Recently Gretchen wrote in with this question about RootsMagic family history software:
“I’m a huge fan of Genealogy Gems!! I LOVE to listen to the podcasts (I’m a fairly new member) and have all of your books!! I need help in the area of choosing a family tree: Do you prefer Legacy Family Tree or Roots Magic (which you promote on your podcasts) and why?!? I would so appreciate some advice! I love your tips!! I look forward to hearing from you and would greatly appreciate the advice!! Thank you!!!”
Here’s my answer: I use RootsMagic for my genealogy database. I’ve known the owner of RootsMagic for eight years, and am impressed at the company’s continued development of the program and their dedication to provide ongoing free training for their users through their website. They offer free webinars to all their users, including short training videos on specific RootsMagic features.
- Full-length videos include such topics as:
- Getting Started, Publishing a Family History with RootsMagic
- Using FamilySearch with RootsMagic (they have an award-winning interface)
- Creating and Printing Wallcharts with RootsMagic.
New PDF indexes to their webinars make it easier to find the topics you’re looking for.
In short, every indication to me is that is an excellent long term solution that allows me to retain control of all my data. And that’s why we selected them as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.
I hope this brief RootsMagic review helps you!
Click here to learn more about your options for family history software, and why I still recommend desktop software when you can build your family tree entirely online.
Have you reached a dead end on one branch of your family tree–you can’t find the parents’ names? Check out these sources for finding ancestors’ parents.
Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Trisha wrote in with this question about finding marriage license applications online. She hoped the original application would name the groom’s parents. Unfortunately, her search for the applications came up dry. So, she asked, “Are there other documents that would have his parents names listed on them?”
Here’s a brainstorm for Trisha and everyone else who is looking for an ancestor’s parents’ names (and aren’t we all!).
6 Record Sources that May Name Your Ancestors’ Parents
1. Civil birth records. I’ll list this first, because civil birth records may exist, depending on the time period and place. But in the U.S. they are sparse before the Civil War and unreliably available until the early 1900s. So before a point, birth records–which will almost always name at least one parent–are not a strong answer. Learn more about civil birth records in my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #25.
2. Marriage license applications. Trisha’s idea to look for a marriage license application was a good one. They often do mention parents’ names. But they don’t always exist: either a separate application form was never filled out, or it didn’t survive. Learn more about the different kinds of marriage documents that may exist in the Family History Made Easy podcast episode #24.
3. Obituaries. Obituaries or death notices are more frequently found for ancestors who died in the late 1800s or later. Thanks to digitized newspapers, it’s getting SO much easier to find ancestors’ obituaries in old newspapers. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers is packed with practical tips and inspiring stories for discovering your family’s names in newsprint. Millions of newly-indexed obituaries are on FamilySearch (viewable at GenealogyBank). Get inspired with this list of 12 Things You Can Learn from Obituaries!
4. Social Security Applications (U.S.). In the U.S., millions of residents have applied for Social Security numbers and benefits since the 1930s. These applications request parents’ names. There are still some privacy restrictions on these, and the applications themselves are pricey to order (they start at $27). But recently a fabulous new database came online at Ancestry that includes millions of parents’ names not previously included in public databases. I blogged about it here. Learn more about Social Security applications (and see what one looked like) in the show notes for my free Family History Made Easy podcast episode #4.
5. Baptismal records. Many churches recorded children’s births and/or the baptisms of infants and young children. These generally name one or both parents. Millions of church records have come online in recent years. Learn more about birth and baptism records created by churches in the Family History Made Easy Podcast Episode #26. Click these links to read more about baptismal records in Quebec and Ireland.
6. Siblings’ records. If you know the name of an ancestor’s sibling, look for that sibling’s records. I know of one case in which an ancestor appeared on a census living next door to a possible parent. Younger children were still in the household. A search for one of those younger children’s delayed birth record revealed that the neighbor WAS his older sister: she signed an affidavit stating the facts of the child’s birth.
Thanks for sharing this list with anyone you know who wants to find their ancestors’ parents!
More Genealogy Gems on Finding Your Ancestors in Old Records
Missing Birth Record? Here’s What You Can Do to Track it Down
Try These 2 Powerful Tools for Finding Genealogy Records Online
Finding Ancestors in Courthouse Records: Research Tips
(Premium website membership required)
About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, and an international keynote speaker.
This article was originally posted on November 3, 2015 and updated on April 19, 2019.
Recently I heard from my friends at RootsMagic about a new version of their excellent family history software, as well as tips for getting help using it. I’m a huge fan of RootsMagic software-–click here to read my RootsMagic review. I’m also huge fan of keeping your master tree on your own software rather than just in an online tree (click here to read why). From the RootsMagic press release:
“We have released a new update for RootsMagic 7 users, version 22.214.171.124. This update includes the option to automatch with FamilySearch when doing WebHints, as well as a number of small bug fixes.” Click here to see a list of what is new and fixed. “If you haven’t already downloaded the update, look for the “Update Available” indicator in the lower right corner of your RootsMagic 7 program screen, and click on it.”
A Note About RootsMagic Help
“While we try our hardest to make our software as easy to use as possible, we also realize that a program with as many features as RootsMagic can sometimes seem intimidating. That’s why we try so hard to provide as many ways to get help as we can.
On the other hand, we are a small company (yes, we try to look big) and can often get buried with the amount of support calls and emails we receive. But the one thing we don’t have a shortage of is great customers who are willing to help each other.
Way over half the support requests we receive are answering “how-to” and “can the program do this” kinds of questions. Did you know that we have message boards, mailing lists, and other ways to talk to other RootsMagic users to get answers to a lot of these questions? We also have online classes (webinars) and tutorial videos (RootsMagic TV) to help you learn how to use the features of your software. We have an entire knowledge-base of answers to frequently asked questions.” To see all the different ways you can get help with RootMagic software, click here.
We are proud to have RootsMagic as a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.
Recently I heard from Jane, a Genealogy Gems Premium subscriber in Canada, who needs a genealogy research plan! She’s researched on Ancestry.ca, Scotland’s People, the Free English BMD Index, FamilySearch and joined her local society. But she’s not sure where to go next with her research–there just are SO many options! If this sounds familiar, check out her question and the advice I gave her:
“I often end up wandering around in circles and mazes as one thing leads to another, and another, and … I am sure you know what I am talking about. I seem to be jumping back and forth between my Dad’s family, my Mom’s family, their families, etc. until there are times that I find myself at a certain point, only to wonder ‘Where was I going with this?’ I’m now wondering if I would be best to take it one person at a time – to find out as much as I can about that person in that point of time, before going on to another. I have started trying to make notes…but find that I end up hopelessly out of order and lost. Any advice would be appreciated! Help!!!”
My Answer: A Genealogy Research Plan to Deal with the Chaos
“You are not along in this genealogical dilemma! It’s easy to let the records start to take over and lead you around. Set a goal or a genealogy research plan – define what it is you want to know. It might be something very specific about a particular ancestor, or it might just be to fill in the blanks on one particular family. Early in my research I focused on one grandparent, and working backwards, I would strive to fill in all the blanks on that person, then their parents, then their siblings. I wouldn’t “leave” that family until I felt that I had filled in as much of the family group sheet as possible. (We have sort of lost track of the “family group sheet“ in this technological age. But it is an excellent tool for keeping you on track and focused on the blanks that need to be filled.)
An additional strategy is to have a process for dealing with information that is a bit off your current track. Often we feel like we have to pursue it or we’ll lose it. I like to use Evernote (free at Evernote.com) to capture data that I’m not ready to deal with right now, but definitely want to pursue later. I create an Evernote “notebook” for that family surname, and a note book called “future research.” Drag and drop “Future Research” onto the family surname notebook which will create a “stack.” Now you can create notes and drop them into the “Future Research” notebook which is inside the applicable family. Add tags to your note like “newspaper,” “death record,” etc. and some good searchable keywords so that the note will be easy to find when you need it. Now you can capture the item, file it away, and stay focused on the task at hand. Whenever you’re ready to ask a new question, open that Future Research notebook. Use what’s there to inspire the next phase of your genealogy research plan.”
How to Get Started in Evernote, and the Ultimate Evernote Education
Should Evernote be my Digital Archive?
If you would like to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy, I have a quick reference guide in my store that will work wonders in keeping you organized. It’s available for both Windows and Mac, and in both PDF and laminated print format.
Your questions are always welcome! Contact me by email, or leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and you may just hear yourself on the show.