Category Archives: Technology

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!

Legacy Family Tree Mapping – Can Anybody Help?

Okay, I’ll admit it. When Millennia, makers of Legacy Family Tree, first introduced mapping I looked at it, but for a variety of reasons never used it much. So when I got a new computer about six months ago and noticed that the Legacy mapping component wasn’t working, it wasn’t high on my priority list to troubleshoot. BUT (there’s always a but, right?) after seeing some of the RootsTech videos I started to re-think mapping and its usefulness.

One of the things that upped the usefulness of mapping (for me, anyway) is that I’ve changed how I input locations to be more specific. For example, I now include things like church names and cemetery names directly in the location as opposed to the address field. (Address are not displayed in the family view, and I wanted to be able to see this information without a bunch of extra clicks.) I even got rid of displaying the burial date so it would be easier to see the cemetery name as well as it’s location. Check out the screen shot below.

Back to the mapping issue. I’m running Legacy on a Windows 7 (64bit) HP laptop with 6 gig of RAM. I have installed IE9 (and Silverlight), but mostly use Chrome. The mapping feature actually did work last night after installing the latest version of Legacy. But upon booting up this morning (which included a windows update install) I am back to getting a blank panel where the map should display, but no error codes or messages. (See screen shot)

I still have the old computer (with a six-month old version of Legacy) and decided to see if mapping works on that. It’s running XP and also has IE9 installed but not as the primary browser. It has less memory and disk space and more installed programs, but mapping works?!  Google searches have yielded no solutions. Legacy support has no further ideas since the re-install fix was not permanent. Anybody have any ideas? I would love to get this resolved!

UPDATE: I am very happy to report that the suggestion by jupiterthreeEd Thompson, which was to run Legacy as administrator, has fixed the problem!

Recording both Historical and Current Locations

There has been a lot of traffic on the Legacy Family Tree Users Group email list (aka the LUG) regarding recording historical vs.current locations for a given event. As several people have pointed out, genealogical best practice is to store the location as it was at the time of the event. But others have valid points when they state that this makes for confusion when reports are generated for non-genealogist family members, hinders mapping and makes for a “messed up” master location list. (If there are multiple entries that point to the same geo-location, is it really a “master” list? Guess it depends on your definition.)

To be honest, in my own Legacy database I’ve been a little wishy-washy and inconsistent with this. Wanting to do the “right” thing, I have in some cases recorded the historical location. Other times, I have just gone ahead and put in the current location, particularly when the source I’m using records the “current” location. (Like a book of records for a church in what is now Montgomery Co, Pennsylvania but was previously Philadelphia Co., in which case some of the earliest data recorded in the record book happened in the Philadelphia Co. time period)  I also have to admit that, although I have intermingled current and historical locations in the master location list, it really bothers me to do so. Why? Well there is no clear and highly visible way to distinguish historical from current. Nor is there a way to link historical to current other than adding a note – and that isn’t readily visible.

It seems to me a more logical implementation would be to allow both a current and historical location to be added to an event – and also to distinguish between historical and current locations. After all, an Historical Location is really a specialization of a Location. It has all the attributes of a Location, with the additional attributes of a date range and a pointer to the current. Of course, if Mellinnia Corp. (makers of Legacy Family Tree) were to provide something like this in the future, a user would have to go back and identify the historical locations already entered into the master list, add the relevant dates and identify the associated current location. Once that task was completed by the user, Millennia could probably provide an automated utility to go back and determine if the originally entered location was historical and if so find the associated current and make the appropriate updates in the event data record. Going forward, entering the current and historical locations (if necessary) would be up to the user.

Just tossing this out to maybe get some people thinking. It really does seem like a problem that could use a solution!

RootsTech observations from a Home Viewer

It seems that the whole genealogy community is buzzing about the recent RootsTech conference – and with good reason! I was one of the unfortunate many who could not attend the conference live, but was able to catch a bit of the excitement by watching several of the presentations that were streamed live on the internet. So here goes with some general observations.

Cloud computing was a huge topic in the sessions that I saw online. This included using the cloud for backups, synchronization, collaboration and storage of family trees. I’ve always been a little distrustful of “the cloud,” but I was convinced to take a few more steps in that direction – or at least check it out in more detail. As an example, I know that a lot of people use dropbox for their genealogy data, but I’ve been hesitant. Hearing all the conference talk, however, prompted me to do a google search which showed a product called SecretSync that encrypts files prior to uploading to dropbox. This gets around some of the concerns people are expressing with the dropbox privacy policy. It probably isn’t necessary to SecretSync every file before adding it to drop box, but I will probably do this for any information I consider personal or sensitive. On the other hand, I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about Geni. I still plan to keep my primary genealogy database on my PC and upload a subset to the various tree sites.

In viewing the presentations, I also realized that I’m under-utilizing some important resources – especially maps. LegacyFamilyTree has built-in mapping based on Bing. But I have been unable to get it to work on my relatively new Windows 7 computer. The LegacyFamilyTree website says that their mapping requires IE7. I don’t use IE, but have version 8 installed on my computer. I am reluctant to go back to version 7. After seeing some of the RootsTech presentations, I’m going to look into using GoogleEarth tours and possibly some basic mapping with GoogleMaps. It won’t be integrated with Legacy, but I guess you can’t have everything. :(

While I enjoyed each and every presentation that I saw, the topic that got me most excited was the Google presentation segment on Historical-data.org. In a nutshell, this is a way to add semantic information to a web page in order for the search engines to better assess it’s relevance to a “genealogy search.” I even went so far as to start to update one of my obituary web pages by defining my ancestor Augustus Bechtel as an HistoricalPerson. I did this after the Historical-data.org schema definitions were touched upon in the Day 1 keynote address. I wasn’t sure how to define the HistoricalDates and felt vindicated when watching the Google presentation on Day 2, when the speaker said even the large companies they were working with struggled with this. They  (Google, et al) are promising to add examples to the Historical-data.org blog, and you can just bet that I am now subscribed and waiting for that post! I even put in a product enhancement suggestion for LegacyFamilyTree to add this to the webpages that Legacy generates. (Crossing fingers that they at least consider.)

That’s about it for now. As I try out some of the software and concepts, I may post follow-ups!