Friday, September 21, 2007

Interfacing with NFS - Part One

Last Saturday, September 15th, I attended The Northern Utah Genealogy & Family Heritage Jamboree in Ogden, Utah sponsored by My Ancestors Found. I really love the Jamborees that My Ancestors Found puts on. They never disappoint me.

A big draw for me was getting a chance to hear Gordon Clarke and Rich Running from FamilySearch speak on its latest creations and status updates. I’m going to give you a run down on both presentations in a series of articles on my blog.

I first attended Gordon Clarke’s presentation on Third-Party Products and New FamilySearch. Clarke is the FamilySearch Developer Services Manager. He is coordinating the efforts to have developers’ existing and new software products work in conjunction with New FamilySearch Application Program Interface (API) and web services.

We received official word on what genealogy software applications are working with FamilySearch in getting their products to interface with New FamilySearch. It’s been a year and ½ in the works but now we know:
…will work with NFS. Now you might of notices several things:

A. PAF is not on the list. Yes, they confirmed that PAF is a dead animal. They understand that some will still use it, so they will still support it. BUT, if you want to have you genealogy database interact and sync with NFS then you need to move over to a commercial product to do so.

Why is the church no longer developing PAF? The answer is simple - money. They are in the middle of a huge financial undertaking with NFS and all the affiliate relations and it is not cost effective for them to develop a genealogy software program when other commercial vendors are already able to do so.

If they took the development dollars away from NFS then they wouldn’t have the product for us to interface with. If they made us pay for the development cost of a PAF upgrade then it’s no longer free. Hence, it becomes a commercial product. If the commercial vendors are already doing that job, and very well they added, why invest in a PAF upgrade. I think this is very sound logic.

B. What about The Master Genealogist and Family Tree Maker are they going to interface with NFS? The answer I received is that TMG has just come on board and is starting development with NFS. The Family Tree Maker – Gordon Clarke at the time of the conference has not received word that they are coming on board.

Here is MY quick review of the commercial competition of products that will be FamilySearch Certified to interface with NFS API.
  1. Ancestral Quest – if you are used to the feel of PAF and all the add on products for it then this might be the way you want to go. AQ is the natural upgrade for PAF 5 because in 1999 they gave the LDS Church their product so they could develop the windows version of PAF 4. AQ has continued development on their product since then. It will have the closest feel to PAF.
  2. Legacy – Much more grown up than PAF. Excellent tutorials to learn the ropes. This has been the product I moved to from PAF. Very pretty program and lots of user icons. Much different feel than PAF. Major bells and whistles. Legacy 7 is coming out the end of October and it is already committed that this version will interface with NFS.
  3. RootsMagic – After looking at the competition I have determined that RM’s set-up will be the easiest for me to adjust to the look and feel of NFS. I talked to developer Bruce Buzbee and he confirmed my suspicions that the development tweaks are very simple for him work with NFS. He is not having the hair pulling issues that the other commercial vendors are in the middle of. Bruce doesn’t use all the icons like Legacy but he does love lists. His lists are going to make it easy for me to see all the event dates and name variations you have to get used to viewing in NFS. If you haven’t guessed I am jumping ship from Legacy and moving over to RootsMagic. Bruce won't commit to a date when RootsMagic 4 will be released, it is under development. Whatever the current version RootsMagic will issue a free-download to interface with NFS.
  4. The Master Genealogist – Excellent program and someday I might be courageous enough to tackle using it. It is hands down the best but not very user friendly. You do not want to bite your teeth on this product if you are already struggling on learning PAF. Since the other commercial vendors have a year and ½ jump on working on their interface with NFS this is probably going to be a late bloomer. Probably just in time for me to get the hang of RootsMagic and how it works with NFS API.
The question was asked in the meeting “Should Family History Centers still teach PAF? Clarke recommended that we not teach PAF to those new to genealogy. If they want to learn something new have them start with FamilySearch Indexing, if NFS is not yet available in their area. Patrons could also learn one of those FamilySearch Certified products that will support NFS. All of the FamilySearch certified products are available for free to Family History Centers to install on their computers.

When will New FamilySearch’s API be ready to interface with these third part products? Answer – March 12, 2008. Before BYU’s Computerized Genealogy Conference, FamilySearch will host BYU 1st Annual Developer Products at the Conference Center. This will be "THE" event to attend. We will be able to finally see how these third party products interface with NFS.

It was also mentioned that NFS will be available to the whole world and not just members of the LDS Church by the end of 2008. Things sure are scheduled to move very quickly. I will update you in my next article on more of what was discussed.

See ya tomorrow, of tomorrow is always another genealogy day!


Unknown said...

Anyone make any mention of the program called "Genbox?" It has some exceptional reviews online and appears to be comparable to the best available (although not one of the best sellers...yet). Check it out at

Our Future Rooted in Our Past said...

Renee, thank you for your posting. I have heard through the grape vine that PAF was not going to be reworked, but now I know that for sure that it is not being changed. Do you know if the TMG has nice printing options like FTM?

Renee Zamora said...

Mike: No mention of Genbox on the list at the time of the meeting.

Jennifer: TMG has excellent chart features. Not sure if exactly the same as RootsMagic, but their options are extensive.

Unknown said...

I beg you pardon, Jennifer, but PAF is not dead. It will continue to be supported, but they will not update it any longer.

What's the difference? The difference is a dead product isn't supported at all. You know, like Windoze 95.

I have it directly from a FamilySearch official who dispelled the "rumour of its demise" and said that a new personal genealogy program is "on the books" and will be released when ready.

As far as using commercial software, I can heartily recommend The Master Genealogist and RootsMagic 3. It does seem prudent to steer clear of FTM 2008, which has more bugs than a Houston kitchen.

I'm just saying...

Happy Dae.

Anonymous said...

Renee, thank you so much for the tremendous effort you put into this blog. I appreciate the frequency with which you publish, and I love that your posts are so detailed. I find your blog really useful, and I check it every day.

Bill Buchanan said...

I agree with HappyDae that PAF is alive and well and well-supported. Besides telephone and email support, the FamilySearch website has a search engine for answers on all FamilySearch products. Click the Product Support link on the home page, and there you are!

I also wonder at the context for suggesting people learn Indexing rather than PAF. This seems to be a good suggestion for people whose family is well-researched, but a bad suggestion for people wanting to learn research and whose families have not yet been researched.

I work on an almost daily basis with PAF, Indexing, and New FamilySearch. To me they are complementary in nature.

Anonymous said...

Renee quoted the speaker as saying "BUT, if you want to have you genealogy database interact and sync with NFS then you need to move over to a commercial product to do so."

You do not need to move away from PAF to sync with NFS. If you currently use PAF Insight and you are within your free update period, you can update for free to FamilyInsight when it is released (or in beta). It will sync your PAF file with NFS (in both directions).

FamilyInsight is the successor to PAF Insight and will look and feel like PAF Insight, so you won't have to learn a new program.

Bob Coret said...

Does anyone have detailed information about the New FamilySearch’s API? Where's the documentation? And is the API usage public? Who can I contact about this API?

Bob Coret

Renee Zamora said...

Bob, I only have the FamilySearch API Documentation Table of Contents. The contact is Gordon Clarke, Manager his email address is

R Allen said...

I have Legacy, Rootsmagic, and PAF with Insight. I prefer Rootsmagic so I keep my master file(s) on it.

PAF is a useful tool for the purpose for which it was invented. One does not NEED Insight in order to check the IGI just as one does not NEED to sync with NFS to continue to do temple work. These are tools but are not NECESSARY.

I don't recommend people spend $$ for a program that does for them exactly what PAF can do for free. When PAF no longer can do what it currently does, then I will recommend something else. For those who love 'bells and whistles', I recommend something other than PAF.

As a database, it could well last F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!!

R Allen said...

By the way Renee, I love your blog. It ranks right up there with my rubber ducky and my blankie.

Ethan said...

Renee: I'm sad to see that none of the companies that are on board so far offer Mac versions of their products. Heard anything from that venue?

Renee Zamora said...

Ethan so far I haven't heard. Maybe we just need to ask the developers of genealogy programs for Macs to consider it. FamilySearch is willing to work with anyone. I believe the API is Open Source.

Anonymous said...

I know of at least one Mac developer working on it, and I expect several more will come on board once the beta is available.

Renee Zamora said...

Coolness, now we need a Linux developer to cover everyone.

Family Attic said...

Say it's not're leaving Legacy? What about the source templates? Does Roots Magic have text formatting in the notes? If not, you'll have to edit all your notes fields to remove the coding. Are you really sure you want to change?

Don't I sound like a Legacy commercial :-)

I love your blog - thanks for all your work.

Anonymous said...

I am becoming a missionary that will be on the support team for NFS. I got the official word that PAF is not dead!! It will be re-evaluated and updated after NFS is up and running smoothly throughout the world. The Church has concentrated all its energy and resources on NFS for now. I support the Church programs first and use others to compliment but not as primary.

Anonymous said...

Sonora FHC,

RootsMagic has had source templates (SourceWizard) and note formatting for 5 years so Renee will be in good shape.

Linda said...

PAF lovers rejoice and peace be unto you--here is our direction to lead others;
Dear Sister Olds,

Thank you for writing to FamilySearch Support. It is an unfortunate rumor that PAF is not going to continue to be used and supported. PAF is not dead and is still being supported. PAF training should continue. When there are product changes, you will certainly learn about them through official church channels. Please do what you can to end the rumors.
Thank you.

FamilySearch Support

Renee Zamora said...

Interesting, but I never said it wasn't going to be used and supported. FamilySearch totally understands that many people are loyal and will use it to the bitter end. There are also developers out there making add-ons to allow people to interface with NFS, i.e. FamilyInsight. Just remember these add-ons are not free they are commercial products.

Anonymous said...

RM does have source templates, but once you export/share your RM file, all source fields are lost. In other words, if you use RM's source templates, and then create a GEDCOM for sharing, your sources will no longer have an author, publication info, or anything else. All source information is combined into one text string and moved to the source title field. Looks good on the outside...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the problem with RM source templates also exists in Legacy or Ancestral Quest? Thank you so much.

RootsMagic said...

*IF* you consider it a problem (which I don't). GEDCOM forces all sources to only use 3 fields; Title, Author, and Publisher. That's great if all your sources are books, but if you have gravestones, census, certificates, or any other type of source that doesn't use these 3 fields, you either pigeonhole them into title, author, and publisher fields (who is the author or publisher of a gravestone?) or you format them with templates. So the answer to your question is "any program that uses source templates and doesn't force sources into a title, author, publisher format will exhibit this same behavior". RootsMagic will put the properly formatted source into the title field of the GEDCOM file, so nothing gets lost. So a program like PAF that is limited to only title, author and publisher (regardless of the source type) will import the full formatted source into the title field.

Unknown said...

RE: Direct interface with PAF

Use Windows! Drag & Drop or Copy & Paste. Open up nFS and PAF side by side and Drag & Drop - it works both ways and for one-at-a-time jobs is faster than using gedcom.

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with what the author of RootsMagic said about "IF you consider it a problem (which I don't)." He said that all of the fields get exported into the title field. Okay. But that also includes the details, meaning, information that is uniquely different for each citation. When the user on the importing end then wants to cite one of the main sources, they should beware because it will also contain the detail information. This detail information should NOT be in the main source. The way RM exports their sources will cause big problems.

Anonymous said...

I just looked at the updated NFS list and see that the GUATEMALA TEMPLE is not listed. It will be going LIVE 11 December 2007. This information comes from both the Temple Recorder and Assistant Temple Recorder.

I am nearly finished with my senior mission here and am looking forward to switching over to Roots Magic and will be using PAF Insight and PAF PAL to clean up my databases (computer left at home while serving here).

John said...

Renee, THANK YOU FOR YOUR BLOG! I appreciate you keeping us amateurs updated on what is going on.

Any idea when you will be creating "Interfacing to NFS - Part Two"? I'm frustrated as a Legacy 6 Deluxe user that I have not heard what plans they have for Legacy? Did some searches on the web but didn't find much. By contrast I'm a member of the PAFInsight Yahoo group and Ohanna is working on the beta of their FamilyInsight product and it sounds like a very useful product. I know that these are competing businesses and they don't want to say too much so as not to give their competitor a leg up but a little information now and then (however small) would be helpful.

Having read through all of this blogs ("Interfacing to NFS - Part One") comments I'm confused at what the LDS Church's stand is on PAF. Are they going to upgrade it OR just support the current version (5.2)? Someone made it sound like after NFS was fully debugged and running fine in all Temple Districts that they would go back and upgrade PAF. Have you heard anything to clarify current (or future) policy?

Thank you,
John Blackham, N7TEK