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Software Reviews

Clooz

Review by Dick Eastman

Clooz for Windows is a "genealogy utility" program that has been available for some time. Author Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens has updated it several times, and this week I had an opportunity to install and learn about the latest edition, version 1.21.

Clooz is a bit difficult to describe to anyone who has not seen the program. Yet is easy to understand once you have used it for just a few minutes. Clooz is not a regular genealogy program. That is, it doesn’t create pedigree charts or other fancy reports showing ancestors and descendants. It certainly is not a general-purpose reporting program, even though it does generate reports.

Clooz is a research tool to help you keep track of the scraps of information that you find in your efforts to uncover genealogy data. It is a database for systematically storing all of the clues to your ancestry that you've been collecting over the years. You might think of it as an electronic filing cabinet that assists you with search and retrieval of important facts you've found during the ancestor hunt. Did you already find a particular person in the census records? Clooz can tell you. What records have you already searched? What documents have you already found that mention a particular person? Again, Clooz can help. The value of Clooz becomes most apparent as you begin to gather data on hundreds or even thousands of people; the program easily stores information, sorts and filters the information as needed and then displays only the results that you seek.

Many genealogy programs really only store the CONCLUSIONS of your genealogy research. Clooz stores all the information found along the way.

The program’s developer, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, is well qualified to design a program like this. She is a Certified Genealogical Record Specialist who speaks frequently on several genealogy-related topics at various events. She is also the managing editor of Genealogical Computing, editor of Board for Certification of Genealogists’ newsletter OnBoard and the Millennium Edition of the BCG Certification Roster, and former editor of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly and both the 1997-98 and 1995-96 APG Directory of Professional Genealogists. In addition, she manages the Ancestor Detective Speakers Bureau. The Clooz Web site describes the development of Clooz:
Liz has been building the program that has become Clooz, since 1987 when she obtained her first IBM-compatible computer. It has been part of various databases over the years, but has grown within Microsoft Access since that program’s inception in about 1992. Always the organization freak, she has found it frustrating to find references-within her own files-to information she placed in early versions of genealogy programs that did not allow documentation. Hence, she created her own filing system, incorporating notebooks, top-loading archival document protectors, file numbers for each document/reference, and a cross reference in a database program to all the data within the documents or references. Clooz is only one piece of that puzzle. The rest of the filing system is up to the individual. The hardest part is maintaining the system, and ensuring all documents are entered and filed properly. But the value of the system becomes readily apparent when a document is urgently needed and can be found easily by doing a quick search in Clooz.

Installation was simple. Clooz is a database program written in Microsoft Access. Early in the installation I was asked which version of Clooz I wanted to install. It seems that there are three slightly different versions contained on the one CD-ROM disk:
Standalone version that only requires Windows 95 or 98. Most people will probably select this version.

Access 97 version for anyone who already has Access 97 installed on the same PC.
Access 2000 version for anyone who already has Access 2000 installed on the same PC.
I was installing on a Windows 98 computer that already had Access 2000 installed, so I selected the third option. After I answered the question about which version I wanted, the remainder of the installation required about 30 seconds to complete. An electronic copy of the user’s manual was also copied to my hard drive.

When I started Clooz for the first time, I was surprised to see the Microsoft Office Assistant appear. This is the little "helpful robot" that is included with a number of Microsoft products. If you have used Microsoft Word or Excel or similar products, you have probably seen the little paper clip with eyes that pops up with helpful information. (Actually, the character can be any of a number of characters, but the paper clip character is the one that appears first when a new program is installed. It can later be changed to one that looks like Albert Einstein or a cat or any of a number of other representations.) I must admit that I didn’t use the Office Assistant very much. Whenever I had a question, I either used the built-in Help menus or looked at the online user’s manual.

Clooz is based upon "forms" that the user fills in with information, either by manual entry or by importing the information from other programs. Forms included with the program include all the U.S. Federal censuses 1790-1920 (1890 is the Special Veterans’ Schedule), Irish 1901 and 1911 censuses, 1841-1891 United Kingdom censuses, 1852-1901 Canadian censuses, city directories, photographs, miscellaneous documents, Irish valuations, correspondence, and people.

Your first step should be to enter people into Clooz. You can do this in one of two ways: either by typing them in one at a time, or by importing them from your genealogy software or another database. I entered a few individuals manually from the "Clooz People" selection screen. Entering people manually is tedious, of course. I already had all these people in a genealogy program (The Master Genealogist), so I created a list and then imported the entire list into Clooz. The user’s manual tells how to create lists of people in the following genealogy programs:

  • Ancestral Quest™
  • Brother's Keeper
  • Family Origins®
  • Family Tree Maker®
  • Generations
  • Legacy®
  • Personal Ancestral File
  • The Master Genealogist
  • Ultimate Family Tree™

Once the list of people is exported from any of the above programs, it can easily be imported into Clooz.

There are six functions you can perform on this screen: sort the people by ID, alternate ID, surname, or given name; add a new person; search for a person; edit selected person; preview selected person's report; or close this form. I then decided to enter research notes about a few of these people. I had earlier gone through the 1790 United States census, so I decided to transcribe my handwritten research notes of that effort into Clooz. The "fill in the blanks" form asked for my Personal File number, which could be any numbering system that I invent for my own record keeping. The Publication roll was already filled in: M637, the catalog number for the 1790 census records on microfilm as published by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Other data items to be entered include the microfilm roll number, state, county, township, city, repository (location where the record was found) and Family History Library microfilm order number, if used.

Once all of this preliminary information is added, the user clicks on an icon to add a new person to the form.

If the person to be added is already in the Clooz database, clicking on the Search icon brings up a menu that allows the user to select the needed person. Then clicking on the "Add this person" icon identifies this person as appearing in the 1790 census. If the person to be added is not already in the Clooz database, you can add them at any time by clicking on the "Add New person" icon.

Adding data is rather straightforward. The user does not have to re-enter the "header information" of Personal File number, microfilm roll number, state, county, township, city, repository, etc. for each individual. This is automatically inserted on each individual until the user manually changes it.

One Clooz form to note is Photographs. You can use Clooz to organize all your family photographs so that you will never again have to spend an hour searching for a photograph of great uncle Ebenezer. It can be right at your fingertips, if you have entered the data into Clooz, numbered the photograph, then filed it in numeric sequence. Clooz doesn’t store large digitized photographs but will store "thumbnails," tiny images that are typically one inch square. This is great for use when trying to quickly find a photograph; you can quickly search through the thumbnails. What’s more, you can even print a photo record with thumbnail pictures for each ancestor recorded in Clooz.

Of course, the real value of any program is the ability to extract the information as needed. Clooz offers two ways to do this: either by searching for a particular piece of information or by generating reports. I found the search capabilities to be quick and easy to learn. Searches are also very flexible, as you can search by several different criteria (such as name, type of record, etc.)

The reports available include:

  • All People
  • All Censuses
  • All Directories
  • All Documents
  • All Photos
  • All Photos w/People
  • All Sources
  • Selected Surnames
  • Selected Census/Directory Years
  • Selected Census/Directory Countries
  • Selected Census/Directory

States/Provinces

  • Selected Census Counties
  • Selected Directory Cities
  • Selected Document Events


Individuals

  • Specific Census Record
  • Specific Directory Record
  • Specific Document Record
  • Specific Photograph
  • Specific Source

Clooz is a very useful program for any genealogist. It organizes scraps of information in a manner that allows you to quickly and easily find data months or even years later. You can even record erroneous data or books that you searched which did not result in useful information. Recording those "negative hits" will often save time in the future when you can say, "I’ve already checked that and found that it was of no use." Clooz is especially useful if your present genealogy program is a bit weak at organizing scraps of data from your genealogy research.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dick Eastman is a frequent presenter at major genealogy conferences. He has published articles in Genealogical Computing and Family Chronicle magazines and for a number of Web sites. He was an advisor to PBS' Ancestry series and appeared as a guest in one of the episodes. He serves on the Advisory Board of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and is a past Director of GENTECH and of the New England Computer Genealogists. Dick is the author of YOUR ROOTS: Total Genealogy Planning On Your Computer published by Ziff-Davis Press. He also manages three Genealogy Forums on CompuServe.

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