Let’s Get Personal


Back in 1981 I received a phone call from Russ Borneman, who worked in the HR department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He asked me if I would consider accepting employment with the Church. After some consideration, I accepted that offer. He asked me how soon I could begin working for them, and I told him I would need a month to finish the project I was working on at Utah State University.

At the end of that month, I showed up at the Church Office Building. It was then I learned that the project manager for whom I was going to work was no longer employed by the Church, and the project which I had been hired to work on was no longer a project. I spent lots of time reading manuals, and wondering if I had made a major mistake in my life. One morning my new manager, Cliff Higbee (Lynn Warr?), came to my office and asked me to attend a meeting with 4 other programmers. When I got to the meeting, three of the programmers were already there. The last to arrive was Robert Foster. Bob was the lead programmer on the soon to begin Personal Ancestral File project. His first question was, “Brethren, how are we going to implement lineage-linking on a computer?” My first question, which I was too embarrassed to ask, was “What is lineage-linking?”


I was on the PAF team for only a short time while they were finding a project they really wanted me to work on. After I left the PAF project, I followed their project from a distance. When they were near production, they asked for volunteers to test the product. They wanted Personal Ancestral File to run on many different computers, so they were looking for several different types of computers in the test. By then I had purchased a Franklin Ace 1000 computer. It was a clone of the Apple II computer. It had two floppy disk drives, and I bought a video card which allowed me to convert from the standard Apple 40 column screen to the 80 column screen which was necessary to run PAF.

On my Franklin I could print the information from a particular address in the ROM chip, and it contained a copyright notice from Apple Computer Co. The Franklin was a better computer than the Apple II (more expansion slots), but since they stole the ROM from Apple, they went out of business after the lawsuit. When I finished my testing, I wrote a report on what worked or did not work, and a list of things I would like to see before they went into production.


I think the beta test convinced the Church that they couldn’t support all of the different computers on the market, meaning the different operating systems. The final product worked only on PC-DOS and MS-DOS operating systems, meaning the IBM PC and IBM clones. We had some of the old IBM portable (luggable) PCs available at work, and I hauled one from and to work several times while I played with the program. I eventually bought an Epson Equity II computer, with the optional, and at that time massive, 40 Megabyte hard disk. I was in Heaven.

I kept a spreadsheet with a list of the features I wanted to see in PAF, and periodically I would submit it to the PAF team. When I left Church employment in 1992, PAF included 17 of my suggestions.

In February of 2010 I started volunteering at the Ogden FamilySearch Library. I noticed an icon on the computer screen which I didn’t recognize. I clicked on it, and it started the Ancestral Quest program. It looked and felt familiar, even though I had never seen Ancestral Quest before. I asked whether they had a class on Ancestral Quest, and they told me that they had a teacher, but he was unlikely to return because of health issues.

I had few options available. I asked if I could teach the class. That was my way of learning AQ.

Some History

The time came when the Church decided to switch PAF from a DOS based program to a Windows based program. My opinion is that they had 4 options available to them at that point.

  1. They could train their DOS programmers to write Windows code.
  2. They could hire Windows programmers to replace their DOS programmers.
  3. They could hire Windows programmers to work with their DOS programmers.
  4. They could find a Windows program which already worked with Church specific information.

They chose the 4th option. They found Gaylon Findlay and Ancestral Quest. Gaylon allowed them to alter the source code for Ancestral Quest, and release it as PAF version 4.0 for Windows. That’s why AQ looked and felt familiar.

After I had been teaching Ancestral Quest for some time I had former students asking how to do particular things in AQ. When I answered them, I wished that I had a way to let other former students know what questions were being asked, and what the answers were. That was the reason I started AQ Will Do. It teaches the things AQ Will Do, and how to do them.

I taught the AQ class for 6 years. I no longer teach the class, but I still post on AQ Will Do occasionally. If there are topics you would like to see discussed, please leave a Comment or email me at dcmc1945@gmail.com.

Updated: 2021-03-02


  1. Ron.V

    Hi, Dale,
    Ron Vincent here. I just copied your history of PAF “Let’s Get Personal.” It’s so inspiring and informative. Thanks so much for sharing this. Makes me want to put a post on my own blog of my minor involvement with genealogy software. I love history and family history and I love computer history as I have lived through most of it. Not sure how many would be interested in hearing of it but this post inspires me to write it anyway.

    • Thanks Ron
      I would love to hear your Family History / Computer experiences.

  2. Nancy Gibert

    Dale I have tried to click on your email that is below and also on the blog to ask a question but I get access denied.

    I thought I might ask you my question personally instead of the group because everyone is probably more advanced than I am.


  3. rae keck

    sorry to hear you aren’t teaching the class at Ogden any more. We decided to us AQ after attending your very informative class. It has been a very useful tool. Thank for your answer to Dale about living people. This explains some of the clutter I have encountered on my early church members lines. Will have to look at those new feature we did update but haven’t really looked them over

  4. Brenda Thorpe

    Dale, your story is amazing , and once again, we see the Lord’s hand in our lives. Thank you for sharing your journey. My 90 year old mother recently passed away. Her funeral is this Saturday. I will email you in the very near future to ask you to help me get started again with AQ and Family History. It has been two years since “I put down the pen”. But I feel a need to carry on my mother’s legacy and faith in this great work. Sincerely, Brenda Thorpe

  5. Richard Durrans

    Have not heard from you for some time. I am slowing down (age related) and am using AQ less and less. It seems I go straight to FS/FT most of the time, and use AQ only for live family members and a way to keep a computer record on my descendants. Any ideas on what I am overlooking?

    • Richard, AQ is a tool. If it isn’t the tool for what you are doing right now, then use that other tool. You have made the right choice by placing living relatives in AQ, and not on FSFT. If they are in the church, they are already in FSFT, but not visible due to privacy laws. Adding them again so that you can see them just adds clutter that needs to be cleared out after your death. By the way, have you tried the new features in version 15?

      • Richard Durrans

        I have downloaded it and it appears to give me clues where to look. But I have not really used it yet.

      • Richard

        Try out the Family Tree Media features. You get to these by clicking on the family tree icon for a linked individual. When you get to the synchronization screen, look down at the bottom center for the word Media. After reading the file there should be two numbers showing. The left number shows how many scrapbook items you have entered. The number on the right shows how many items are in FSFT Memories. You can pass items back and forth. It’s really nice.

I would like to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: