Saturday, February 12, 2011
How I use RootsMagic
A response to a post from Clue Wagon about genealogy software. She asked the question of how you use the software. I work with software everyday and I have had to use some really bad software so I tend to be a bit opinionated in this area. With the genealogy software, I had tried several of the free options with limited success of documenting my process. I found limitations that frustrated me. I played around with the free version of RootsMagic for awhile and decided I liked it enough to purchase a license. I also purchased Family Tree Maker and while it has a beautiful interface it seem lacking in the area that has become most important to me, citations. This is what I like best about RootsMagic. The problem with most software is they try to do everything for everyone who uses the software. You just can't please everyone and if you have software that has everything including the kitchen sink it tends to buggy hence frustrating. This leads me to how I use the software. I don't use the search feature that is built into the software. I don't like that web pages are framed within the software. In my mind this breaks the web as it was intended to be used and seems clunky within the software. I am a multi-tasker with my RootsMagic open and several browser tabs opened with some of my favorite databases cross checking information about the person I am researching. My number one problem is that I started with one database and it now also contains all of the family lines I am researching. In some ways this is good because I don't have to skip around to different databases but it also is overwhelming in terms of organizing who belongs to each line. For this I make use of the color-coding feature in RootsMagic. I have tried to separate the lines but find myself always coming back to the main database. The problem I keep running into is there is a set of people (namely the people closest in relationship to me) in my database who should be in each of the separate databases. I really don't want to maintain separate information on these people because they are the people in the database that will change the most often as time goes on. I did create a separate database for for my Grandfather DeKay's family. His family had been heavily researched by other members of this family and my grandmother had the book "The DeKay Family in America". I was having a difficult time understanding the lineage from the book so I created a database based on that book so I could understand how everyone fit into the family. Now only did that help me in my research but found this most helpful when searching for a person in this database and the search results displayed several George DeKays for example. I could determine which George DeKay belong to the census record by ruling out all the other Georges in the database. With all my other lines it isn't that easy. Unfortunately when I first started getting serious about researching I tended to be name collector and now I am all about citing all my sources so I can better determine the relationships of the people in my database. I probably still have some bad information in my database but I am slowing making sure everyone in the database is documented. Recently I started a tree on Ancestry but I grew frustrated with the process. It is great when searching as the people in the tree pop-up so I don't have to retype their info but I also now understand better why there is so many junk trees out there! While Ancestry is trying to be helpful, it is too easy to link wrong information or accept incorrect information that Ancestry suggests. Sometimes easy isn't the best. I think the biggest problem with genealogy software is how to display information and this tends to be a tough problem to solve. I could go on and on but that is my process for now. I sure it will change over time and has the software improves.