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I spent a couple of weeks researching my family tree back in 1999 documenting my findings in a program from Everton Publishers named Ancestor Research Tool. It appears to be a Foxpro database I can open and view the dbf file, the folder contains the following extensions: cdx dbc dbm fpt dbf and an exe that won't start. The program is long gone I've searched high and low for the program online, called the old 800 # (no joy) and the Everton website is inaccessible. Can anybody help me recover my data? Or have this old program? It advertised a GEDCOM export too bad I didn't do it.

  • Hi, Jim, welcome to G&FH.SE! You listed the extensions for the files in the folder you have -- can you add to your question the name of the exe file? Am I correct in guessing that you have a 3.5 floppy disk with your files on it, and you have some kind of computer that can read this disk? What operating system does that machine have? – Jan Murphy Dec 21 '14 at 20:50
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    Jan gives you a comprehensive answer as to how to try to get your data out. You can also search Google for foxpro database reader for some other tools. – lkessler Dec 21 '14 at 22:22
  • Database file extensions from Open The File agrees that several of these are FoxPro Database files. – Jan Murphy Dec 22 '14 at 0:55
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Try this: http://www.alexnolan.net/software/dbf.htm.

"DBF Viewer Plus is a portable DBF database table viewer and editor plus some additional features for searching, importing and exporting to a number of different formats. DBF formats include dBase, Clipper and Foxpro."

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  • YAY!! This was the key. Renaming everything to .dbf let me find the tables and indices. Won't go into all the details but I'm well on my way. AAA+++ – Jim from NY Dec 23 '14 at 5:05
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WARNING: Before running any utility, make a copy of your data, and work on a copy of your data, not the original file.

I attempted to search for a manual for Ancestor Research Tool, and to find out more information about the file format used, but my initial searches were not successful.

There are two different approaches you could take to recover your data.

Convert the data file

One possibility would be to find a converter that would turn your DBF file into an Excel spreadsheet, and use a utility like acc2ged to convert the spreadsheet into GEDCOM.

The program is small but powerful, and what it does, it does very well indeed and quickly. It can take the results from a series of CSV files, representing information for births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. It will combine the data into a single GEDCOM complete with proper links to family, children, parents, etc.

Note that I have not used this utility. It appears to be designed to take spreadsheets that contain fairly uniform data from sources like parish registers and turn them into GEDCOM. There are several articles about it in the FHUG Knowledge Base.

I suggest reading all available information in the Knowledge Base, especially the article Notes on using ACC2GED with other types of CSV data, before experimenting with the program.

Copy and paste from the DBF file

If you can read the dbf file, can you copy what's in there, and re-enter the data in a new database? (In other words, the brute force way.)

Reproduce the environment and run the original program

Executable program files are not the same as data files -- you can't just copy them across to a different computer and expect them to run. Programs run in specific environments, so you have to know the type of computer and operating system that the program was designed for.

This July 1998 post by Philip Atkins from the RootsWeb mailing list ADKINS-L, which appears to repeat the information in a press release, says that the program requires the Windows 3.1 operating system:

Requires:

  • Windows 3.1
  • 4MB RAM
  • 386 Processor (or better)
  • 1.7MB free hard disk space

There are two ways I know of to run a Windows 3.1 program. One is to find a computer which runs Windows 3.1 (that is, via Goodwill or some other surplus vendor), and another is to find software that will make the program think it is running Windows 3.1.

This can be done either by using an emulator program, or setting up a Virtual Machine. I have not experimented with Virtual Machines, so without knowing what OS you are currently running, I can't advise you on how to set up a VM or Windows 3.1 emulator. But (big assumptions) maybe 1) if you still have the install disks and 2) if you can set up a VM or emulator to run Windows 3.1 and 3) you can get the program to run, then you MIGHT be able to export a GEDCOM file. (Most of the emulators I know about are from the gaming community, so people can play their old favorite games.)

Always Work on a Copy

I can't stress this enough: Before running any utility, make a copy of your data, and work on a copy of your data, not the original file.

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If you only worked a couple of weeks on it, I don't expect you would have got too far. Start over and start off right by documenting all your sources as you go, which I would expect you didn't do the first time.

Once you feel you've again done a couple of weeks worth, you could try to look at what's in the dbf file, because you're obviously curious, as anyone would be.

You say that you can read the dbf file. That should contain most of your data that you entered. All you really need to look at is the text to see any descriptions or notes that you may have since forgotten.

Don't worry about the data in the old file. Data sources are available now that are much better than they were back then.

If it contained information from a relative who has since passed away, hopefully you recorded it somewhere on paper (lesson to be learned) because primitive genealogy software was no storage media. Otherwise, you'll have to get it back the rewarding, but old fashion way, through contacting relatives.

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  • thanks for the quick replies, I have 212 relatives in the file and hope that someone might have a copy of the program. I have dob and place/dod in most cases and could start over but I would rather pick up where I left off. The exe file is named smith.exe (my last name) and is only 36k it is not the art program. – Jim from NY Dec 21 '14 at 22:22
  • I bet you'd be able to draw a fast tree with 200 of them off the top of your head. And I suspect that once you do see the data in your file, you'll be disappointed. – lkessler Dec 21 '14 at 22:30
  • @JimfromNY I agree that it won't take long to regather the information for 200 people. There's no shame in starting over. All the cool kids are doing a Do-Over these days. See Announcing the Genealogy Do-Over posted 15 December 2014 by Thomas MacEntee on GeneaBloggers. – Jan Murphy Dec 22 '14 at 1:00

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