Wednesday, December 30, 2015

You want me to Get Organized? I'm Doing It!

When Dear Myrtle introduced this I thought she was talking just to me. However, I have come to realize that many of us have this same problem. See her blog at for more information.

Over the years I have developed better habits, however I still have that large stack of papers under my desk that I have been slowly (very slowly) going through. Many years ago, I went from a Binder file system to a folder file system. In my new folder file system I decided that nothing was going into that folder unless I entered it into my Genealogy Software program and created a source citation to match. I was really bad at sourcing where I found information. Later I decided that I needed to scan some of these documents (vital record copies and such) and I created an electronic file system too. Many of the items that I find via the internet, I have created an electronic copy of it and also file in on my computer.

My electronic file system and my folder file system don’t match. My Folder file system is by couple while my electronic file system is by record type. For me this works, because I have already accepted that my brain works different than most people.

I am hoping by joining the Finally Get Organized group that I will make time each week to address my disorganized mess of papers. I tried doing this myself several years back, and I was really good for about a couple of months, however, I get easily side tracked and it fell by the wayside.
My goals are to finally get rid of the pile of papers under my desk. To make sure that all my electronic file copies are recorded and file in the same manner. I have found that my naming conventions have changed over the years and I need to make sure I develop a standard and keep to it. Plus I need to make sure that my Genealogy Software is also organized and that my place names are standardized, that my source citations are standardized. Finally, I would love to have every source citation tied to a media record. In the beginning, I wasn’t doing that, I could easily find my image in my electronic file system but I have recently seen the advantages of having it tied directly inside my genealogy software program.

Dear Myrtle has already assigned some homework. So I can say my computer desk is clear and ready. We won’t talk about the mess under the desk. However, my holiday decorations are still up until at least the 1st of the year. So I won’t be resting too much on the 1st and 2nd, since these are the days I start taking everything down. With all this said, I look very much to Finally Get Organized! 2016 Weekly Checklists. Bring it On!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My first attempt to export FTM to RootsMagic

I decided I needed to test a small control file and see what actually happens when I export my Family Tree Maker (FTM) file to RootsMagic 7. I created a database of 8 individuals, the main person, their spouse, their parents and grandparents. I then put in birth and marriage dates for the main person and their spouse and birth, marriage and death information for the parents and grandparents. I also attached a primary picture to each person. I proceeded to create notes for all kinds of fields, name, sex, birth, marriage and death facts. I also create several source citations, some were linked to multiple facts and others were created for one individual fact. Finally I attached media to a couple of the individual facts.

I linked a common fact to all the names in my file, and even though RootsMagic shows that source is linked to the name facts, it doesn’t show up on the person profile as follows:

 I then decided to attach a single source to the name along with the link sources and still no source is appearing, strange.  Also, I have lost my citation text that I typed in FTM, see my example below:

 Another thing I saw was that my description notes from FTM were placed in the Person Details note for the fact and I lost the fact notes as shown below from FTM.

However, my person notes, even though I flagged as private on FTM were imported into the Person Details note for that person. When I created the export GEDCOM, I made sure to include private notes.

My media files seemed to transfer over okay. I must note that I did not attach any media to source citations but only to facts. 

So far, I am to say the least, a little disappointed, because that would mean a lot of my information would be missing. Ouch! I guess I keep using FTM.  Hopefully, I am doing something wrong, or perhaps there is never a program that will 100 percent transfer all the data from one genealogy program to another. Back to the drawing board.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Uploading GEDCOMs to share online

Since Ancestry is now embracing Stage 4 of the Revolution of Genealogy (see my blog post from Dec 10, 2015), and the treesync option will be phased out by January 1, 2017, many of us will have to go back to uploading our GEDCOMs since many may still want to use their Genealogy Software packages as their “main” computer program.

What do I mean by “main” computer program or “main” web base program? This is the program that you do all your inputting, changes or deletions first. If it is a computer program, this is where you export your GEDCOM from to be shared on other sites or with other people. Or if you only have a web based tree(s), this website is where you export your GEDCOM from to backed up onto your computer or shared to other sites and people.

When beginners start, I usually recommend that they start with a web based genealogy program for recording their family histories. Basically, I want them to get a feel for doing genealogy without having to invest money for something they might not continue with. However, as they get more and more people into their trees, I recommend that they purchase a Genealogy Software package because they are much more robust. Packages installed on our computers currently can do so much more than the web based packages. This is based on today’s experience.

Therefore when you decide to select a web based genealogy program for your tree, make sure you can download it to your computer. Whether or not your plan to move to a genealogy software package or not, you will want a copy (backup) of this tree on your computer. What if that web based company shuts down? Do you want to start over? Of course not, so being able to download your tree and data (regularly) is important. Second, is this tree just yours? What I mean by this, is this tree maintained only by you or is it a shared tree? Shared trees are nice, but do you want someone to delete your ancestor? Therefore, your “main” tree should be a tree that is maintained only by you, that changes, additions and deletions are only done by you. This doesn’t mean you cannot also work on shared trees, by all means do. The data you will be inputting into a shared tree should come from your “main” tree.

I just covered some guidelines or my suggestions for those people who only want to do their genealogy with a web base program.  To recap: 1) be able to download a GEDCOM of your tree 2) that the tree is not a shared tree, but a tree maintained only by you. Next, I suggest that you save your GEDCOM not only on your computer but you could save it in a “cloud” based program such as Dropbox. This is especially important if you don’t even own a computer. You might want to also upload it to multiple web based sites after saving it. This way you have backups in multiple places or sites.

Now let us talk about uploading your GEDCOM to the internet. Whether you want to make your tree public or private is up to you. On Ancestry, they have three privacy setting options, public – allows other users (paid subscribers) to view all content in your tree except information about living individuals and private notes. Private has two settings – one setting limits information about the deceased individuals in your tree but will still appear in search results OR the other setting prevents your tree from being found in searches and it completely keeps it private and hidden from everyone.
No matter what setting you choose, you can give individual access to your tree through Sharing. You would assign a role to each person you are giving access. A Guest Role can view your tree and leave comments, a contributor can view, leave comments and add stories and photos and finally an Editor can also add and edit people plus see information of living people.  You can allow a guest or contributor to see living people by clicking the box next to their roll. Any person can be removed or re-invited at any time.

Guidelines for uploading a GEDCOM to share online from a computer genealogy program.

If you already have a GEDCOM on the site for this same tree, such as a previous version of the tree, remove that tree first. Why? Because it is becomes very confusing for the people who match your tree. If I match someone from your tree, I want to see your most current information, not the three previous versions of your tree.  Now I know that deleting stuff can be scary. But let’s review for a minute. You have created a GEDCOM from your “main” computer program. When I create a GEDCOM I put the date that I create the GEDCOM into the file name. For example if my file is called “My Ancestry”, when I create my GEDCOM I will save it as My Ancestry 10 Dec 2015.ged. Now I can clearly see that this GEDCOM was created on Dec 10, 2015. Plus because I gave it an unique name, it won’t write over previous GEDCOM’s I created on my computer. If I save these files into a folder on my computer labeled “GEDCOM”, I should see all the previous versions of the file as different GEDCOMs on my computer. I don’t need duplicate copies on the internet too! Note: deleting your tree on will also delete anyone you allowed to share your tree. So you may want to note who they were and what permissions you gave them. You might want to share the new version of the tree with them after you are done uploading it.

Okay, so now you deleted your tree from the online website. You will need to create or import your GEDCOM to create a new tree. Based on using, this option will give your tree the same name as the GEDCOM. You might want to do this, because in the file name, you clearly can see when it was last updated.  However you can give this tree any name you wish. In Ancestry, there is even a tree Description so if you don’t have the date in the tree name, you may want to put the date the file was created in the description so that you can clearly remember the last time you created or uploaded this tree.

Finally and most importantly, if you have a computer based genealogy program that you use as your "main" tree, don’t make changes to your tree using the Ancestry online program. Because those changes will not show up on your computer based genealogy program unless you manually make the changes there too.

Remember, your “main” computer program or “main” tree is the only place you want to do all your additions, changes or deletions. So even if you do your genealogy only on the web, do it only in the same web program. If Ancestry is main web based tree, and you also upload your tree to MyHeritage, don’t do any changes to your tree using the MyHeritage website.

Now this doesn't mean you can have multiple trees. For example: I have a my ancestry, my husband's ancestry and my half-siblings ancestry. Some people might have one tree for all these people, I have three trees. Anyway, when I imply "main" it could apply to any of these three trees.

Thank you.          

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Evolution of Genealogy

Ancestry retired FTM; Now What?

First I want to thank Pat Richley-Erickson and Russ Worthington from Wacky Wednesday with Dear Myrtle for settling me down. I wasn’t on the edge but I was upset and throwing a temper tantrum. Yesterday’s blog that I did along with Wacky Wednesday helped me get this out of my system. 

I realized what I really was upset about was the fact I felt as if I am taking a step backwards. Since I am one of many who have Family Tree Maker (FTM) as my main genealogy program and used treesync to keep my Ancestry tree(s) current, having to go “back” to uploading a GEDCOM (starting January 1, 2017) is a step back for me. I feel that in this day and age, we should be moving forward. I just have to accept the things I can’t change!

So I started thinking about the Evolution of Genealogy. To me, genealogy has moved through stages.  Even though we might start a new stage in genealogy, we never completely move away from previous stages. Let me explain how I see the stages of Genealogy.

Stage 1 was oral histories. In the beginning, people past down their family histories by telling the next generation about previous generations. This has been going on forever.

Stage 2 is the written histories. As people developed the alphabetic to go with our spoken language, some found that recording these histories was much more appealing than having to remember all the stories. Writing these recorded histories came in many forms, whether carved in stone, metal or wood. Then as paper was developed, these histories were written down on paper. Later, people did use typewriters and even computers to record their family histories, but basically stage 2 is using forms or charts for recording their information.
Once stage 2 started, stage 1 didn’t stop. These two stages have been occurring together for many years and in fact are still being used today.

Stage 3 is the computer genealogy software program. As personal computers started to be developed, people found recording these histories was much more appealing and easier than using pen/pencil and paper.  As genealogy software programs were developed some people found that organizing their family histories were easier than filling in forms or charts. That they could just click on a person and find all the relationships, facts, sources and such that were tied to that person. Not everyone embraced this stage.  In fact there are people who are still doing their genealogy as stage 2 and that is okay. Even though GEDCOM technology was introduced and people could upload those files to the Internet, at this stage, those files are static (not changing). People could view their histories, but changes occurred at the genealogy software program level only.

Stage 4 is the cloud or web based genealogy. As the internet started to be developed, people found there was no need to purchase or install genealogy software on their computers. Some didn’t even need to own a computer since web based genealogy can be done on tablets and smartphones. They found they not only could access their histories from anywhere or from any device they own but they could make changes on the fly. This is the stage that Ancestry has decided to embrace.

As you can see from these stages, they can occur at the same time. What stage each family historian or genealogist embraces is up to them. 

In a future blog I am going to cover what I consider are guidelines people need to follow when uploading their Gedcom’s to sites such as Too many times, people upload the latest and greatest without removing previous versions of that same tree. Plus I will cover some guidelines that these Stage 4 genealogists might want to consider.

Thank you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker

Yesterday, like many of you have received the shocking news that Ancestry is retiring the Family Tree Maker Software program. For the few who haven’t seen the news here is the link to the blog page;

Most of the posts on that blog page are just as upset as me; however a few people don’t understand why we are so upset. So I am going to try to explain what I am feeling. Image your spouse saying out of the blue “I want a divorce”. It’s like what? Am I hearing this correct? I didn’t think there was any problem, why are you leaving me. Okay, you are correct a spouse saying out of the blue they want a divorce is worst, but you understand how it takes you by surprise.

So let me backtrack and tell you a little about my genealogy history. In junior high (middle school) I was introduced to a genealogy assignment and it was very interesting and sparked my curiosity. I graduated in 1981 and then personal computers started hitting the market. By 1986, I knew nothing about computers and decided to go back to school and get my computer degree, in spite of having two small children at home.  I purchased my first computer in 1987. When taking a BASIC programming computer class, I started thinking how computers would make doing my genealogy so much easier. I hated my handwriting and having to record the piece of information on so many forms seemed redundant to me.  Mind you, I totally understand why I had to record that information so many times, but each time I record something was another chance for me to record it incorrectly. So my search started for the ideal genealogy software package.

Windows hadn’t quite come on the scene yet and the first program I used was not very user friendly. I didn’t know anything about GEDCOM’s and not even sure if it was around quite yet. Anyway, when I decided that first program was not going to hack it, I found out I could not export the information into a new program. I had to start over with my 300 plus names.

I had seen Family Tree Maker was starting to make an appearance. It was a very costly program, and I wanted to be absolutely sure this was something I really wanted. I remembering biting the bullet and purchasing the software package and I can’t even remember what version but I remember using version 3 at some point.

About this time, the internet was starting to come on the scene. I still wasn’t sure if FTM was what I really wanted and some other programs allowed you to download evaluation versions of the software however I kept with FTM. As my skills increased, so did FTM capabilities. I don’t remember if FTM allowed you to record your sources in those early versions but I started realizing I needed to record my sources around 1997. However, copying the same source was not an easy task. I end up using notepad to save the detail I wanted in my source and then copying and pasting the parts of the citation into where I thought they should go. Then came my dream function, being able to copy the same source over and over again. I was in heaven.

About this time I had exhausted all my free options for getting leads from the internet and decided to join I saw I could import my tree to Ancestry and it would be there as “cousin bait”. However, I found that I wasn’t on top of keeping my tree current on Ancestry and then came another dream function, treesync. It was like FTM read my mind and knew exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want to update my tree on Ancestry’s side but on FTM’s side and with a press of a button, my tree changes went to Ancestry. Now my “cousin bait” was up to date. Before, I updated my tree once or twice a year (if I remembered). Now FTM told me when I needed to update. The programmer side of me loved the treesync logs that showed me all the changes I made to my tree. Now when a cousin asked if I made any new finds, I could quickly review my logs and answer the question.

But the real strength lies deep inside of the FTM software. I can do so much more with FTM than what was being offered by Ancestry Trees. If I want to run a report that shows me all the people buried in one town, I can run that report. If I want to create a custom field called FindAGrave and record the memorial number in that field I can do that too. If I want to run a report for all the people buried in that town that doesn’t have a FindAGrave memorial, I can do that too. From that report I can create a to-do-list that states to visit those cemeteries and take pictures and create FindAGrave memorials. Or as I am recording my citations, if I find I am missing a source, I can create a to-do-list item to get that source. I do this often for vital records, I create a to-do-list item for that person and write a little note such as “Obtain death certificate” and then tag the to-do-list item and place it into a category titled “whatever the county is”. I also create a to-do-list item with the county courthouse information, location, phone number, hours of operation, address and place it into the same county category. Now I run a to-do-list for that category and quickly have a list of vital records I need to look up at that county courthouse. When I get enough on that list, I make a road trip. Why? Because everything is not on-line.

So does Ancestry Tree offer all these options? To be honest I don’t know because I find moving around my tree on Ancestry is slow and cumbersome. Moving around my tree on FTM is quick and easy. 

If Ancestry is retiring FTM, how long before they change other things? When I first started on Ancestry, one could and still can create a tree for free. Will they still allow this in the future? In the past, with a free “guest” account you could look at other public trees, but not anymore. You must have a paid subscription to see public trees. Do you know that Ancestry never announced that changed. I thought if I made my tree public, then anyone could see it. NOPE, only those paid subscribers can see my tree. So much for “cousin bait”. I know a lot of people who aren’t as dedicated to genealogy or research as I am who only have a tree on Ancestry as a free “guest” account. They don’t understand my shock at the news of FTM being retired. But then again, they don’t totally understand how to do exhaustive genealogy research. They think if they don’t find it on-line then the record doesn’t exist.

I do know that even though Ancestry is retiring FTM and after 2017 our tree sync function will no longer work, but perhaps I will retire all my Trees on Ancestry by that time too. Why should Ancestry benefit financially from my tree by advertising how many trees are on their site that is part of their paid subscription? Yes, I know I might be punishing myself, but if my tree is going to be out of date, because now I have to go back and import my tree regularly, why bother.
I also know that since FTM is on my computer, I can keep using it. However, I am going to start exploring other options because I don’t want all my eggs in one basket.