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Family Insight

Article Date: 
13 August, 2010 - 06:00

   If you are a long time PAF user (Personal Ancestral File, the free record manager available from FamilySearch) and want to continue using PAF, but also take advantage of the features of new FamilySearch, consider FamilyInsight.
FamilyInsight is written by Ohana Software.  Ohana has been around for a number of years.  PAF Insight was a widely used product that would search the IGI (International Genealogical Index) on FamilySearch.org.  It would mine the IGI for information to add to a genealogical file, and would help members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints search to determine whether ordinances had been completed.  PAF Insight had very thorough searching and was probably the most effective program at finding matches in the IGI.  The users of PAF Insight almost surely submitted less duplicate ordinances than those who only relied upon manual searches of the IGI.
When new FamilySearch was released Ohana was one of the first companies to connect with it.  They adapted and expanded the features of PAF insight into FamilyInsight.  
FamilyInsight works hand in glove with PAF.  It installs a button on the PAF toolbar that can be used to launch FamilyInsight.  It will load the data from PAF, or from any software product that can export a GedCom and will synchronize the information with new FamilySearch.  If FamilyInsight is opened from PAF, or if a PAF file is opened by FamilyInsight, then the changes made to the file while in FamilyInsight will be saved and can be viewed and editing the next time PAF is opened.
FamilyInsight continues to have thorough searching of new FamilySearch, and continues to be able to search the IGI (all information from the IGI should be in new FamilySearch).  It has a good ability to match duplicated and ensure that duplicate ordinances are not submitted.  There has not been extensive testing to see whether Ohana’s search will find more duplicate entries that new FamilySearch.
FamilyInsight also has some excellent features for merging two files together and eliminating duplicates.  This has always been strength of Ohana’s products and continues to be so.
FamilyInsight, for users who are LDS, also allows names to be reserved for ordinances, and can produce an FOR directly from the software without the need for the user to visit new FamilySearch.  The FOR can then be taken to the temple for cards to be printed.
For all of its strengths, I find FamilyInsight difficult to use.  The search and match screens are not intuitive and synchronization is difficult to learn.  If enough time is invested, once learned the software has great features, but in my experience it is neither intuitive, nor easy to use.
FamilyInsight can be run stand alone, but without PAF, or another record manager its features are slim.  There is no significant reporting, and the pedigree navigation is, in my view, clunky.  
Ohana has a Mac version as well, which I have found even more difficult to use.  I am no technical slouch, but I could not easily use the Mac version of the program to search, or synchronize to new FamilySearch, and without PAF (which cannot be run on a Mac), there is no good way to interact with and manage data, nor is there good reporting.
The customer service and technical support from Ohana are excellent.  They will help you with virtually any problem.  They are friendly and helpful.  There is also a Guide Me feature and online training videos.  
If you are a PAF user and want to continue, FamilyInsight provides a way to extend the life of a product that will have no new releases.  It will help to manage the PAF file, and interact with FamilySearch products to keep information in sync.
As a stand-alone product, however, FamilyInsight has a long way to go to be a good record manager that is easy to use and has a strong feature set.  Ohana has been a strong player in the market for many years and hopefully in future releases the product will become better stand-alone solution.  For now, however, my view is that unless you are a PAF who doesn’t want to change, there are better products than FamilyInsight.