Just beginning genealogy–or know someone who is? It can be a little overwhelming! Please read and share this Q&A post.
Recently I heard from Mary Ann, who has received some great genealogy information on both sides of her family from “trusted and seasoned genealogists.” Lucky her!
Since then, she’s been deluged with suggestions about how to proceed. She wrote to me for some clarification. I’m glad she did! I created Genealogy Gems because there is so much “noise” out there about how to do genealogy. I research all the options and share the best of the best, the “genealogy gems” worth your time. Here are her 4 questions, and here is how I answered them:
Q: Beginner resource. Is there a list of what everyone needs to begin, sort of like a Beginner’s Starter Kit for genealogy studies? This question is truly a “I don’t know where to start” question. Help!
A: The free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast (like an online radio show) is sort of a “Genealogy 101” class. It will start you at the beginning and walk you through the research process. I think you will really enjoy it! (Read more about it below.)
We also have a nice collection of articles on our website for beginners. You can find all of our past “Beginner” articles at the home page of our website (image right). At the top left just under the main red menu you will see a drop down menu called “Select Content by Topic.” Click the down arrow and select “Beginner” from the list. This will display all our past Beginner-friendly articles on your screen starting with the most recent. (Or click here to go right to the Beginner article search results.)
Q: Software. Various friends tell me I need “this” software or “that” software…and honestly, since they have not told me anything more concrete about them than “your need these,” I am reluctant to just buy stuff and start typing.
A: Here’s an article that specifically talks about choosing a genealogy software database. I highly recommend that you have your own software on your computer and don’t just rely on adding information to your tree on sites like Ancestry. I use Rootsmagic and they have been a long time sponsor of my podcast.
Q: Podcasts. I am a senior citizen and don’t have a so-called smart phone or internet on my phone. I have a PC. Can I get your audio programs on a regular PC? What does a subscription cost?
A: Absolutely you can listen on your PC! You can start by simply going to our home page and you will see our podcast player in the center. Just click it and you can listen through your computer’s speakers.
- The Genealogy Gems Podcast is a free show, and there are over 180 episodes available here in our archive.
- I also have a show called Family History: Genealogy Made Easy which is 46 recorded episodes. It’s available here on our website. Or you can hover your mouse over “Podcasts” in the menu on our home page and then select the podcast you want from the drop down menu.
Q: Conferences. I know you will be at an all-day seminar [coming up in my area]. I am a little afraid to drive 3 hrs away and maybe, maybe, feel totally overwhelmed. Do other beginners feel that way?
A: My best advice to a beginning genealogist: Just start!
Genealogy is for your enjoyment and for your family’s benefit. Take courage and jump in! Genealogy Gems is here to help you every step of the way.
And yes, I encourage you to come to the seminar. You will meet lots of kind helpful people there who enjoy family history–many of whom probably recall being overwhelmed beginners–and we’ll have a lot of fun!
If you would like to come to an upcoming conference or seminar, click here to see where I’ll be in the next few months.
Who do YOU know who is beginning genealogy and could use this advice? PLEASE share this article with them! Just copy and paste the URL into an email, or share via social media.
More Beginner-Friendly Articles at Genealogy Gems
Tell Your Ancestor’s Story: Use Social History for Genealogy
Tips for Digitizing Old Home Movies and Photos
7 Reasons to Start a Family History Blog
If you use RootsMagic to work with FamilySearch Family Tree, you must install a RootsMagic update (version 220.127.116.11) to continue working with it after July 30, 2015!
FamilySearch will be making changes to its own site on July 30, 2015. These changes require RootsMagic to change their own code a little, so RootsMagic users can stay fully compatible with FamilySearch Family Tree.
Here’s the scoop from a RootsMagic press release:
“If you are running RootsMagic 7…. 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. You will then be able to continue working with FamilySearch Family Tree as if nothing has changed.
If you are running RootsMagic 6….To continue working with FamilySearch through RootsMagic, you have 2 options:
- Order the upgrade to RootsMagic 7 [it’s $19.95] OR
- Download the free RootsMagic 7 Essentials and install it (leave your RM6 installed as well). RootsMagic 6 and 7 have the same file format, so you can switch back and forth between them with your same database. You can use all the features in your paid RM6, and use RM7 Essentials when you need to work with FamilySearch Family Tree.
For the full scoop on what’s new with this update, click here. Please share this important post with other RootsMagic users!
Read these articles next for more on RootsMagic:
Best Family History Software (And Why Use It!)
Why I Use RootsMagic Family History Software
Free RootsMagic Magic Guides
Free Support for RootsMagic Users
RootsMagic + MyHeritage = Heritage Magic!
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 18.104.22.168. 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, the creators of The Master Genealogist (TMG) family tree software announced they were retiring the software. There’s been a little upheaval lately with TMG users scurrying to transfer their data to another software.
RootsMagic has released an update especially for the transfer of TMG to RootsMagic. Previously, users could transfer their GEDCOM files, but some details were lost in the process (like witnesses, roles, source templates and more). So here’s the announcement from RootsMagic:
“We have just released a new RootsMagic update (v6.3.3) which adds a direct TMG import. This direct import not only imports basic genealogical information from TMG like names, events, notes, and media, but also imports witnesses (with roles), source templates, and sentence templates. In fact, RootsMagic has the most complete TMG import available anywhere. Of course, due to different data models and template languages, no import can be 100% perfect but we have prepared a guide to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
For a limited time, RootsMagic is offering TMG users a competitive upgrade price of $19.95 for RootsMagic. Click here to find out more information about the TMG import and to get the TMG upgrade special price.
Just about every major genealogy website these days lets you build your family tree from scratch right on their website. But you may wonder what will happen to millions of carefully-constructed trees if the company goes out of business or the site goes down.
Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in specially-designed software. These programs generated .GED files (called GEDCOMs), a universal file type that allowed researchers using different software to share their findings. Software like this still exists. These days it can communicate your research to any genealogy sites you care to share with–by using those same GEDCOM files.
If you do choose to build your family tree online, make sure you can download your tree anytime as a GED file. Keep this file as a backup both on your computer and in a second location (like cloud storage). But my recommendation is to build your tree at home, in your own software. Then you can upload or synch your data to your favorite genealogy websites whenever you want–and you never lose control of your research.
Choosing the Right Software
There are lots of family history programs out there, and all of them will serve your basic needs. But you only need ONE. What’s the best genealogy software? It depends on how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be. In many cases, you can order the product or purchase a digital download. I really don’t think you need the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. All of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.
FREE AND EASY: Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage helps you stay organized with streamlined screens to work in and doesn’t require a lot of startup time. Family Tree Builder offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy apps for mobile devices. Download the software FREE at the above link.
PC (and NOW MAC) OPTION WITH GREAT REPORTS: If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share, and loads of free online help videos, then RootsMagic is a great choice. (and we are honored to have RootsMagic as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.) And they now have an iOS app.
Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and supported. (Update: There have been many updates since the post was first published, including a Mac version. Click here for a series of article by date on RootsMagic updates and their app.)
POPULAR PC AND APP PROGRAM: Legacy Family Tree is also an extremely popular program and solid choice. To give it a test run, download the free version. Then check out its strength in regards to source citations: you can now record the quality (original vs derivative, primary vs secondary, etc., direct vs indirect) of each source as you work on proving your conclusions. And they have an app called Families for your mobile device. Learn more about the app here.
AFFORDABLE MAC OPTION: iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95. There’s a free demo you can try before you buy.
TOP-SHELF MAC OPTION: Reunion 11 by Leister Pro is fairly pricey at $99.00. We’ve featured Reunion in the past: listen to Episode 51 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems episode 53.