By: John Kiener, General Sessions Judge

A computer will not operate without a “program.” Computer programs are known as “software” and can be purchased in the same stores in which computer hardware is sold. In addition, there are companies who sell “software” by mail – some of this material being designed specifically for the family historian.

There is one “software” program that everyone who has a computer should purchase. This program is not sold by a profit-making corporation but by a religious organization that is dedicated to the collection and storage of genealogical information throughout the world. The program I am referred to is the Personal Ancestry File (PAF) marketed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This religious organization, also known as the Mormons, had collected an extensive library of family history. The Mormons great collection of family history materials is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. You need not travel to Utah to obtain access to the genealogical collection of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, information on the Mormon collection can be obtained from the Genealogical Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 100 Canongate Road, Kingsport, Tennessee 37664.

For information on purchasing the PAF file, write to: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family History Department, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150. Cost of the PAF materials is less than $100.

Let me give you just one example of how helpful the Mormons are in genealogical research. My ancestors immigrated to Texas from Alsace, France in the 1840s. A cousin, employed by the United States Patent office in Washington, D.C., contacted the Kiener family in France after World War II and maintained correspondence with our French “cousins” until shortly before her death. Therefore, when I began doing family research, I had names and addresses to write to in order to obtain family information in Europe.

One of the French family had compiled family history information on an IBM computer with the program written in French. Using the Mormon PAF file, I have the United States Kiener family information on the hard disk of my computer using an Apple program.

Therefore, I was confronted with two problems: (1) putting the IBM information in an Apple computer format; and (2) translating a French genealogical program into English. The local computer club, of which I am a member, helped with the IBM/Apple conversion using what is referred to as an “exchange” program. The French was more difficult, so I mailed the disk containing that information to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. To my amazement, in several weeks they returned the French program to me – with all the information on the disk translated into English.

The computer, with the correct software, has the capacity to convert one language to another without requiring individual translation of each bit of information in a program by a human translator.

<strong>Certainly, the amount of software on the market today to help in genealogical research is almost limitless. Therefore, I suggest you purchase the PAF file first, and then decide what additional software you should purchase in the future.

There are books written on computer genealogy. One such publication can be purchased from “Ancestry,” P.O. Box 476, Salt Lake City, Utah. I also suggest you look on the shelves of the local bookstores for computer books that will assist in your decision concerning whether or not to purchase a personal computer and software for genealogical research.

One advantage of computer genealogy is that the Mormons store this information in their vast filing system and make the information available to family history researchers. This “service” protects your family history from being lost. I have heard more than one sad story of a family Bible being lost or damaged so that the genealogical information contained in the document was lost. Most archivists will explain that despite their efforts, most paper documents in existence today will decay and the information will be lost unless the material contained therein is transferred to another medium of storage. The “electronic” data storage disks in computers may prove to be the answer to our need for permanent storage of family history materials. With that in mind, I think you will eventually decide that a personal computer is needed for extensive genealogical research and information publication.

If you have any questions concerning the information in this article, please write and include a self-addressed envelope, to: John Kiener, 2403 Camelot Circle, Johnson City, TN 37604. I hope you will join the thousands of fellow genealogical researchers who use the computer in storing family history materials.