Anyone with more than a passing interest in tracking your ancestral roots or recording
a family history will need some software to make the process manageable. For the
Macintosh, there are a few choices. There is only one that is written only for the
The installation is straightforward, although a bit too streamlined for my taste.
The installer allows you to choose which disk to install, but does not allow you
to specify a folder within that disk. Of course, there is no problem moving the folder
to another location afterwards. As part of the installation, several data-related
folders are created (one for saved grapical charts, one for reports, and one for
multi-media items). I prefer to save my data separately from my applications (actually,
on a separate drive). Having complained about this, I should note that the core family
file can, in fact, be stored anywhere you wish, and each report prompts for the output
Using the Software
If you have an existing genealogical project, Reunion imports the ubiquitous GEDCOM
format. Otherwise, Reunion will create a blank project for you if you are starting
from scratch. In addition, you can import into an existing project. My father-in-law
has been researching his history for many years. I was able to merge his file into
my family tree fairly effortlessly. In fact, the merging capabilities of Reunion
are outstanding. It makes a reasonable guess if two people are the same and allows
you to explicitly state that two people are the same person.
Sample of Reunion 7 Family Card
Data is displayed
in a very intuitive "family card" format [see above]. A person is displayed
next to their spouse and each spouse's parents are displayed above them. The children
of the marriage are displayed beneath the couple. Clicking on any field brings up
a data entry form for the selected fact. Note that every data entry value can be
annotated with a source reference (very important for serious researchers; the typical
hobbyiest tends to omit this important step). Clicking on any other person navigates
to that person's family card. An amazing amount of information is maintained in this
Sample Pedigree Chart
Once you've entered
your family history, you will want to create some output of your work. Reunion has
a number of charting options, including ancestor (traditional "family tree"
view) and descendant charts. My favorite feature is the timeline chart, showing the
overlap of each person's life with other relatives. Using this feature I was able
to accomplish a pet project: creating a timeline of the Biblical descendants of Adam
(see below). The charting tool provides limited capabilities, including zoom out,
to give perspective on large trees. Unfortunately, it does not have a zoom in feature.
Some charts are too complex to be comprehended at full scale.
Timeline of the Descendants of Adam
The real power of
the program, though, is in the report generation capabilities. The types of reports
created are too numerous to describe in detail. My favorites are the Family History
Report and the Register Report. The Family History Report creates a bullet-list of
the vital information facts for each person and adds whatever you've entered into
the Notes field for each person. The Notes field includes full text formatting capabilities,
so this feature allows you to capture the richness of the tapestry of your family
history. This is the reason I became interested in my family's past. I wanted to
know who my relatives were as people.
The Register Report enables you to turn a bunch of cold facts into simple narrative.
For example, here is a snippet from one report:
William Walter Melton. Born on 19 Jan 1879 in Dresden, Navarro
Co., TX. William Walter died in Waco, TX on 6 Oct 1967; he was 88.
Occupation: Preacher. Education: D.Min. Religion: Southern Baptist.
On 14 Sep 1905 when William Walter was 26, he married Orah Nebraska
Shipp, daughter of John George Shipp & Margaret J. Fresh, in Newport,
TX. Born on 15 Jan 1880 in Newport, TX. Orah Nebraska died in Waco,McClennan
Co., TX on 17 Feb 1970; she was 90.
They had the following children:
2 i. John Wade (1906-1999)
3 ii. Margaret Launa (1908-1982)
4 iii. Walter Truett (1910-1983)
5 iv. Robert Harold (1912-1988)
6 v. Gladys Orah (1917-2001)
7 vi. Joe Allen (1919-1996)
In addition to the variety of report formats, a variety of report media are supported.
Reports can be output to your word processor, Rich Text Format (RTF), plain text,
or HTML. Reunion supports popular word processors, such as MS Word, ClarisWorks,
Word Perfect, and even my venerable MacWrite Pro. Unfortunately, output to MacWrite
Pro did not work for me (but the last released version was 1.5 and I'm at 1.0). Output
to MS Word worked flawlessly.
The best way to share your research, though, is through web pages. Reunion 7 creates
a complete web site, with indices and multi-media pages. A major concern today about
publishing personal information on the web due to identity theft. Reunion includes
privacy filtering to limit the personal information for living people (or anyone
you select). This is a key feature for web-based publishing.
There is a substantial on-line help, including a step-by-step tutorial. However,
as with any well-written Macintosh program, consulting the help is rarely necessary.
Most of the
companies that used to pretend to have Mac support have frozen the versions of their
Mac offerings many revisions prior to their current product. Reunion is the only
full-featured Mac genealogy software of which I am aware. Perhaps the reason it has
no competition is that it needs none. It does everything that I can think of wanting
genealogy software to do.
There are a few quirks in the user interface that can be annoying, but these are
at the fringes of the features that I use on a daily basis. There is no "Preferences"
menu option under the Edit menu; instead there is an Options menu with a number of
items that control various features such as default word processor and web browser.
Using this program is like peeling back the layers of an onion. For the casual family
historian, you will be immediately productive capturing the details (and all the
nuts) of your family tree. For those with the courage to explore, or those with more
demanding needs, more sophisticated features are available to increase the depth.
- Easy-to-use, intuitive
family "card" format
- Rich reporting and
- Full multi-media
- Output to word processors,
text, and web
- Feature-laden interface
can be a bit complex
- No zoom-in for charts
4 1/2 out of 5 Mice