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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Research Logs and To-Do Lists

This month at the Special Interest Group Meeting for both Roots Magic and Family Tree Maker the discussion started with Research Logs and To-Do Lists.

The difference between To-Do Lists and Research Logs is that a To-Do list is a simple list of things you need to do. Such as find the birth certificate for your grandfather, write a letter, find an obituary or many other things. A research log on the other hand is a record or log of the research you have done. Research logs can be for an individual, a couple, a location or a repository. These two software packages handle the solution in different ways.

At the RootsMagic group meeting, we first watched a video through the Roots Magic’s website at This video was very informative and even though it was shown using an older version of Roots Magic, you should be able to do everything and probably more with a more current version.
Select List on the Main Toolbar and you will find both the To-Do List and Research Log options. The research logs will let you keep track of the research you have done on a person, family or place. 

Options include Add, Edit, Delete or Print your research log. You will probably not be deleting too many research logs, I could see deleting a log you might have for the wrong person, family or place, or if you accidentally created a duplicate log, otherwise you want to keep your logs. The purpose of a log is to be able to review what you have done to determine what you still need to do.
To find out more about what each field could be used for see .
What I like about the Roots Magic research log is that it is basically “fill in the blanks” and you won’t forget to put some important information or fact into your log. Since the log is really easy to use, there should be no excuse not to use this feature. As with anything, you may need to develop a habit of doing a research log.

Now on to Family Tree Maker, under each person, you will find Notes, you have person notes which are by default public, you have research notes which by default are private and then you have tasks which would be a To-Do list. Now the private and public notes are important to remember when you share your database to or as a Gedcom that it will include public notes but not private notes and facts.

To find out more about how to use research logs within Family Tree Maker please refer to

Anyway, the Research notes field is an open area where you just type. So take a page from Roots Magic and think about some of the fields they give you that you might want to include in your note. Such as today’s date, your research objective or goal, what source you used, what was found or not found and conclusions you came to or new goals you may need to make.

Even though not as dummy proof as Roots Magic, it is still a very useful feature to have. I have decided to create a template of sorts under my record in my database. Most likely I will not have research notes for my information therefore it will be an easy place to find what I want for my notes.

Family Tree Maker has been handling To-Do Lists for quite a while. They call them “tasks”. You can access them through the person view and then view them all from the Plan view. Even though through the Publish feature you can print out your tasks, you will find the print option via the Plan view much more useful. You can filter out your task based on user defined categories. Categories could be surnames, locations, record types, etc… I love being able to create any category I want. Plus you can assign more than one category per task. For example: Perhaps you need to find a death certificate, you can assign it to the category by surname, by the county it is in and that it is a vital record or death certificate. Finally, you can flag them completed when you do the task. I love printing out To-Do Lists by category. If I will be visiting a cemetery and I want photos, I can assign them to the exact cemetery and then print out a To-Do List. I just check them off as I walk around taking my pictures.

I may like Roots Magic Research Log, but I love Family Tree Maker’s Task list more than Roots Magic To-Do List. One nice feature of Roots Magic To-Do list is the ability to transfer the completed item to the research log. If you are on a person and select the To-Do list, you have the option to create a list for a person, or family (person’s parents). If the person is married you could also choose your person and spouse (family) for the list. You are given the ability to select an address or repository for the location.

However, Roots Magic doesn't give me the sort option like Family Tree Maker does. As for addresses, I created general task for my repositories and if it is a county look-up, I make sure I have a task with the county courthouse information. I have addresses for not only courthouses, but cemeteries, and libraries. I always have my Task list of just my repositories and it is the first thing in my research folder that I take with me on all trips. I don’t haul my laptop with me to all my repositories, I will write notes on my Task lists and when I get back to the hotel or my home, then I update my research logs and task list with my notes.

Therefore, my Tasks (To-Do) Lists and Research Logs work closely together. My To-Do lists are Tasks that I need to get done and my Research Logs are the results of said tasks.  So now go out there and start recording all your research, not just the successes through your source citations!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Creating an Tree

This week I had the pleasure to help another society member create her first tree on She was adopted and wanted to do a tree on her biological mother's family, since she doesn't know the name of her father, yet!

Anyway, I don't use Ancestry as my genealogy software inputting program, I have Family Tree Maker and my tree syncs with Ancestry. However, I do not input new people, facts or anything else via Ancestry. My Tree(s) on Ancestry are cousin bait or what I use to show family members via my laptop or iPad when I am visiting with them.

I discovered that even though, I have heard that Trees inputting is very similar to doing it via Family Tree Maker, I sort of agree and disagree. Adding a new person is very similar and very simple but attaching documents and such seem cumbersome.

Because the society member is not computer savvy and I wanted this process to be as easy as possible so that she maintains and grows her tree, I helped her with the first three people.

We decided to make the home person her mother and thus we inputted her name, birth date and place and death date and place. Next we added her father and this is where we were allowed to create a tree name and set up privacy settings. Since she wanted to make her tree totally private, I went back into her tree settings, and verified her Privacy Settings were set as Private Tree and then also checked the box next to "Also prevent your tree from being found in searches". At this time, she is not thinking about cousin bait as much as recording her family history.

I also added her grandmother's name and facts we knew. Next I wanted to know how to add a source and or media file. I clicked on 'add media' and it allowed me to either choose from media that is already in my tree or upload media or even create new media such as write a story, record audio or record video. What I wanted to do was add a record transcription found via that was saved as a PDF. However after I attached it, you can't just see the attachment, it wants you to download it and then open it. Not exactly what we wanted, so we decided to change the record transcription from PDF to a jpeg image file. Now you can see the attachment, but we still didn't know if this is what we really want to do, because some of the images she has came from from the Library Edition, since she doesn't have a paid subscription and I felt that it wasn't proper to attach something saved from a "Paid" Ancestry account to your tree for anyone to see (if her privacy settings get changed to public). Even though I haven't read all the way through all the legal stuff on Ancestry's page, I would think this would not be the proper thing to do.

Next we looked at Facts and Sources and I tried to add a source citation. I looked at all the fields and wondered if my society member would be up to keying in all this information? Again, it seemed cumbersome and to me it is so much easier to create a source in Family Tree Maker so we scraped this idea too.

What we really wanted was for her to be on the Overview of the person's page and be able to see the timeline with all the facts and perhaps a title of where she found the information. She has all the sources either printed out or on her flash drive.

I clicked on her mother's birth fact to see what would come up. The fields are Date, Location and Description. I wondered what they meant by description but thought this would be a great place to put the title of her source. For example, we found her birth date as part of her Find a Grave Memorial therefore, the description became Find A Grave Memorial # 99999999, where the 9's are the actual memorial number. If the fact was found via the US Social Security Index on she would put in the title of the source as found via their Card Catalog such as US Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 ~ This will enable her to find the documentation again if needed.

Here is an example of what it looked like, I modified one of my entries to show you.
As you can see, my sources added through FTM are view-able when you click on the down arrow next to Sources. It might not be the best solution, but at least it is a start for her to record sources for each fact. If she has multiple sources, she could just add another line in the description for the next source. Since this tree is totally private, it is basically for her to view the lineage and the sources she has used. 

I know this is not totally the proper way to do your genealogy, but I didn't want to discourage her and with her advance age, I wanted her to discover this family that she has never known about and get excited about doing it. Also, as she gets more familiar with inputting facts and such, she can always decided to do sources in more detail. So I guess my objective with this training lesson was to get a system she could easily follow and do. Not bog her down with so much learning that she would give up and quit.