Tools – Preferences – Database

How to – Preferences – Database

Preferences… are reached through the Tools tab on the Menu bar.


Clicking on Tools > Preferences… will present the Preferences screen. If it is not already showing, click on the Database tab.

02 Data

Title: is in the upper left corner. By default it will contain the name of your file, but it can be changed. The value in this field will appear on the Title bar, followed by the word Family, so consider that when your name your file.

03 Title

Maintain Alpha Index, when checked, will cause Ancestral Quest to update the alphabetical index of names after editing each individual record.

04 Startup

When Ancestral Quest opens a file, one person will be at the left of the Pedigree view or at the top left in the Family view. This person is known as the Primary Person. By default, this will be RIN 1. This is why people often begin a file by entering their own information. There are two ways to alter the RIN of the Primary person. One is to assign that honor to the person who was highlighted when the file was last closed. Do this by pressing the Last Used radio button. You could use this to help remind you of what you were doing the last time you used Ancestral Quest. Hopefully you will be using it often enough that you will be able to remember, whether you use this feature or not. The second way is to press the Use: radio button, and either type a RIN into the field, or use the Search… button to find the person you want to have as your Primary Person.

05 LogAQ

The Log Changes box deals with how Ancestral Quest handles tracking of additions, modifications, and deletions of both Individual and Marriage records. Note that this box has a PAF file version and an Ancestral Quest file version. The version above is for Ancestral Quest files. Logging is inactivated until you check the Record Changes box. The number in the Max Entries: field controls the size of the file. The View button presents the following screen.

06 ChangeAQ

If you are using Collaboration, this lets you see what changes have been made to the file, and who made the changes. It is even possible to back out the changes.

The PAF file version of the Log Changes box looks like this.

07 LogPAF

Logging is inactivated until you check the Log to ‘File.paflog’ box. The size of the file is controlled by clicking the Flush button when you want to clear the file. The View button presents the following screen.

08 ChangePAF

The last item on the left side is the Open Last File on Startup check box. I have a strong opinion on this. It is my opinion that each person should work in his/her own file. The name of that file should be your surname at birth. If you are married, your spouse should have his/her own file, and only one of you should document your children. The only common name between those two files should be the spouse, except where lines join further up in the family tree.

Under those conditions, if two or more people share the same computer, this box should be left unchecked. It should only be checked if only one person uses that computer for Ancestral Quest, and they use only one file. Otherwise it should be unchecked, and the user should select his/her file each time the Ancestral Quest program is used. Just personal preference, but that is what the Preferences screen is all about.

09 Search

The section on the top right is Search Options. It is divided into two parts. the top part contains three radio buttons and a check box. Select one of the three radio buttons. The top one, Search From current folder, causes Ancestral Quest to search through the current folder and its sub-folders. The next one, Search all fixed disks, searches all folders on your hard drives. The bottom radio button searches all folders on local hard drives, and removable drives. The check box, Search Network Drives, causes Ancestral Quest to search networks drives if you are on a network.

The bottom part tells Ancestral Quest what types of files to look for. You may check as many boxes as you would like. The top box selects .aq files and .atf files. licensed parts of Ancestral Quest, and created the .atf file format for their records. The next box selects .ac files. These are the files on Ancestral Quest’s Collaboration system. The next two boxes are for .paf and indiv2.dat files from PAF versions 1.0 through 5.2.18. The last box is for .ged, GEDCOM, files. I always check all of these check boxes.

10 Backup

The next section on the right tells Ancestral Quest how to name backup files. This is the way I prefer to do it. The top check box, Include date as:, activates the two radio buttons. The top radio button causes Ancestral Quest to create the name of the backup file by appending the system date to the name of the data file. The bottom check box then causes Ancestral Quest to append the system time to the file name and date. It then adds the suffix .aqz. In doing this, the form of the date is yyyy-mm-dd, hh-mm. This causes all backups of this file to be grouped together chronologically with the oldest on the top and the newest on the bottom. The second radio button, which unfortunately is the default, causes Ancestral Quest to create the name of the backup file by appending the system date in the form dd Mon yyyy.

To illustrate the result of each combination of check box and radio button, I created a file and simulated backing it up several times by creating the backup file names in different directories just as the backup procedure would have done. These are the results:

11 List

On the right is the combination of check boxes and radio buttons which I was simulating. On the left is the list of files, sorted by the operating system, and presented in a directory listing. The files are in chronological order from the earliest backup at the top to the most recent backup at the bottom. This is the way I prefer to see them.

12 List

This is the same list, but the file names were created without the time of day, so three files were over-written on the 8th of December, 2012. Those three files had been written at 16:03, 16:07 and 16:11, respectively. I hope I didn’t need them.

13 List

This list includes both the date and the time, but since the date is in dd Mon yyyy order, the files are sorted by day, and within that they are sorted alphabetically by month abbreviation. I don’t have the patience to try to figure out which file is my most recent backup. If you are curious, you can go back to the list which is sorted the way I like them. The most recent is the one on the bottom of the list.

14 List

This list is the same as the previous list, but the same three files were overwritten because they were backed up on the same day, without the system time in the file name.

15 List

This is the final list. Since neither the date nor the time was included in the file name of the backup file, only the most recent backup remains. I am not willing to gamble that I will not need an earlier backup. I can delete backup files as I feel comfortable doing it, by deleting them from the top of my list. I think I’ll keep doing it that way.

Suggestions/Questions about AQ Will Do or Subjects discussed here? Leave a Comment.


  1. Ann A.

    I am learning a lot from your blog. Thanks! I thought I would try saving my backups to my DropBox folder so I can to access it at the Family History Center, which has Ancestral Quest installed on the computers. Maybe it will be easier for me than walking to the other end of the house to get my flash drive and remembering to take it with me when I leave the house.

    • Ann, that’s a good suggestion. I spend most of my time in the genealogical arena, and I don’t really use cloud computing, but your comment has opened my mind to the possibilities. Thanks for visiting AQ Will Do.

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