Should we be allowing specific support questions for specific software or online genealogy sites?

It seems to me that we should and we can keep things straight with tagging.


I'm going to take Justin's list and add a 4th:

1) General software support - How do I install my genealogy software? My datafile is corrupt, how can I recover? How should I backup my datafile?

2) Specific genealogy questions - How do I add a source? How do I add an event? Can I export just a branch from my tree?

3) Website usage questions - How do I reset my Ancetry.com password?

4) Shopping/List questions - Do you know of any genealogy software that does X?

`#1 and #3 I'd say would best be served by the folks at Super User, but I wouldn't necessarily suggest kicking people out the door right away. For now, I suggest judging these on a case by case basis. If the people here can't help, then directing them elsewhere isn't a bad idea.

When evaluating whether or not a question should be on-topic or off-topic, I urge everyone to reference the following quote from one of our community managers in Respect the community – your own, and others’:

Be a bit jealous of your site – don’t blithely turn askers away simply because their question could be asked somewhere else. Don’t hit them over the head with your scope, help them tailor their question to fit into it – and if that means your site’s scope overlaps a bit with another site’s, so be it.

For #2, I'd say if it applies to the field of genealogy or researching family histories, then those questions should be more than welcome here.

I'd suggest being extremely wary of questions under #4. They definitely shouldn't be part of the private beta, and in most cases they really shouldn't be part of a public beta or graduated site. Questions asking for lists of software tend to attract a lot of spam. Also, they're really not all that helpful in most cases. It's hard to tell whose link is the best. :)

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    I really like your suggestion of being lenient with support issues. – user47 Oct 10 '12 at 4:00
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    I agree with all this adds. As a side note, #4 is basically not permitted on any SE site that I know of. – Justin808 Oct 10 '12 at 4:21
  • we should update the faq question of 'what should/n't ask' be updated to reflect – Duncan Oct 18 '12 at 11:28

Most genealogy societies have special interest groups (SIGS) devoted to specific genealogy software or computer types (like a Mac group, for instance). These are consistently formed because this is what the community needs and wants... so asking questions about genealogy software is a common occurrence and likely welcome within the community.

Also, because the average age of genealogy enthusiasts tends to skew high, there are many users who have not grown up with computers that have A LOT of questions - some basic and some not. The community, as a whole, accepts this and it has bread an encouraging and patient attitude towards coaching others through computer & software issues.

Also, with the higher age, getting users to trust this site may be a feat in itself, but punting them somewhere else after they ask a question may cause them to panic and give up the site altogether.

I agree that the community will perceive greater value by keeping the questions here and separating them through tagging. Tags for specific software is also likely to encourage tag subscription, which may turn out to be very similar to a SIG.


Some of the expert genealogists here are software developers for genealogy software.

I'm not going to give an opinion, but do you want these expert programmer-genealogists to come here and be part of this Q&A? Most will probably do so if there are questions about their software for them to answer. But is that good or bad?

Should this site be another place for Q&A's about how to do something in a particular genealogy software program? Do we want to provide what a user forum for a software program might do?

What about programs that don't have user forums. Where do those users go?

Tricky question. I don't know.

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    Great questions. At this stage, my vote is to wait for some examples. If we can edit them or tailor them to Genealogy SE, then that would be the most ideal solution. It's been said before that some overlap with other sites isn't necessarily a bad thing. :) – jmort253 Oct 10 '12 at 3:58
  • My two cents is would want them here as long as long as the forum doesn't become their default support forum a purely advertising channel where they give generic answers like "my software can do that" and / or make a plug for their software in every post. I also think do to the SE nature that we would encourage emerging developers or academics trying to write genealogy related software, calculation, etc even if StackOverflow, SuperUser, CrossValidated may be a better place. – CRSouser Jun 10 '15 at 10:43

I would split this into three categories.

1) General software support - How do I install my genealogy software? My datafile is corrupt, how can I recover? How should I backup my datafile?

2) Specific genealogy questions - How do I add a source? How do I add an event? Can I export just a branch from my tree?

3) Website usage questions - How do I reset my Ancetry.com password?

Type (1) should be migrated to Superuser. Type (2) we should either handle here, close as off topic, or migrate to super user. Type (3) we should close as off topic.

For (2) I recommend that we handle them here. Creating a tag for each application that comes up isn't out of the question, though Software could be a generic tag for them all.

  • Why super user? Do we really think folks there will have the expert knowledge? (It is at least my casual observation that there is little "common" about genealogy software backup.) – GeneJ Oct 10 '12 at 2:40
  • About your no. 3, the term "website usage" might be a little broad since there are several cloud based systems for family trees. – GeneJ Oct 10 '12 at 2:42
  • @GeneJ SuperUser has been established as the SE site for personal computer support. – user47 Oct 10 '12 at 3:45
  • @JustinY You make a good point. Is SuperUser mostly PC/Windows users? Oops. I should go look that up myself! – GeneJ Oct 10 '12 at 3:59
  • @JustinY and others - I wrote a follow up to this post here. In summary, I wouldn't suggest kicking a question off the site just because it might be on topic elsewhere. :) – jmort253 Oct 10 '12 at 4:00

I added a second answer, as my first didn't really address the issue of how to tag these questions:


If you think about it, every question is a sort of support question. Some might not be about software, but a question could be about support for a technique or a process. Therefore, it would seem odd to tag software support questions but not support for processes.

If we look at many other sites, the tags tend to describe what the question is about. For instance, the "Geni" tag might tell me the question is about the http://geni.com family tree website, and "journaling" may tell me the question is about keeping family journals. Tagging software questions as "support" or "general-software-genealogy-usage" may get a bit overwhelming and confusing.

For instance, on Stack Overflow, there is a tag for Java, C, C++, and all of the other various languages. Following this approach, it seems like "Geni", "Ancestry.com", etc may be better tags. Thoughts?

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    I agree with the named tags, Ancestry.com has already been created. – Justin808 Oct 10 '12 at 4:21
  • @jmort253 Agreed, see my answer re: SIGS. – Canadian Girl Scout Oct 10 '12 at 4:39

I think there is a significant hybrid category arising from jmort253 extension to Justin's list. It spans #2 (how do I ...) and #4 (what does ...).

I embellished an existing answer to How should I record sex change/gender reassignment? as though the question were framed as "Software package X does function M, (how) can I do that with package Y?"

I added a comment indicating that I thought this was slippery slope.

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