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Association of Professional Genealogists

Quarterly magazine, March 2010

Reunion 9 Review

By Donald W. Moore, CG

"Reunion 9 is the most fully featured, Mac-native, genealogy program on the market."

The genealogical software arena does not lack for contenders, Family Tree Maker, The Master Genealogist, and Legacy -- to name a few-- are familiar names in the PC world. In the Macintosh world, software choices are somewhat more limited. Reunion, iFamily, and MacFamilyTree are the prominent applications there. But thanks to Intel-based Macintosh computers and virtualization software (i.e. Parallels, VMware), Mac users can expand their software horizons to benefit from either world. Reunion, however, may be all they need.

Reunion is a product of Leister Productions, Inc. of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a privately held company founded in 1984. It released Reunion version 9, the current version, in March 2007. Reunion has won its share of awards, receiving the highest review rating from MacWorld in March 2003 and May 2007, and the magazine's Editor's Choice award in December 2007.

Reunion uses a horizontal, three-pane design to display information in its main window. The middle pane is for spouses, the top pane for parents, and the bottom pane for children. You navigate by simply clicking on any name in any of the three panes. If you click on a parent or child that person is displayed in the middle pane with the parents in the top pane and the children in the bottom pane. You can also navigate by entering a full or partial name in the search window at the bottom of the screen, or by entering a full or partial name look-up in a separate window. Other navigating options are to utilize Reunion's book mark feature, or select a person from "treetops," a floating window that displays the earliest ancestor in each of the selected person's family lines. As with almost everything else in Reunion, the middle or spouse pane can be extensively customized to include or exclude fields and change their order.

Click on an name button in any of the spouse, parent, or child panes to display a window for entering new or editing existing information about that person. Click on a blank or existing marriage date to display a similar window for entering marriage information. Reunion provides for the usual genealogical information, with some twists. For example, it distinguishes between person and family events (i.e. couples, marriage), person and family notes, and between facts, events and notes. To Reunion, a fact is undated information such as a nickname, eye color, hair color, social security number, etc. A note is also undated information that requires several lines of narrative text to describe or explain, and an event (birth, marriage, death, census, etc.) has an associated date.

You can add a new person to the Reunion database by navigating to the family in which they are related and using one of the popup menus for new child, mother, father, or spouse. You can also add an unrelated person when you are not sure of any relationship. If you make a mistake, simply drag the person to the Reunion clipboard, navigate to the proper family, and then drag the person from the clipboard to the screen as a parent or child of that family.

Reunion has robust source documentation features and comes with several predefined source types. Each source type contains separate data entry fields appropriate to each, including a free-format field. If none fits your needs, you can add custom fields and even create custom source types. Reunion does not, however, come with pre-defined Evidence Explained formats, a subject of discussion on Reunion's user forums. Some users who have created their own EE formats are willing to share them, and can be contacted through the forum. You can attach citations to a name, event, fact, or note. Citations appear in forms and reports, but not in charts.

Reunion prints four types of documents: person sheets, family group sheets, blank forms (person and family sheet), and pod cards. Person and family group sheets include source citations. Pod cards include individual cards for people, an index and surname list, and can be exported as notes for syncing to an iPod. Each card displays information about a person and includes links to his or her father, mother, spouse, and children. You can navigate the links as you would the iPod's menu system, using the click wheel to highlight a link and then pressing the center of the wheel to jump to that card.

Reunion produces five types of reports: family history, register, Ahnentafel, tiny tafel, and descendant. The family history report begins with a source couple and moves forward in time, defining descendants in an outline format with legal numbering. The register report prints narrative paragraphs in the New England Historic Genealogical Society style (with an option to number childless descendants) using genealogical data about each person and family. The narrative is automatically constructed based on pre-defined sentence formats that the user can customize. The Ahnentafel report displays a source couple and moves backward in time, numbering direct-line ancestors and including narrative descriptions of each. The tiny tafel report is a coded description of all or part of the database that can be shared with others. The descendant report is a text outline showing descendants of the source couple the text equivalent of a descendant chart without the graphic elements. Report layouts can be customized to format names and events, and include or exclude fields for persons, spouses, children, and families.

There are six types of Reunion charts: descendant, pedigree, cascading pedigree, timeline, relative, and fan. The pedigree chart displays four or five direct line generations per page, selectable as an option. The timeline chart displays the lifespan of individuals graphed against a timeline on the horizontal axis. The relative or hourglass chart displays both ancestors and descendants of an individual. The fan chart is really a pedigree chart in the round, with the source person in the middle and direct line ancestors in successive concentric circles. Reunion generates and displays charts in a separate window. You can drag and reposition chart objects inside the window and edit most elements on-screen, including color, font, line type, thickness, etc. A unique feature is the ability to edit the genealogical information in the database from the chart itself. Once generated, the chart can be re-drawn in one of several different orientations: top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, butterfly, waterfall, left-to-right, right-to-left, and combinations thereof. Generated charts display the number of pages required for printing based on the paper size selected.

Reunion supports several multimedia file types including PDF, RTF, Microsoft Word, and Text for document files; JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, PICT, BMP, and Photoshop (version 2.5 or newer) for image files; AVI, MP4, and MOV (QuickTime) for video files; and AAC, AIFF, AU, MP3, and WAVE for audio files. You can attach multimedia files to person, family, or source records, including default photos to each person in the database and scanned documents to source records.

Reunion can publish any of its reports for upload to a website, and will publish directly to MobileMe or iDisk. It will also publish to a website in a format called family cards, an HTML version of the main Reunion screen that links family cards with child and parent buttons. Visitors to the website can browse the family cards and navigate through the information as easily as with Reunion itself. Web family cards can include source citations and photos.

One of the many standout features of Reunion is its online user manual, accessible by clicking on an icon in the toolbar, and its context sensitive help system accessible by clicking on the question mark icon at the bottom corner of each screen. The manual and help system make extensive use of indexes, search windows, and hyperlinks to quickly locate the answer to any question the user might have.

Reunion for the iPhone and iPod Touch

Leister Productions released Reunion for iPhone and iPod Touch in February 2009... Although it is not the same as the full-blown version of Reunion for the desktop, it lacks very few of its features. The user can transfer one or multiple family files to his or her iPhone with all person and family information, including names, addresses, events, facts, flags, bookmarks, sources, logs, and linked pictures. The user simply taps the back, forward, and home buttons to navigate the screen, and taps the link buttons to display spouses, children, parents, and siblings. As with Reunion 9, preferred pictures appear for people and the user can customize the view to include or exclude fields and change their order.

Reunion for iPhone and iPod Touch provides an index of people sorted by last name, first name, and birth date. You can search by last name, first name, married name, Soundex code, and personal identification. It also lists bookmarks of the most recently viewed people sorted by last name, first name and birth date, and allows people to be added or removed from the list. The user can add, change, and delete information in all fields (i.e. names, addresses, facts, events, notes, and flags); add new children, spouses, parents, and unrelated people; link to existing children and spouses; delete people; remove links; and add new logs and sources. You can then sync all changes back to the family file on the desktop.

Reunion 9 is the most fully featured, Mac-native, genealogy program on the market. While eschewing some of the questionable bells and whistles of its competitors, it provides more than enough useful features in an easily usable graphical interface. Although Reunion does not have a steep learning curve, a new user may not discover at first all of its many features or even be aware of their existence. The online user manual is an invaluable resource for getting the most out of the application...

Reunion for iPhone and iPod Touch is the perfect companion to Reunion 9, making good use of the touch screen interface to provide most of the same features as its big brother. The ability to sync changes back to the desktop makes it not just a viewer application, but also a credible desktop substitute for occasions when a PC is not available.