1998
Family Origins doesn't come with a (paper) manual. The help system
contains a reference guide which when printed out has been reported to
be about 14 pages long. A much better option is probably to buy Bruce Buzbee's
the most out of Family Origins". There are 3 editions of this book.
Edition 1 covers FO 6, edition 2 covers FO 7, edition 3 covers
Family Origins going to be discontinued by Parsons Technology?
18. June 1998
I don't recall the exact time, but about ½ a year ago, Parsons
Technology was sold by Intuit to Brøderbund. Brøderbund
sell Family Tree Maker, another genealogy program. At the time, a lot of
users were panicking as to whether Family Origins would now be
discontinued. I am in no way affiliated with Parsons, Brøderbund
or Formalsoft. The following comments are my own, but to a certain
extent based on messages from Formalsoft on the FO mailing list.
Formalsoft are the creators and owners of Family Origins. Parsons
Technology are the distributors of Family Origins, they license the
product from FormalSoft. You can pretty much tell from the "Help >
About Family Origins" menu option. Who owns the name I don't know. If
Parsons Technology (Brøderbund) did decide to discontinue Family
Origins, it would reappear through some other channel, maybe with a
different name. There is in fact a new version in the works.
is the 'Deluxe' version of Family Origins?
30. August 1998
There is no difference in the FO program itself, but the 'Deluxe'
package contains additional products, a placefinder program and a family
reunion planner as a help file.
Importing data from PAF
Affected versions: v4.x and later
9. October 1998
FO has a "PAF Import" option. It will only import PAF datafiles created
by PAF v2.0 > v2.31. If you have a later version (such as PAF v3), do
a GEDCOM export. Select the destination option of "GEDCOM for Personal
Ancestral File 3.0". This will create a GEDCOM
file conforming to the GEDCOM 5.5 specifications. You will then have to
do a GEDCOM import.
Family Origins Internet Resources
FO users E-mail list
14. December 1998
There is a Family
Origins email mailing list for users of the program. Send E-mail to "FAMILY-ORIGINS-USERS-Lfirstname.lastname@example.org"
with the with the word "subscribe" in the body of the message.
Subscribing in the above manner will result in you receiving a separate
E-mail for everyone sent to the list. It is also possible to subscribe
in "digest" form. In digest form, one large E-mail is sent by the end of
the day containing every E-mail that was sent to the E-mail list that
day. This does make it more difficult to reply to messages or toollow a
particular subject. All E-mail messages to this, and other genealogy
oriented, E-mail lists are archived and
can be searched via the internet. Accessing this link will present
you with a web page where you are asked to enter a "Name of list". You
must enter the name of the E-mail list which is: FAMILY-ORIGINS-USERS-L
12. August 1998
is the company that has created Family Origins. FormalSoft has put some web pages on
the internet that give a lot more information about the program than the
information given out by Parson's themselves. Amongst other things, a
demo version of Family Origins is available for downloading. The demo
will allow up to 50 users to be added in an empty database. What might
be of more interest though, is the fact that it will work fine with
existing databases no matter how large they are. Reports do print out
with FO Demo plastered all over them though. This could be a way to
share your genealogical research with family. Give them a copy of the
demo version of FO and your database, and they can look up data as much
as they like on their own computer.
The Genealogical Companion
12. August 1998
Genealogical Companion" (TGC), a free companion program for Family
Origins. Can create lots of different reports not (yet) available in FO.
Disclaimer: I have no connection to Parsons Technology, or any of the other suppliers of
Family Origins, or to FormalSoft, the creator of Family Origins, other
than being a user of the program. I acknowledge all trademarks of
products mentioned herein.
[Homepage of Bjorn Graabek]
Originally created: 20. July 1997, Last major modification: 10. January
2000, minor modifications (fixing dead links) 2. October 2004
© Copyright by Bjorn Graabek