I have my mothers and fathers family history in book form. I would like to enter these books into a program but am wondering if I use two family data files or just one. I would like to share these with extended family but neither side needs to have the other sides date not to mention the size of the file would be large to say the least. The program I am using is Legacy


Personally, I recommend putting all of your own research on all of your sides into one data file. This way, whenever you do research, no matter which side you are working on, you have your information. One file will allow you to combine common items, such as common family branches, places and sources.

When sharing with family, most people won't want just one side. Your brothers and sisters and children will want both sides. Your first cousins will want only your father or mother's side. Your second cousins will only want one of your 4 grandparent's side, your 3rd cousins will only want one of your 8 great-grandparent's side. (With exceptions where families have more than one connection). So you can't please everyone else anyway, so you might as well please yourself by putting all your family into one file and make it easiest for you.

The best way to send information to a specific family member is if you can provide them with only the data that pertains to them, i.e. you would want to include all their relatives. If Legacy has the capability to list the information about all the relatives of an individual, then create that report for your relative, and save it to a file that you can send. If not, then generate an ancestor report for your relative, and then generate descendant reports for each of your relative's ancestors, and send them those.


Here are some things you might want to consider when making this decision.

  • How big are the files likely to be (how many people)?

If a project is really big, it could be cumbersome to work with. If your parents came from two completely separate communities and the only overlap in their histories comes after their marriage, there might be an argument for keeping two separate files, to keep things manageable. See this page for tips about splitting files in Legacy.

  • Will these be 'static' files or will you do more work on them later?

If your research is ongoing, and your parents came from the same place, there is likely to be overlap in their family trees. Keeping one file for your mother's side and one for your father's side may result in duplication of work; if anyone shows up in both files, you may research source material for that person while working on your father's file, then research it all over again when working on your mother's file.

Even if the files are 'static' and you only intend to distribute exactly the same information that you already have in the book, there might be an advantage to have two files, one to correspond to each book. However, if you have overlapping source materials, you have the same problem as you do with the duplicate people -- you might end up referring to the same sources in both trees, and having to do duplicate data entry (e.g. if the families lived in the same neighborhood you might find people from both trees on the same pages of the census).

On the other hand, if you are uncomfortable using the split tree functions in Legacy, it might be worth it to you to do some extra work so that you can have separate, focused trees. One thing you might try is to make a copy of a file that you can practice using the split tree functions on.

If your intent is to have an electronic file which represents the information found in each particular book, then I could see the value in having each book in a separate file. But even in that case, you might need or want to split those files into smaller files, depending on the recipient, so it may be useful to learn how to split trees in Legacy no matter what choice you make.

Edited to add: I'm assuming that your material in book form mentions the sources of the information in your parent's trees, but it may not. There is a large well-known history of a prominent family that covers one branch of my husband's family tree, which the author and his father worked on for 25 years. I haven't read all of the two volumes yet, but as far as I can tell, the books are entirely unsourced. If you are confirming the work in those two books and not merely 'transcribing' it into computer form, and you will be working with other sources, you might want to take a look at Clooz, a source-based program, which has some features especially for use with Legacy.

  • By 'unsourced' I mean that the author did not provide a list of source citations showing where he got the information that is published in the book. I have attempted to re-confirm the information about the individual in that book who is my husband's ancestor, but I'm not going to spend 25 years re-confirming someone else's research.
    – Jan Murphy
    Apr 1 '14 at 18:54

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