Reunion 7, by Leister Productions
Posted: 10-Mar-2002

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Leister Productions Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Jim Melton Class: UTILITY

Introduction
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 Mac: Reunion.

Installation
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 destination.

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 single window.


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:

1. 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.

Summary
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.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use, intuitive family "card" format
  • Rich reporting and charting capabilities
  • Full multi-media support
  • Output to word processors, text, and web


Cons

  • Feature-laden interface can be a bit complex
  • No zoom-in for charts

Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice