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Upgrading from Reunion 4

by Jan McClintock

Updated 2/10/2000 by Leister Productions.

What is the first thing you probably want to do when you begin using a new version of a software package? Customize it to meet your needs and wants. Here I'll discuss a few ways to make Reunion work for you.

Get Started

Upgrading your Reunion 4 family files to the new version couldn't be much easier. After double-clicking the Reunion application, an open file ("which file would you like to open?") window will appear. You do not have to choose a file here -- simply click the Upgrade button instead. The resulting open file window is where you must select the version 4 family file to be upgraded.

The conversion takes a very short time. My family file of 466 individuals/330 families with notes and sources (total size of 327 KB) took just seconds. A larger file of 8250 individuals/6001 families (total size of 2547 KB) took 5 minutes and 30 seconds. This was impressive on my 'measly' 60 MHz PPC 601 system.

In your updated family file, all the fields from version 4 are recreated and all of your notes and sources are present. No changes are made to your data. As you look around, you'll see familiar features. However, there are lots of changes in this version, and I urge you to read the following pages in the electronic manual before you edit anything in your family file:

  • Navigation and the Family Card [Help -> Contents -> Getting Around]
  • Family Files
  • Fields [Help -> Contents -> Setting Up]

[It might be a good idea to make a copy of your new file and use that copy to explore the new version. Try everything, make changes, play around, and then trash that copy.]

When you look through the electronic manual, there are a few adjustments you'll have to make. Vocabulary, for one. In Reunion, a member of our family file is referred to as a person instead of an individual. The Startup Card is now the Home Card, and a Reference Note is now a Source. The Bookmarks pop-up menu button, which helps us keep tabs of the latest people we've added or edited, has taken the place of the QuickList.


Understanding the way fields work in Reunion is essential to using the software productively. Events, facts, and notes fields are now even more demarcated than in version 4, and flags are new. Although the electronic manual does a super job at explaining the differences, here is my own interpretation of what these fields should hold:

  • Event - an experience or incident that occurred at a specific location on a particular date or within a specific time period. There is always a place and a date that designate an event.
  • Fact - specific, self-explanatory data that is not necessarily restricted to a certain date or time period.
  • Note - supplemental or explanatory text that requires more room than a fact, and that relates specifically to one person or one family.
  • Flag - identifies a characteristic that distinguishes that person from others in the same family file.

For details on the above fields choose Help -> Contents -> Entering/Editing a Person's Information.

In other words, event, fact and some note fields will contain actual data, while a flag simply indicates that there was an event, fact, or characteristic.

The most fun you may have right now is looking through the Options menu choices. Here is where you can customize Reunion for your own needs. The choices we'll talk about here are Define -> Person Fields, Family Fields, or Views and Default -> Person Fields and Family Fields. We'll leave Define -> Source fields for another article (a reeeally long article). Also, since using Person Fields and Family Fields are basically the same, the following examples apply to both.

See also Help -> Contents -> Setting Up -> Fields.

Define Fields

The layouts of the family cards, reports, and charts in Reunion are very flexible. To take advantage of the customization features, you can relocate data or create new fields for data you will enter. But where do you start?

From Notes to a separate field:

If you have particular data in your Notes fields that you would now like to move to an event or fact field, this is the time to define those fields. For instance, I want a fact field where I can list the years in which I found a person in a U.S. Census Schedule. That data is one of the subjects in my Reference Notes field, where I entered it in version 4. What should I do?

First, I define a field to match my data. I choose Options -> Define -> Person Fields. Since showing up on a census schedule would include a place and a date, I click on the Events tab. There is already an event called Census in the list, so I select it.

The Abbreviations and Narrative Form sections are already filled in, since this is a preformatted field, but I don't like the arrangement of the narrative form. Using the pop-up menu, I change it to "Name Verb Place Date." The example shows me what it will look like in my report: "Gregg was on the census in Pennsylvania on 3 September 1997." I still don't like the wording, so I add the word "listed" to the narrative form. Now, the end result will read "Gregg was listed on the census for Pennsylvania on 3 September 1997." Aaahh, much better.

Now I cut and paste the specific data from my Reference Notes field to my new Census events field. I no longer have to close windows to get from one to the other -- I just click the tabs across the top of the Edit Person window.

NOTE: If you want to move ALL the data from one field to another, use the File -> Delete/Move feature [Help -> Search for Help, "Delete Move"]. Using this feature will select ALL the data in one field and either enter it in an empty field or append (add to the end) it to another field that already contains data. Be careful here, since these moves cannot be undone.

Create a New field:

What if I need a field that isn't on the preformatted list? Here's an example: I have newspaper obituary clippings for many people in my family file. Now I want to create a new Notes field specifically for obituaries, and enter the text from each one. I choose Options -> Define -> Person Fields, and click on the Notes tab. Since Obituary isn't already on the list, I click the Add Note button, and type Obituary as the name (typing over "New Note"). For the abbreviations, I use "obit." Since I want this field to be an option for everyone in my family file, I click the Active box.

Field Characteristics

This brings up an important distinction between used fields, active fields, and visible fields. The fields that you choose to use in your family file are those that are available, whether on the preformatted list or those you create or modify yourself. [In fact, you can delete preformatted fields if you're sure you won't use them. For instance, I deleted the Bar/Bas Mitzvah fields from the Add Event window, since I have no Jewish ancestry.] The first time you use a field, it will automatically be made Active...

Active fields are those that are listed in the Add pop-up menus in the edit windows. This makes it easier and faster to choose them when needed. Example: I want to make sure that my new notes field Obituary is available for everyone in my family file, since I have lots of obituaries to enter. By making it active (checking the box), it appears in the pop-up menu every time I click the Add button in an edit window. [If you have too many active fields in your pop-up menus, go to Define -> Person / Family Field, select a field that you don't need all the time, and UNcheck its Active box.]

This is only a shortcut, though; you can still add this field by choosing Other in the Add pop-up menu and opening the Add Note window. Since you already defined this field, it's listed here.

All of the fields that you're using will show in Edit windows and on pop-up lists. However, just because a field exists or is in use does not mean it must be visible on your family card. In the following section, we'll see how to choose which fields show up there.

Define Views

The View refers to the fields that are visible on your family cards. You can change the view by using the Options -> Define -> Views menu choice. Begin by deciding what you'd like to see on your family card screen. If one of the preformatted views (Default, Misc. Notes, User Notes, General) is fine with you, don't change them [drag the one you want to the top of the list to keep it in use all the time]. If, however, you always wanted to see your Research Notes field 'front and center,' for example, this is how to make it happen. In the Define Views window, the views themselves are listed on the left, and their respective fields on the right (select a view to see its fields). You can create a custom view or change one of the preformatted views.

Here is an example with my own choices (including my Research Notes field):

The Define Views window lets you add, delete, resize, and change the order of the fields that appear on your family card. Your choices in the right side of this window depend on which field you have selected -- just click a field to select it and the checkboxes at the bottom will change accordingly. You have 12 lines of field contents available here, including the Little Status Bar [Help -> Search for Help, "Little status bar"]. Using them wisely depends very much on the type of data you have, of course. For instance, few of my ancestors had an education past grade school, so the Education field is rarely used. By selecting it here and clicking the Delete Field button, this field is no longer visible on my family cards. This does not remove the field or its contents from my database, just from my view of the family cards in this family file. This gives me space for another field and/or one more line of data.

You can also resize a field by clicking on it and dragging the handle. This lets you control where data is placed as well as how much data shows on your card. In my example above, I decided to keep my birth and death dates and places on one line, so that I could view more notes. I also chose to UNcheck the Title box for the Miscellaneous Notes field, so I could see more text. I decided to keep the Little Status Bar because I like to see at a glance whether a card is marked or not.

One more trick -- you can drag fields up and down to change their order. Just click on the field and 'take it away.'

Default Fields

One more feature, and then we'll take a quiz, OK? Just kidding. The menu choice Options -> Default -> Person/Family Fields lets you decide which fields will always show up in the Edit Person or Edit Family windows when you add a new person or family. These fields will also be the ones that appear in Add pop-up menus. [Don't confuse this feature with the Default View, which is just one of your choices in Define Views.] When you create new fields, you may want to add them to the Default Fields list so they are readily available for entering new data. Under the correct field type tab (Events, Facts, Notes), click the Add Field button, select the field you need, and click the Add button. That's all there is to it.

By now, you will have explored the new features of Reunion and hopefully customized the application to make it easier to use your specific data and your methods of working. There's lots more to come, so stay tuned!