Howard Metcalfe is open about why he developed Personal Ancestry Writer II: He wanted a genealogy program he could use to create books and articles based upon his extensive research into his own family. And while he felt there were already several good programs on the market, he thought they were all limited when it came to getting his information into print. Not surprisingly, from the print perspective, PAWriter II version 69 is a very capable program.
The PAWriter II database is capable of holding more than 2 billion individual entries, each of which can hold more than 2 billion characters of text (and up to 10 spouses/partners with up to 30 children each). In other words, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever push PAWriter II anywhere near its limits. While I couldn’t personally test the 2 billion record claim, I found the program capable of handling over a thousand records without a hitch.
While the interface is quite spare compared with programs such as Reunion ( ), entering data into PAWriter II is easy and intuitive. The program ships with excellent documentation, and the developer is very attentive to user e-mails and questions raised on the Web site’s user forums—this is a very well supported free application. Once you enter basic personal data such as birth and death dates, locations, marriages, and children, you can then enter much more detailed research information into a Notes field, including footnotes and incidental information. The program also allows you to link an unlimited number of photos to each entry, but it doesn’t support multimedia files such as QuickTime video or audio entries.
PAWriter II can export documents in four formats, including text, RTF, HTML, and Adobe FrameMaker’s MML format. The latter is kind of an oddity given that FrameMaker hasn’t been supported on the Mac for several years, but some publishing companies still use it for printing books, and the developer favors the program for creating book-style output. The program can also export your database in a standard GEDCOM file, a popular genealogy format readable by almost every other genealogy program on the market.
It’s important to note that PAWriter II is geared toward people who collect secular genealogies. While there is support in the program for some basic Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) ordinances—baptism, endowment, sealing to parents, and sealing of spouses—users who need to collect more-detailed religious information will likely need to look elsewhere to fill those needs.
Macworld’s buying advice
Personal Ancestry Writer II 69 may not be as snazzy as other genealogy programs, but it’s well designed, has excellent documentation and support, allows you to collect a nearly unlimited amount of information, and is capable of exporting your genealogy documents in a variety of formats. While people whose genealogical needs are more religious in nature may need to look elsewhere to find all the features they need, the everyday genealogy enthusiast will be very happy with this program.
[ Jeffery Battersby is a regular contributor to Macworld . You can read his blog at jeffbattersby.com. ]Personal Ancestry Writer’s basic interface hides a powerful database that’s capable of storing nearly any amount of information you learn about your family.