30 November 2008

Reunion With Reunion

When I came back to NYC from my recent trip to Toronto to attend an uncle's funeral, one of the first thing I did was to re-visit Reunion, the Mac genealogy software. During the trip I spent some time with relatives who I didn't keep in touch regularly and learned all about the different names and relationship then wanted to have a way to track them

I used MacFamilyTree (MFT) to maintain an extensive family tree but got sidetracked and haven't updated the tree in a while. Since then Reunion came out with a new version, #9, while MacFamilyTree evolved into #5 under a new company. MacFamilyTree 5's new interface is just too different for my taste. Before I went the MFT way, I did use Reunion and was totally frustrated by its lack of support for Unicode. Being ethnic Chinese from Vietnam, many of my relatives, alive and dead, have either a Vietnamese name, a Chinese name, or both. Equally ridiculous was the fact that Reunion 8 couldn't sort siblings by their year of birth, but instead sort by some internal ID assigned by the program as people are added. Genealogy work is intensive and one does not always have all the info. Once in a blue moon you would have all the names of all the people in a family and their birth order in the family. If I at least know that someone has a sibling then I would create the sibling with some placeholder year of birth. Most of the time the siblings are entered in random order, so using the internal ID to sort the siblings rarely works. MFT was smart enough to use the birth date to sort siblings and also supports Unicode so I went with it. One thorny issue with both MFT and Reunion was printing. Neither was able to properly handle page breaks and people's faces would often than not be split on two pages. As I used MFT more often, I was also annoyed by its printing of people's names on their faces in a certain tree view. Weird how these things not excluded in the final product. So I was OK with MFT but I always wished there would be something else.

When Reunion 9 first came out, I downloaded the demo but never gave it try. Recently, I put it through its pace and really liked it. Unicode is now included so all the Chinese and Vietnamese names can be entered as aliases. Both MFT and Reunion support aliases, but only with Reunion can I customize a tree view to show the aliases. With MFT, I had to include the aliases as part of the last names for them to be included in the tree view, quite a contrite workaround. Sibling sorting in Reunion 9 is now possible, although it's a manual process - not a show-breaker. The nicest thing with Reunion 9 is the Move Boxes Off Page Break option. What intelligence! I have it on by default and no boxes would ever be split across pages. While my printed trees are not on one sheet of plotter paper but instead spread across multiple 8.5" x 11" pages, it is easy to tape them together and nobody's face is ever cut in half. Within a day of testing, I upgraded my Reunion 8 to version 9. I was worried that I didn't have the serial number for Reunion 8 but it turned out it was not needed. The upgrade version simply looked for the installed app for 8 or the original CD, which I had.

Because of privacy issue, I cannot post the real tree here but perhaps I'll make one for the Solo and Skywalker families. Time to make good use of the Star Wars The New Essential Guide To Characters, I suppose.


  1. Being that I am "part of the tree", when may I expect to see the tree? Thanks for your efforts. I appreciate all the work you have been putting into this project. It is great for future generations to know where they came from, otherwise, they would not know where they are going. (haa haa)
    A chubby tree log in St. Louis

  2. Sis, It'll take a while, given the 10 brothers and sisters on our father's side and those uncles on mother's side with 10+ kids!

  3. Anonymous6:38 PM

    This is great guys! I have been tracing my family tree for many years, finally taking a DNA test to get new connections. Most people don't start tracing their family till they get real old, so we are an exception to the rule. Keep up the work, someone in your future will appreciate this. I have a descendant, a great aunt, that did most of the work for me, her name was Ruby. I wish I could tell her how thankful I am for all of her time, and that I have taken up the torch!

    Take care- Lone Gunman