Posted by: Christine | July 15, 2013

Farewell PAF

After today PAF (Personal Ancestral File) ceases to exist. Well I expect there will still be copies of the program, working faithfully on computers all around the world, for some time to come. However from today it will not be available to download from . It has not been supported for some time and now the plug has been pulled.

PAF must have been one of the first Family History programs and the first version was released back in 1984. I encountered it in 1996 when I joined the Rugby Family History Group. Our then Chairman, Harry Batchelor, was very progressive and fought to drag his family historians in to the computer age. (He was the person who decided the group needed a website and leaned how to do it with a book called, I think,  “Teach yourself  HTML in a weekend”. He inspired me and I am now webmaster of that website.)

Imagine the leap in progress at that time. Before PAF, family history was recorded on pieces of paper, special sheets for recording families and printed charts to fill in with names. I understand some people still do it that way! Now you could just enter your names, add parents and children and it would all be saved on your computer, ready to be added to, or reports printed out. Other programs came along, usually at great expense, with extra “bells and whistles” but PAF continued, updated occasionally, but it did the job. I think it did originally cost a small amount, but recently it has been free to download. It was ideal for beginners and we recommended it on all our courses.

Now time has moved on, to the next big jump, into “The Cloud”. Publicity from TV programs, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” brought new people to genealogy and companies realised they could make money from our hobby. So they bought up programs and linked them up with their websites, A lot of people don’t use a program at all. They are trapped for life, paying out their annual subscriptions, because if they left they would lose control of their online tree, “shaky leaves” and all.

This is the future and that is why the LDS have killed off PAF. It doesn’t connect directly with their FamilySearch Family Tree – although, so far, most things on FamilySearch are free.

FamilySearch recommend three “family history record managers from our FamilySearch partners”. These are Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and RootsMagic. I have downloaded the free versions of all these programs. So far I have discovered that none of them really works properly unless you download the full ie paid version. There is a limited special price for PAF users, but for how long?

Last year I bought a copy of Family Tree Maker. It was on special offer, and cheaper than the six months Ancestry subscription it came with. I transferred part of my tree to it and now it synchronizes the tree on my computer with one online (I can look at it on my phone as well!). Unfortunately I find it very complicated to use – I managed to get a husband married to the wrong wife and cannot manage to get them apart. How could I recommend that program to anyone?

There are other programs around, I know. But I don’t know of anything as cheap and as simple to use as PAF. So why get rid of it? And what do I recommend instead? (Although I am told that PAF 5.2 is available on shareware sites.)

Or perhaps we should all march forward, into the future. I wouldn’t like to be lumped together with those family historians, still using paper and pencil, I was so rude about earlier.


  1. PAF was the first genealogy software I used and it served me well for a number of years. More recently I have tried the Master Genealogist (a steep learning curve and I’m not sure it’s worth it). Currently I am trying out Roots Magic 6 and I am pleased with it, I may stick with this one!

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