Old Family Portrait

Frequently Asked Questions

General Program Use

The program always starts with the wrong person. How do I change this?

By default, AQ always shows the first person entered (RIN number 1) when a database is opened. You can change this:

  1. Go to the menu bar and select Tools, then Preferences.
  2. At the top of the Preferences screen that appears, select the Database tab.
  3. In the section for Initial RIN on Startup, you have two choices. Choose Last Used to have AQ start up, next time, where you left off last time. Choose Use ... to select a specific person to start with each time.
  4. If you choose the Use ... option, you can either just type in the RIN number of the person if you know it, and if you don't know it, use the Search button to locate the person.
  5. Once you click on OK, the next time you start AQ, this option will take effect.
The program always starts with the wrong database. How do I change this?

AQ remembers the last database that was opened when you exit AQ and re-opens that database the next time you run the program. This is by design, as it is expected that you want to work in the same database the next time that you run the program.

Now, lets say you experience this set of events:

  1. You are in your main database.
  2. You next open another/older database. You realize that this is not a file you want to see.
  3. Instead of closing the undesired file, however, you go back to the File menu and -- at the bottom of the menu -- click on your main database. Its window moves in front (but the other/older database is still open, only it is ‘hiding’ behind your main database) and you continue working in your main database.
  4. Now, when you are done, you close the Ancestral Quest program. Your main database closes.
  5. BUT the other/older database now appears on the screen (because it had been underneath your main database window).
  6. You close AQ.
  7. Next time you run AQ, it opens the undesired other/older database -- because it was the last database in AQ to be closed. Again, this is by design.. but in this case it is a pain.

To avoid the issue, if you ever open a database that you don't want to see/access, choose File then Close, and only that most recently opened file will close. You will then be back to your previous database, or if not (you are at a gray screen), you can reopen your regular database.

I have more than one database on my hard drive and one on my flash memory drive, but I sometimes forget which one I am working in. Is there a quick, easy way to tell which database that I am using in AQ?

Yes. Within the main Views of Ancestral Quest (Family, Pedigree, Name List, Individual, and so on), look at the bottom of the program, in the status bar. Just to the right, you will see the drive letter, sometimes part of the path, and the filename of the current database, with extension.

In this first example, you can see that the database currently being edited is an .aq database file opened from the "c" hard drive.

View of .aq database name in AQ Status Bar

Whereas, in this example, you can see that the database currently being edited is a .paf database file opened from the "e" flash drive.

View of .paf database name in AQ Status Bar

How do I send a report to a friend or relative?

There are five possible methods you can use:

  • The traditional method is to print the report out on your Printer and mail that printed report to the recipient.
  • The best way to send a report electronically is to generate the report as a PDF file that you can send as an e-mail attachment.
    • For Windows: While on the Reports and Charts screen, click on the Printer Setup button and change your printer to a PDF driver. Then, when you click the Print button, AQ will ask for a desired file name and location and create the report as a PDF file.
    • For Mac: Follow the steps outlined on this page of our website: /mac/mac-faqs.htm#mac-pdf-setup.
  • On just a few reports, you can select Text File as the Destination for your report. A simple report in text format can be sent as an e-mail attachment.
  • For Book reports, you can select Rich Text Format (.rtf) [or WordPerfect (.wpd) in some versions of AQ] as the destination. This will create a word processing document that can be sent via e-mail.
  • You could backup your data file and send it to your relative, along with an invitation to download the free AQ Basics app. Your relative can then restore the database to preview and print any of the free reports.
Will Ancestral Quest allow me to enter accented letters and other special characters into the data fields and notes?

Yes. Ancestral Quest records Unicode characters anywhere within the database. Unicode is a method of storing any character in any language. This means that Ancestral Quest is truly International in its ability to store data. If you have family members or distant ancestors that use Cyrillan, Japanese, Chinese, or other characters not found on the traditional English keyboard, you can enter their names the way they should be.

Visit this “Tip” page for the details on adding special characters to the entries within AQ.

How do I spell-check my notes?

When working on the Notes screen, choose the Tools menu and select Spell Check Notes.

If you have a portion of notes highlighted, just that portion will be checked. Otherwise all the notes for this individual or marriage will be checked.

I added a word to the spell check tool by mistake. How do I remove that word?

The word needs to be removed from the dictionary file being used by the spell check tool. Here is the procedure to do this:

  1. Open the Documentation (Notes) window for anyone on your database.
  2. You must have a misspelled word in the notes in order for the spell check utility window to appear; if necessary, type in a misspelled word (such as "helllo") to the notes.
  3. Start the Spell Check utility (either click on Tools > Spell Check Notes or tap the F5 function key on the keyboard).
  4. At the bottom of the Check Spelling window that appears, click the Dictionaries... button.
  5. The Dictionaries window now opens. The list of words added to the dictionary will appear in the upper-left area of this screen.
  6. Click on the word that does not belong here (in other words, it is misspelled here and should not be included in this list of correctly spelled words).
  7. Click the Delete Word button to the right of this list.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7, as necessary, to remove any other words that do not belong in the list.
  9. Click Close to close the Dictionaries window.
  10. Click Cancel to close the Check Spelling window.
  11. If you had typed in a misspelled word to start this procedure (in step 2), delete that misspelled word from the notes.
  12. Close the Documentation window (you do not need to save the changes).
What kind of routine maintenance should I perform on my database(s)?

Nobody wants to lose all the hard work they have put into their family database file(s). In an effort to prevent the loss or corruption of data, the following rountine maintence tasks should be performed on a regular basis.

  • Backup the database file(s)
  • Perform a database check/repair routine

Details on each of these tasks are explained, below.

Backup Your Database

How often? You should backup your databse regularly. Just how often should that be? Well, let's put it this way. In the time since performing your last backup, if you have made additions or changes in your database that you would be heartbroken to lose, it is time to do another backup.

Where to? You can backup your database to the following locations. The pros and cons of each are also listed.

Location Pros Cons Other Notes
Your computer's hard drive Quick, easy, convenient. If you only backup to your computer's hard drive, you run a risk of losing the data if your hard drive crashes. You can backup to the hard drive as a step to then copying the backup file to a flash drive or CD.
An external hard drive Quick, easy, convenient. External hard drives, though usually more reliable than internal hard drives, can lose the data if they crash. A backup to both the internal and external hard drive is a good procedure. If one fails, the other, hopefully, won't.
A flash drive Flash drives are not mechanical or magnetic, so they are typically more relaible. Unlike a hard drive, a flash drive can be lost or stolen. see the FAQ on a potential problem backing up directly to a flash drive
A CD/DVD Cheap, portable Cannot backup directly to a CD -- must backup to another drive first, then use CD burning software to place backup file onto CD
Multiple methods Best, most secure option Takes longer  

Perform a Database Repair Routine

How often? You should run through this repair routine regularly. If you are in your database every day, maybe run it once a week. If you are in your database a few times a week, maybe run the repair routine monthly. If you get into your database occasionally, maybe every 4-6 months, you should run the repair routine.

How? Complete the following procedure, inserting the current date into the file names, as suggested (YYYY-MM-DD):

  1. Backup your database. From the menu bar, choose File then Backup; give the backup file a unique name like “2023-01-01 Before Repair.aqz” -- do not save over a previous backup file.
  2. Next, run the Database Repair tool. From the menu bar, choose Tools, then Database Check/Repair. On the left side of this screen, click the dot next to Check and Repair. Click the Check button on the right. On the next window, click the CheckRepair button, since we have already backed up the database. In the next window, erase the checkfix text and replace it with something like “2023-01-01 Repair 1.rpt.” The database will be repaired, and a repair report will open up. Scroll to the bottom of that report, and take a look at the third paragraph up from the bottom of the report. You should see the number of errors found in your database. Make note of this number, then close the report window.
  3. Now, run step 2 again, as needed. Each time, give the report the next number (2023-01-01 Repair 2.rpt, 2023-01-01 Repair 3.rpt, etc.). If you do this sequence more than once a day, be sure to name the files appropriately so as to not overwrite an earlier report. With each run of the Repair, the number of errors found should go down.
    Once you see a screen stating that there are no errors reported, the database is error-free and you can continue on to step 4.

    Note: Keep track of the number of errors in the repair report. If the number of errors found is ever the same as the previous run, look up through the report to identify a specific error that it says was fixed. Then the next time you run the repair, look at its report and see if you see the same thing. If the same errors are listed as ‘fixed’ in both reports, then the standard Repair may not be resolving the issue. Please send us an e-mail (available on our Contact Us page) and include the last two repair reports as attachments, and we will look at the issue.
  4. Once the database is completely repaired, backup your cleaned database to a new backup file. (From the menu bar, choose File, then Backup; give the backup file a unique name like “2023-01-01 After Repair.aqz” -- do not save over a previous backup file).
  5. At this point, the database should be good to go.
  6. If you have any questions about this procedure, please contact us by way of our Contact Us page on our website.

When should I run Check/Repair vs. the Rebuild Database?

Check/Repair is the primary method for repairing minor problems with the database. But, there are times that Check/Repair is unable to fix a problem.

If you have trouble repairing your database, you should try to restore from a backup that you made prior to the database beconing corrupted. Be aware that, if you are not running a repair routine regularly, you may have to go back in time a ways before you find an uncorrupted backup.

Using the Rebuild Database button at the bottom of the Check/Repair screen should be your third method of fixing a database. This will cause reordering of some record types such as citations tied to events, but it is not as frought with possible issues as a GEDCOM export into a new database.

In summary, the priority of the common methods of recovering a database are:

  1. Check/Repair
  2. Restore from a backup made before the issue occurred
  3. Rebuild the Database
  4. Use Export to transfer your data to a GEDCOM file, then use Import to read it back into a new, blank database. Be aware that this mesthod may alter your RINs and MRINs.. so if you rely on those numbers for identifying your records, this may not be a good resolve for you--hence it being last on the list of recovery options

On the Quick Start Video Tutorial and in the program Help, it explains the ability to change the Christening to a different birth rite by clicking a down arrow button. On my copy of AQ, I do not see that down arrow button. What is happening?

The Christening field can be changed to a different birth rite when editing Ancestral Quest (.aq) database files. This change is not available when using Personal Ancestral File (.paf) database files. This is due to the limitations of the .paf database structure.

See the FAQ on PAF database files for a more detailed explanation of the limitations and advantages of the .paf database file format.

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