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Genelines 2.0 Universal Edition Review

By Dick Eastman
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, Vol. 7 No. 35 - September 2, 2002


Dick Eastman
All in all, Genelines is a great program for showing timelines, fan charts, lineage charts, and more. Very few genealogy programs display timelines, and none that I know of create timelines with all the various options of Genelines. In addition, the combined "fan chart with timelines" is unique, to my knowledge. Best of all, these charts are visually attractive. You will be proud to take these charts to a family reunion, as I did. Progeny Software has a winner with this program!

Genelines™ for Windows® is a great timeline charting companion for use with almost any genealogy program. In a nutshell, Genelines lets you place the names and lives of your family's past into historical context by creating interesting charts that you can both view on-screen and print. Progeny Software has just released version 2.0, which adds a lot of new functionality. A "Universal Edition" reads information directly from Family Tree Maker®, Personal Ancestral File™, Legacy Family Tree™, Ancestry Family Tree™ and Ancestral Quest™. It will also read information from a GEDCOM file created by any modern genealogy program so that you can use Genelines even if your regular genealogy program is not on the list of supported programs. Descriptions of the other editions of Genelines 2.0 appear at the end of this article.

This week I had a chance to use Genelines 2.0 Universal Edition. Installation of Genelines 2.0 was simple, about the same as any other Windows program. Once installed, I clicked on the new icon, entered my name and a registration code, and then was shown a "What's New" page. I clicked past that and was soon looking at the program's main page.

Genelines 2.0 has a unique feature called "Scan For Files." The program searched my hard drive, looking for GEDCOM files as well as data files from Family Tree Maker, Personal Ancestral File, Legacy Family Tree, Ancestry Family Tree, Ancestral Quest, and any files created by earlier versions of Genelines. Since I have used several of these programs in the past, Genelines found several databases on my hard drive. It also found a number of GEDCOM files that I have received from other people. I clicked on one of the listed files, and a few seconds later I was looking at my data inside of Genelines 2.0.

The program first shows a list of names in alphabetical order. It is possible to scroll up and down the list although that becomes unwieldy on larger databases. Instead, I started typing a name of interest. As I typed, Genelines instantly jumped to the first name that matched. I clicked on the desired name, and then a display appeared showing the details of that record, along with several icons for tasks that could be accomplished.

I started with my own name and then selected the Individual Biographical Report. I selected a few options, which produced a timeline of my own life. This timeline started at birth and displayed my age across the bottom of the screen and the years across the top. In between there were color bars for Health, History, Occupation, Relationship and Residence. Each fact contained in the database was displayed in the appropriate horizontal bar. The Relationship bar contained entries for marriage, birth of children, and even divorce. I could have added my own historical events, such as the dates of wars, who was President at the time, or the various economic recessions. (I seem to have an occupation change during each recession.)

Visualizing charts from a textual newsletter is a challenge. Instead, I can refer you to Progeny Software's Web site, which shows numerous examples of the screens and printed reports available. You can see an example of an Individual Biographical Report, similar to what I just described, here. The main screen for all the charts is here.

Genelines gives you an almost infinite number of timeline reports. You can use the history files that come with the program and can also create your own historical events as you wish. You can even create your own history files and save them later for use with other Genelines charts. You can display your ancestor's life alongside the events that shaped his or her life, or you can compare the lives of several ancestors or other relatives together on one sheet.

Not only can you show the wars, heads of state, or other national data, but you can also display data on a local scale. For instance, one thing that I find interesting for my farmer ancestors is to show the dates that railroads first came to their towns. With new markets for their goods, many of these farmers increased their personal worth within a few years and started buying more land for themselves or their children. This is just one way that Genelines lets you see your ancestors' lives in time.

I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with all the charts available in Genelines 2.0. I won't describe each in detail as you can see them on the Web site. However, I have to tell you about the Fan Charts. I have seen fan charts before, produced by other programs. However, Genelines 2.0 produces a fan chart that is also a timeline. When you first look at the fan chart, you think the lines drawn between individuals are "jagged" or rough looking. However, a closer examination shows that these lines are drawn in accordance with birth years and death dates. The result is a chart that is much more meaningful than a standard fan chart. To see what I mean, look closely at the example here.

I wrote most of this article on the day before the annual family reunion of my mother's family. I printed out a six-generation fan chart of my grandfather's ancestry and another of my grandmother's ancestry. I printed the charts in color on an inkjet printer; each one required six sheets of standard printer paper, which I taped together. I could have printed to a file on a floppy diskette and then taken that file to Kinko's or some other print service. These services will print the files on wide plotters or large-format printers for a fee.

I also printed a Direct Line report, showing my grandfather's male ancestry back to the original French immigrant to Canada. This chart also displays the multiple spelling changes of the family name.

I took these charts to the family reunion, where they were quite a hit. I taped the charts to the wall and almost everyone stopped by to look at them for a while. These full-color charts created a lot of conversation all day long. We hold a mini-auction every year; family members bring craft items, gift items, children's toys and other items which we then auction off. All money received goes to fund the next year's reunion. I am one of the auctioneers and this year I auctioned off the Genelines 2.0 fan charts of our ancestry. Those charts produced the highest bids of the auction!

Here are the Key Features of Genelines 2.0, as listed on the company's Web site:

  • Seven full-color, completely customizable charts, including the unique and compelling Biographical chart – a timeline chart that tells the complete story for just one individual.
  • A new text report that lists, in chronological order, all the events, dates, and places for the people in any chart, along with applicable notes and sources.
  • Flexible options for choosing the individuals to show on a chart, including family groups, ancestors, descendants, and even unrelated individuals.
  • Allows on-screen manipulation of the timeline, colors, fonts, borders, box positioning, and much more.
  • Estimates and visually points out unknown dates, making it easy to see where more research is needed, as well as illogical or contradictory data.
  • Ability to save any chart for reuse at a later time.
  • Publishes charts in PDF format.
  • Prints charts in a full range of sizes - from a standard size paper to large wall charts.
  • Provides the ability to merge two or more charts together.
  • Supports BC dates and metric units of measure.
  • Comes with ready to use timeline (historical event) files, plus more available as free downloads from the Timeline Exchange. You can also create and modify your own historical events within Genelines.

If you are already familiar with an earlier version of Genelines, you will be especially interested in this list of additions and changes found in version 2.0:

New Charts

  • Full Descendant Chart – Displays all descendants of a chosen subject, for as many generations as selected and available in your data file, with the ability to create charts up to 25 feet long! A spectacular Color by Child Line option is available for this chart, making it easy for you to color code descendants according to family line.
  • Fan Chart – Portrays a subject's pedigree in the form of an open fan. Using curved boxes linked by generation, the ancestors' year of birth is printed across a year-based timeline.

Other New Features

  • Text View will display all the information included on any Chart, Historical Event screen, or Event Categories screen in text format. If the information is present in the database, Text View will show places, dates, applicable notes, and sources. The Text View can even be printed or published to HTML.
  • Publish to PDF – Publishing charts to PDF format makes it easy for you to share your documents with others electronically. Simply create your chart, publish to PDF, and send as an email attachment!
  • Merge Charts – Create a unique, individualized chart by combining different Relationship charts into one.
  • Historical Events in Biographical Charts – Displayed as a new Event Category bar, historical events can be added in Biographical Charts to include the important local, national or world events that occurred in your subject's life.
  • Convenient Zoom Toolbar buttons let you quickly adjust chart viewing scale.
  • Author – Genelines now reads your author information directly from your genealogy database and can include the information in the chart footer.
  • Label to Display in Biographical Charts – Now you can choose the label to display for the events on your Individual and Comparative charts.
  • Split Screen – The new Split Screen option makes it easy to view large charts by allowing you to leave one part of the chart static while, at the same time, scrolling through the chart in another section of the screen.

New Customization Capabilities

  • Biographical Charts – Individual and Comparative charts are now fully customizable, including options to add Event Category Bars and Life Bars, remove events, and much more, all after chart creation!
  • Symbol Eraser – Remove unwanted marriage and child symbols with this handy symbol erasing tool.
  • Color – Change the outline, fill, and text color for any chart component, including life bars, events, categories, and links.
  • Font – Choose your own default font for charts, or change the font for individual pieces of your chart after creation.
  • Footer – Include a chart title, author information, or any other interesting facts at the bottom of your chart.
  • Symbols – You can customize the symbol shape for marriage & child symbols on your chart.
  • Borders – Choose any of 15 border options for your chart.Genelines 2.0 requires Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP; a Pentium processor or equivalent; at least 32 megabytes of RAM memory; at least 10 megabytes of free disk space, and a Windows- compatible printer. Adobe(r) Acrobat(r) Reader(r) (a free program) is also required in order to preview and publish to PDF files.

All in all, Genelines is a great program for showing timelines, fan charts, lineage charts, and more. Very few genealogy programs display timelines, and none that I know of create timelines with all the various options of Genelines. In addition, the combined "fan chart with timelines" is unique, to my knowledge. Best of all, these charts are visually attractive. You will be proud to take these charts to a family reunion, as I did. Progeny Software has a winner with this program!

Genelines 2.0 Universal Edition will read information directly from Family Tree Maker®, Personal Ancestral File™, Legacy Family Tree™, Ancestry Family Tree® and Ancestral Quest™. It sells for $29.95 (U.S. funds) if you download it directly online. If you want a CD-ROM containing the same software, the price is $34.95.

In addition to the "Universal Edition" that I have been describing, Genelines 2.0 is also available in three program – specific versions. The three lower-priced versions are Genelines 2.0 for Ancestral Quest, Genelines 2.0 for Ancestry Family Tree, and Genelines 2.0 for Legacy. Each of these programs will read data only from the one program mentioned. All other functions, including all the reports, are the same in the program-specific versions as in the Universal Edition. Each of the three program- specific versions of Genelines 2.0 sells for $19.95 (U.S. funds) as a download or $24.95 on CD-ROM disk.

For more information about Genelines 2.0 or to safely order the program via a secure Web shopping cart, click here.