I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight, maybe younger, the first time I got to hold those precious pieces of paper that my great aunt sent my dad, the ones with information about our family. I remember hours spent reading those pages to Dad so that he could record them in the family tree software he had at the time.
It felt like the biggest most important responsibility in the world at the time. Every person on those pages was family and they had a story. I didn’t know much about their stories, usually not much more than the most basic of facts, but I was pulled into their worlds if only for a few minutes.
Decades later, my great aunts who sent the information are dead and so is my dad. I am the story keeper and the fascination hasn’t ended. No longer just reading off the research of others, I am the one who has hunted in down and found it. Most recently, I got the chance to visit the graves of some of my great-great-great-grandparents. I don’t know how long it had been since someone had visited their graves, but they were completely covered in thick ivy. It was so bad that I looked at the area where they were supposed to be and saw nothing by ivy leaves and ivy vines and no evidence that anything was there. Thankfully my mom managed to locate them and together we managed to pull the ivy off the gravestones. It was amazing to be able to see them. Until then, they had only been names on a page, names I had followed through three states and several censuses, but there they were. Or at least there they had been buried ninety or so years prior. I’ve never met them, neither had my mom, but they are part of who we are. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.
I love my family tree. I love knowing where I came from and who I came from. I love the feeling of finally figuring out what that next connection is after I have been beating my head against a brick wall for months, sometimes years.
So what does this have to do with the title of this post?
It’s simple. I bring that love of genealogy to my writing. For some people it’s enough to know their character’s name and that’s okay. For others they only need to know what family is relevant to the story and that is perfectly fine, too. If that’s you, I’m not trying to say anything is wrong with that. It’s just not how my mind works. I want to know more about my characters.
Parents have parents. So do grandparents. There is a board learning against my wall in my room which has the carefully diagrammed descendant tree of one of my characters, Catalina de la Reina Lopes Diaz Burks Snyder, generally referred to as either Catalina de la Reina or Catalina Snyder. She was born in the fifteen century and she had been married four times. She’s still alive, but the same can’t be said for any of her husbands or most of her children and at least half of her grandkids. Keeping track of it all can be pretty confusing at times and Catalina isn’t the only character who I keep track of. There are thousands of them.
To help me keep track of it all, I started using the same family tree software that I used for my own family tree. It worked wonderfully and I loved it. At least I did until my hard drive crashed and I couldn’t find the disk to reinstall it on my computer. My dad was the last one to have it and I have no idea what happened to it.
Since that happened, I have been looking at other family tree software programs for keeping track of my fictional family trees and I thought I would share my finding for anyone wanting to use them in this way. When people look at them for use in their own genealogy, the features they look for aren’t necessarily the same as the ones I look for when researching the software Programs for use with fictional families. The ability to upload your family tree might be useful if you are sharing it with relatives and other people researching them. It becomes less useful when you know that every person on there is fictional and you don’t want to have someone accidentally think they were real. Uploading them becomes a bad idea, at least uploading them to genealogy sites.
Genealogy Software Programs:
- Ancestral Quest 14
- Brother’s Keeper
- Family Tree Maker
- MyHeritage Family Tree Builder
- Simple Family Tree
Do you have any software programs I should check out and add to this list?