[I am working my way backwards through Amy Coffin’s 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy prompts because I wasn’t paying attention at the beginning of the year. This is week #26…Genealogy Software.]
When I first started working on my family tree, I bought a DOS bases software program called “The Leading Edge”. I love it. It was easy to navigate around and the input screens were easy to interact with.
Eventually, DOS became a dinosaur and everyone was using Windows. I needed to find genealogy software that kept up with the these changes. At first, I tried Family Tree Maker. I was never a fan. I found myself getting lost in the tabs. The input screens were clunky, too. It didn’t do what I wanted it to do.
I tried PAF, Brother’s Keeper, and finally settled on Family Origins. Family Origins was a big improvement over the other programs that I tried. I used it for several years.
But, with all things technological, Family Origins went the way of dinosaurs, too. Eventually, I wanted new software so I could play with the features everyone else was talking about. But, which one should I choose.
After much consternation, I setting on RootsMagic. Cost was definitely a factor. But, what I liked was it was very similar to Family Origins.
Currently, I have Rootsmagic 5. What do I like about it?
1. The way it works with custom fields. I have worked with software that doesn’t handle custom fields very well. RootsMagic lets me add whatever I want. The field show up on my family group sheets. Also, RootsMagic imported my Family Original custom fields perfectly. I had problems with that with other genealogy software.
2. The input screens are easy to work with. One of things I didn’t like about Family Origins was that tabbing didn’t always get you where you wanted to be. Then you had to hit ctrl keys to get to the input screen for a field. RootsMagic is easy to navigate and the input screen is right next to the field.
3. The layout of the reports is very nice. I like the way the family group sheets and pedigree charts print out. It’s very easy to save charts to email to people, too.
4. Color coding of certain people makes working with certain screens and charts easier. I didn’t think that I would use this feature, but it has come in handy at times.
5. Timeline view is a nice way to see what you know about a person at a glance.
I have to admit that even though I’ve had this for a year I haven’t tried everything. What’s great about RootsMagic is the helpful community surrounding it. Also, it seems that all I need to do is a google search and I’ll find a tutorial that will show me how to do what I need.
What would I change?
1. I really miss one chart that I was able to print in FamilyOrigins. If it’s available on RootsMagic I haven’t found it. This was a descendants chart that could be printed long ways across several sheets of paper. I had (emphasis on “had”) copies for each of my grandparents. I loved this chart because I could see the whole family and the descendants in more of a pedigree chart style view. It’s much easier to absorb than the multiple sheet descendant’s list.
2. Entering sources is complicated. I realized that many people feel the necessity for all these different fields. I learned how to write sources by hand. When I try to take the format I was taught and apply it to the source input screens, it just doesn’t work. Every time I input a source I have to think about what each little box means–and that does not work for me. I have to be able to visualize where exactly the information I input will appear on source reports and I don’t feel like I can do that. If I have to over think it, I’m probably not going to do it at all. In the end, it makes me a lazy sourcer. I end up using the field inefficiently because they don’t make sense to me. (This is a problem with just RootsMagic, but to many different genealogy software programs I have used.) I think it says more about me than it does RootsMagic. I’m sure that when I finally figure it out, the software will be upgraded, the field names will change, and I will have to start all over again. (I have blogged about this before so I’m sure my readers are tired of my soap box.)
Outside of those two improvements, I really like RootsMagic. It’s affordable, it’s easy to navigate, and it has powerful features. It works for me!
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com