GenSmarts is a Windows program written by R. Aaron Underwood that uses artificial intelligence to analyze your existing genealogy and to offer suggestions of where to look next. Your file is analyzed for missing or conflicting information, missing dates are estimated, and then research tasks to locate records containing the missing information are suggested. GenSmarts can generate and track "to do" lists, print worksheets to record your search results, and help you plan research trips to libraries, courthouses, and other such resources. Best of all, it can find many online record sites, some that may even have information about your ancestors. I used GenSmarts for a while this week and must say that I was very impressed.
GenSmarts operates on almost any Windows system and has modest memory and disk size requirements. In short, it should operate on your Windows system. Installation of GenSmarts was simple and straightforward, about the same as installing any other modern Windows program. Immediately after the installation, a window appeared that asked if I wanted to check for updates to the program. I did so, and the very latest version of GenSmarts was automatically downloaded and installed on my system.
The first time that GenSmarts was launched, it displayed a "Welcome Wizard" that walked me through the set-up process. There were a number of questions to answer, but the Welcome Wizard made the process almost painless.
Once installed, GenSmarts will search your hard drive, looking for databases in any of the following programs:
- Family Tree Maker (including FTM 2005)
- Personal Ancestral File (PAF) version 5
- The Master Genealogist (4 & 5)
- RootsMagic (1 & 2)
- Ancestral Quest
- Ancestry Family Tree
- It will also find GEDCOM files
Your genealogical facts typically are stored in one of those formats. GenSmarts analyzes your existing data and builds a "to do" list, showing what you should research to learn more about your family. GenSmarts also tells you where you can find the records suggested. It even provides a lookup link if the records are available online.
Some of GenSmarts' functions use the Internet. The installation routine asked if I was using an always-on broadband connection (cable modem or DSL) or a dial-up connection. I am using a cable modem, so I selected that option.
Next, I was asked about my subscriptions to any of the following online services that I might subscribe to:
- NewEnglandAncestrors.org (operated by the New England Historic Genealogical Society)
GenSmarts has the ability to compare my data with any or all of the above services in order to find even more generations.
GenSmarts then opened my existing genealogy database (created in another program) and spent some time analyzing the data. It's not unusual for GenSmarts to generate thousands of suggestions. How do you make sense of it all? GenSmarts can help by prioritizing things that you're likely to be more interested in. If a suggestion relates to an ancestor that's close to your direct line, you're more likely to be more interested in that suggestion. To accomplish this prioritization, GenSmarts lets you "tag" a person(s) in your file as a "DIRECT ANCESTOR ROOT". Think of a Direct Ancestor Root as the most recent descendent of the line(s) you're focusing on. This might be yourself, if you're studying your line, or yourself and your spouse, if you're working that side also, although in that case, it would be easier to tag one of your children, if they're in the file, since they would be a root to both you and your wife. In my case, I selected myself as the person whose ancestry I was most interested in.
Within a very few seconds, GenSmarts analyzed my 3,000-plus person database and generated 3,785 suggestions. As I scrolled through them, I found that many of the suggestions were things that I had already searched but had not recorded the results in my program (most of the results were "not found"). However, a few caught my eye as previously not checked and quickly were added to the "To Do" list.
GenSmarts has four main windows: My Genealogy File, To Do List, Research Locations, and Data Cleanup. GenSmarts starts with the My Genealogy File window, which displays a scroll-down list naming everyone in your file. Click on any name, and a box with facts about that person's life will pop up.
The To Do List, however, is the heart of the program. This is where you specify the types of records you want GenSmarts to recommend, either free online records or all records. The To Do List window also displays Gen-Smarts' research recommendations. Click on any of the recommendations to find out why GenSmarts thinks you should search that record. GenSmarts offers alternative spellings, ages calculated to the census, and lists of relatives who might be on the same record, too. You can see a screen shot of the To Do List at http://www.gensmarts.com/gsScreen.gif.
GenSmarts' Research Locations window lists the physical or Web address for a number of major sites and libraries. You can click on a research location, and you'll see which of GenSmarts' recommendations apply to that repository. GenSmarts even provides microfilm numbers for resources at the Family History Library.
Here is a typical suggestion that GenSmarts created from my database. In this case, it is in regards to the birth record of Thomas Cousins:
Researching the Massachusetts Birth Records makes sense because he was born in ABT. 1649 in (perhaps Essex County, Massachusetts).
NOTE: This suggestion is important because his place of birth has not been recorded, and could be obtained from this record.
Some background on Thomas Cousins:
I will skip the several paragraphs of information here that were obtained from my own genealogy database.
Here is a recap of some of the people and places that might be involved in searching a Birth Records:
Person: Cousins, Thomas
Alt Spellings: COUZENS and COUSENS
Spouse(s): Unknown (Unknown) 
Parents: Isaac Cousins  and Elizabeth ??? 
Brothers: Isaac Cousins , Abraham Cousins , and Jacob Cousins 
This record can be researched at the following location:
1) New England Historic Gen. Society
Here is a GenSmarts suggestion for another person: my grandfather. It shows the kind of suggestions offered for more recent records:
Researching the Maine 1930 Census makes sense because his child, Gertrude Deabay  was married in 1929 in Sheridan, Aroostook Co, Maine and his child, Mike Deabay  died in 1930 in Sheridan, Aroostook Co, Maine.
NOTE: This suggestion is important because his mother's birth place has not been recorded, and could be obtained from this record.
Some background on Mike (Maxime) Deabay :
Again, I'll skip over the lengthy information extracted from my computer's hard drive.
Here is what this family might look like in 1930:
Head Of Household: Deabay, Mike
Soundex Code: D100
Alternative Spellings: DOBY, DUBY, DABY, DOBBY, and TOBY
Name Age Born Born Born
DEABAY,Mike 53 ME ME ME
Melvina 40 ME CAN ME
The rest of the family was listed here including the mention of several living people. That's fine for my research but I'd prefer to not mention my aunts and uncles in this newsletter.
This record can be researched at the following 2 locations:
- Ancestry.com Website
- HeritageQuestOnline.Com Website
Clicking on the "Available Online" icon opened a Web browser and took me to Ancestry.com to look at the 1930 U.S. census (An Ancestry.com user ID and password is required.).
In the earlier example that lists the New England Historic Genealogical Society as a probable resource, I was able to add that location to the "To Do" list. Later clicking in the To Do list for New England Historic Genealogical Society tasks displayed the society's address and a long list of all the tasks for that repository. I can keep adding more tasks, and then someday when I am about to visit that library, I'll print out just the tasks specific to that location.
Here is one such example in which GenSmarts suggested I visit the Newberry Library at 60 W. Walton, Chicago, Illinois 60610:
This information can be found on 1 Book at the Newberry Library. The volumes for these are:
Call No: F27.Y6 M37 1993 Title: Marriage returns of York County
As you can see, each of the hints offered by GenSmarts made sense and offered information on where to look next.
All in all, GenSmarts is an excellent tool for the beginning genealogist or for anyone who needs just a few more hints of where to look next. The program is fast and user-friendly. It worked well in my testing, and I would certainly recommend it to many others.
GenSmarts is for Windows 95 and all later versions. It requires 32 megabytes of memory or more, as well as 25 megabytes of hard disk space. It sells for $24.95 although I'd suggest that you first download the free trial version and use that for a while. If you decide you want to use the full version of the program, you can return at any time and purchase it. The price of $24.95 is for the download version. If you also want a CD to be sent to you, you must add another $10.00.
To learn more about GenSmarts, to download the trial version, or to safely and securely purchase the full version, go to Underwood Innovations' Web site at: http://www.gensmarts.com.