Genealogy Do-Over, part 1

Apparently it takes a global pandemic, a personal crisis, and a loving family for me to finally get started on the huge pile of genealogical material I have collected over the last almost fifty years. The term genealogy do-over was originally coined by Thomas MacEntee on the GeneaBloggers website back in 2014/2015. I am going to track my genealogy do-over here in the blog and share the things that I learn and find.

Several things have made this possible and needed:

  • new office set up in the house for my wife, Natalie, and I (thanks to my cousin Billy) granting me easier access to a large flatbed scanner (11”x17”) and some new bookshelves and filing cabinet.
  • my genealogy software, The Master Genealogist, was retired and while it still “works” I am guessing it has a limited lifespan.
  • started thinking about posterity and I cannot stick the kids or Natalie with a disorganized mess.

In order to begin this endeavor I need to define how I am going to organize: pick replacement genealogy software; define digital storage organization (file names, directory names, backup methods); define physical storage organization (hopefully smaller, but binders, folders, what to digitize and discard vs. what to digitize and keep). Remember I have over forty years of paper from research trips before the internet and the current services were available and received lots of “stuff” from relatives as the older generations have passed. I still have the original pedigree charts I was manually filling in back in the late 1970s with zero source information. I need to be able to more easily share the volume of information I have collected.

My first research of my grandparents
Page from my copy of “Digging for My Roots”

Let’s start with a discussion of new genealogy software. Many people are happy with leaving their research in one of the online trees/services. I have two fears with that. First is a concern about the service disappearing or my inability to afford the service. Second is with a unified tree (like with others erroneously changing my research. The key for me is to have a local copy of my research. But that does mean that I need to pick something and have a backup strategy to protect my endeavors.

There are lots of software packages for storing genealogical research: Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Reunion, Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Builder, Gramps, and others. Many of these offer free trials and I would encourage you to try before you buy or commit. Each have their own idiosyncrasies and features and we all need to find something that works with our own unique personalities.

Ultimately, I chose RootsMagic for Windows. They have finally released version 8 and have better synchronized the Windows and MacOs releases giving me more flexibility of laptop to have. RootsMagic has a synchronization capability with both and, services that I use. It also has a robust sourcing feature, an area that I need to review/improve in this do-over.

How to start with RootsMagic? I must admit that I got derailed a little here as I experimented with the synchronization capabilities to Ancestry and FamilySearch. I was dreaming that I could force all my efforts to a single tree, synchronized across my subscriptions/online services. That was unrealistic. That would leave me susceptible to various (many times inaccurate) changes to the universal tree on FamilySearch, particularly for earlier (colonial US) people in my tree.

So I paused to rethink my assumptions about a local tree. RootsMagic allows me to have multiple trees open at the same time with an easy drag and drop copy between them. Perhaps this will provide a new method of handling my research?

For now the plan is to create three initial trees:

  1. Bi-directional replication with my tree on
  2. Bi-directional replication with my portion of the tree on
  3. An import of my tree built on TMG.

What I have yet to decide is whether to create a fourth “fresh” and “new master” tree of my research or to simply use the TMG-imported tree as my master.

Well, let me look at defining some of the other things I need to define to get this project underway….

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