Time for a Change

I am in the processing of doing something that I never thought I would do — that is porting my genealogy database to a different software package. After using Legacy Family Tree since 2004, I have decided it’s worth the pain to switch to RootsMagic.

Don’t get me wrong — Legacy is a great program. But lately I have been feeling an ever growing disconnect between the features I want in a genealogy program and what Legacy provides. So I decided it was time to take another look at the competition to see if there was a better fit for me.

The first time that I took a close look at the competition was when Legacy V6 was released without the much anticipated “witness” feature which would have provided for shared events. We (the users) were told that the programmers wanted to include it, but it required too much “restructuring.” At that time I looked at RootsMagic as well as other products. My perception was that RM did not support tagging, and that was a Legacy feature that I did not want to give up. After evaluating the competition,  I decided to stick with Legacy and hope shared events would be addressed in the next release.

Fast-forward about 7 years. Legacy is now on Version 7.5. It still doesn’t support shared events, and, as I blogged about before, it also doesn’t support shared source detail (citations). These 2 pet peeves, coupled with some other minor annoyances, caused me to really give RM a good look when I got the email about their Version 6 release. And the more I looked, the more I liked!

The more I looked into RM’s implementation of shared events – or as they call it, shared facts – the more I decided it was a must-have. First and foremost, this feature allows you to create, for example, a single census event/fact and have it attached to all the members of the household. As a software engineer who specialized in database design, I personally feel this implementation is much better than having multiple copies of the event – as Legacy would have you do. (Or my work-around which was to create the census event as a marriage event and basically ignore attaching it to the children.)

Additionally, shared facts allow for the capturing of relationships beyond spousal and parent/child. For example, a baptismal or christening fact can be shared with the godparents and even the officiating clergy. RM did an excellent job implementing shared facts in a very flexible and powerful way, including user-definable roles and sentence structures.

Sadly, RM does not support shared source citations, but shared facts are a step in the right direction.

And what about tagging – the lack of which stopped me from switching to RM all those years ago? I have found that the named groups give me about 80% of the functionality of tagging — and I can live with that. I am also liking the interface now that I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks.

On the other hand, there are certain things that Legacy has that I miss – like hovering the mouse over a child in the family view to see the spouse list and all the shortcut mouse clicks. But all in all, I think (hope) that I’ve made the right choice – for me, for now.

I am now going through the tedious process of cleaning up – changing the christening facts back to baptism, fixing up the place list, changing the census (family) fact to a shared census fact, etc. And then there’s sources.. That can of worms probably deserves a separate post!


9 responses to “Time for a Change

  1. I also went through this agonizing decision process within the last year. I also had been using LFT for several years and found the same problems you did. But I also went through an evaluation of The Master Genealogist to the point of migrating my database and trying it for a few months. I finally chose RootsMagic. Besides having an easy way of sharing of events/facts, RM also has some other advantages over LFT and TMG. One, not widely known, is the capability to hot link directories and files on your computer to individuals and their facts so one can open Explorer in Windows. Not all my data files are nor should they be included as media and etc. in reports, but it is very productive to be able to access them easily for reference. Unfortunately this capability in RM is not as robust as it could be, but it can be made to work. However, one of the most glaring deficiencies in RM at the moment is the inability to generate a name index in the Individual Summary style report. The names are not even marked in the RTF format for you to generate you own index. Hopefully someone will energize the RM magician to get this fixed. Still, all in all, RM is the best.

  2. Thanks for the comment Joe! I will have to check out the hot-linking function. I haven’t looked at the reports in a lot of detail yet, so I haven’t run across the name index problem that you mentioned.

    I had a pretty serious problem where RM linked some of the source detail records incorrectly when it imported the LFT database. Unfortunately I did not catch it right away. I was able to correct the source detail problem by doing an export/import on the LFT side and then importing the new LFT database into RM. Now I’m just trying to make sure the records I added and updated prior to discovering the problem are added to the “good” version of the RM database. I think I am just about there!

  3. Kathy Simkins

    Janis, I just found your site. I an impressed and will recommend it to all of my friends. Congratulations on converting to Roots Magic! I have used every commercial software product out there and RM is the best! (I was the director of our local branch of the LDS Family History Center for over 8.5 years and just gave up my staff position after being “tied” to the Center for over 22 years. Genealogy is my passion and I love to help people.) While working at the FHC I never knew what software someone would be using and if they had questions I wanted to help them. So I have tried them all. The most important thing I can suggest as an RM user is that you need to do 4 things: 1- Sign up for the free monthly e-mail newsletter. That keeps you updated on tips, hints and updated patches.2- Register your product. This gets you the upgrade price when there is a major product update not covered by the patches. 3- Remember what it was like to be 10 years old and explore the program. You can find so many neat features built into the program just by exploring. And nothing is irreversible! I love the color coding feature. I have a great grandmother whose paternal line isn’t so much a branching tree as it is a braid. Her father was a Jones and his mother was a Carpenter. The Jones and Carpenters intertwine back and forth until I realized that I would never be able to keep them straight without the color coding! 4- Go on the Roots Magic Website and find the “Wish List” on the forum page. You can put in your two cents about what features you wish the program had that you can’t find. And they actually listen to your comments. And the forum is great if you have a question you can’t find an answer to. You will LOVE RM! I started my RM experience years ago with the first product that they had called Family Origins. That lead me through all of the companies various incarnations. Their products are always USER FRIENDLY and the programmers actually use the programs themselves.
    (One tip that I would highly recommend: Create a folder in your computer specifically labeled ROOTS MAGIC PHOTOS and put all of your photos and documents into it. That way if you have to change computers you can easily move the folder of photos to the new machine. ( I have had a few crashed computers over the years and this saves tons of time. Especially keeps you from accidently moving or deleting a precious photo. Also having them in a specific folder helps the RM program itself use its find the missing media function that it recently acquired. I love this feature. As long as the media file for a photo or document keeps the same label and is located in the same address the program will do the work of locating the item for you and putting it back in place if it is missing.) ENJOY your new toy! And thank you for your wonderful Blog, website and digi scrapping site.

  4. Kathy Simkins

    Sorry I forgot to mention the free webinars that are also available on the RM site. They can help you if you are a newbie or a seasoned user and genealogist.

  5. Kathy Simkins

    TO DO LISTS are another superb tool that is built into RM. ( I;m going to sleep now. I just don’t want you to miss out on the best parts of the program.) And if you have several sets of possible parents you can put them all into the program and tag them so that you can discover which ones are correct. That way you can do so without losing your notes. And I love the problem ALERTS that they added about 4 months ago.

    • Thanks for your comments, Kathy! I have been using RM for just over a year now and am a very happy user. You have pointed out some great features – some of which I have been using more than others. (The To Do List and the Research Logs are two that I know I should be using more often!) I also have a lot of the inter-twining going on so I will have to play around with the color coding as well.

      I also completely agree with you on the webinars — I watched several before purchasing the paid version. They actually helped to convince me to switch to RM! One of my absolute favorite features is the ability to create and modify source templates. I should probably blog about that – :-))

  6. Hi Janis,
    I am using the very old Generations software, not produced since 2002. I need to convert to a modern program (and OS!). I have it down to Legacy or RootsMagic (or go Mac and use Reunion). I came across your blog post. It has been a couple years now and I wonder if you are still happy with your switch from Legacy to RM? Since the sourcing capability in Generations is very simple, at least how I used it, I don’t currently have any requirements for support of shared source detail (or citations) that seem to be one of your major complaints. For me, the Generations software is just so easy to navigate from person to person, maybe because I have used it for so long. The Legacy interface is very similar and every time I (briefly) try the RM trial I am frustrated by process.

    I would be interested in your take on the two programs, now that you have used RM for a couple of years.

    A second question I have is regarding my biggest conversion task – my notes fields. I am losing all the return characters (windows CrLf) in Gedcom export. The only program I found that would preserve the CRs in my notes is TMG which imported directly from the generations file, no gedcom. But it had other problems. I have found that I can export all of my notes as text. I can get them in a csv (or tab separated) file with the person ID number. Which leads me to a plan of doing the gedcom export/import to Legacy (or RM). Then I can manipulate a text import of the notes and directly insert those into the appropriate table matching up to the record ID. I have experience in db programming, so this is doable for me.

    My question to you is, given your background, did you ever manually edit the Legacy Access or RM SQLite tables directly, and if so, was it straightforward?

    Thank you. I have found your blog quite interesting and helpful.

    • Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for the comments! I am still using RM and am very happy with it, although I do miss some of the short cut key strokes that are part of Legacy. I am still disappointed that neither RM (nor Legacy) support shared citations as that is a feature I could really use. Oddly enough, Family Tree Makers does seem to have that capability. The one feature that RM has that I use extensively is the ability to create user-defined source templates. This allows me to customize what fields are stored in the source versus what fields are part of the citation. So I can still follow the EE standards but store the information in the database in a way that makes sense to me. I should probably write a new blog post to go into this a little further. As to your question about manually editing the Access or SQLite tables directly, the short answer is no. But I used LTools with Legacy (mostly the tool that automatically searched for and added the SSDI source) and have used the free RMtrix tool with RM. I used that to convert shared facts to regular facts on a copy of my database prior to a gedcom export. Worked like a charm!

      • Hi Janis,
        Thank you for taking the time to reply. I will definitely check out those tools as I have not yet decided between RM or legacy.

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