For those who use a computer database, there's no need to re-type all your data when changing to another software program. Following are step-by-step instructions on exporting all those records that you have stored (printed with permission from "Ask the Expert" on Genealogy.com).
QUESTION: Some years ago, I entered all my data into Personal Ancestral File. I don't really want to enter all of my information again, but I am interested in using Family Tree Maker. Is it possible to export my data from PAF into Family Tree Maker?
ANSWER: Let me tell you that you are not the first person to be concerned about making such a change. You shouldn't have to re-enter anything, though it is a good idea to have a backup file just in case something goes wrong. Computers are notorious for lulling us into a false sense of security and then reminding us they are in control.
In PAF, do two things. First save your database as a GEDCOM file. If it asks you which version of PAF or GEDCOM to save it as, you can save it as the highest version number it offers. This will be your backup in case the import described below doesn't import everything cleanly, though it should. You will also want to make a true backup of your PAF files. The backup option in PAF will save a duplicate file so that if something goes wrong you have all the information in an untouched file.
The next steps are done in Family Tree Maker. Most genealogy programs, including Family Tree Maker, can take the GEDCOM file you created and import the information this way. However, Family Tree Maker recognizes certain other versions of PAF files, specifically the 2.x and 3.0 versions. If your files are in either of these versions, then you can import the file directly into Family Tree Maker. This is done easily by creating a new Family File through the File menu and the Open Family File submenu.
Once you have selected the Open Family File menu option, an Open Family File window will appear. The most important field for you in here is the Files of type pull down menu which allows you to select the type of file you wish to open. As you click on the down arrow with your left mouse you will notice a number of choices, including GEDCOM, and the two PAF file options I mentioned above. If you are using a later version of PAF, you will want to select the GEDCOM file type. If you are using one of the recognized PAF file types, then select the appropriate one of those.
The next step is to tell Family Tree Maker where to find the file. This is done using the Look in field at the top of the window. Most likely you are heading for a PAF folder on your C drive. By having the file format already set, Family Tree Maker should show only those files that have the wanted file type. Simply select the file in question and click the Open button. You may find you have some additional choices at this point to help Family Tree Maker bring in the information as cleanly as possible.
Answer any questions the program asks, and eventually you will be prompted to save the new file. This should then create the new Family File and bring in the data from PAF to Family Tree Maker, keeping most, if not all, of it intact.
Last updated: December 6, 2003