Genealogy Gift Ideas: The Essentials

Every year people ask me for great genealogy gift ideas, so this year I’m counting down to the holidays by sharing my own holiday list (in addition to the Black Friday specials announced yesterday). Every day for the next week I’ll post my top picks on several topics: The Essentials, Genealogy On-the-Go, Get Geeky, Get Organized and Find Everything, Heritage Home Decor and Genealogy Entertainment. I hope you’ll find some inspiration here, either for gift-giving or for things Santa might bring you.

This week: The Essentials. To shop, please click the links below: when you do, you support the free Genealogy Gems podcast. (Thanks!)

RootsMagic 6Online family tree services are great, but I’m a big fan of keeping your master family tree in software on your own computer. This makes updates and backups easier and leaves your important data in your control. RootsMagic 6 Family Tree Genealogy Software / Book Bundle is award-winning family tree software that I just love. It’s more than just a tool  for organizing family tree data and sources, which are essential. RootsMagic also  has powerful tools to help you share your research with others: tools for charts, reports and even your own book or e-book. Version 6 is for Windows 8/7/Vista/XP and 2000.

 

Evidence ExplainedI’ve heard Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace 2nd Edition described as the “genealogist’s bible.” It’s certainly one of the most important reference books you can have on your shelf. The opening chapters, “Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis” and “Fundamentals of Citation,” are a must-read periodically for genealogists who want to really understand how to interpret and cite sources. The rest of her book is a style manual to help readers cite every detail of a source in the right format. 885 page. PRICE: $59.95. Love the idea but overwhelmed by the length and price? Try her smaller-scale book, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian
now in its 16th printing. 124 pp, $19.95.

 

GG PremiumThe Genealogy Gems Premium Membership is possibly the best (and most fun!) bargain around for fun, up-to-date genealogy education, as I hope you Premium Members out there are already aware. This membership gives you Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episodes with exclusive interviews, tips and content; unlimited access to the Genealogy Gems podcast archive with hundreds of hours of programming; and video classes on my most popular topics like Evernote, Google Earth for Genealogy, Google search strategies, organizing your research and more. PRICE: $29.95. Between Black Friday (11/29/13) and Cyber Monday (12/2/2013) you’ll get a bonus ebook!

Free Helps for PAF and RootsMagic Users

RootsMagic, the makers of award-winning family history software, now offers free guides for users of PAF (Personal Ancestral File, the free family tree software that is becoming obsolete), FamilySearch Family Tree and their own RootsMagic software.

RootsMagic and PAF conversion“RootsMagic for PAF Users: A Quick Start Guide”  is a 16-page, full-color booklet that guides PAF users through the transition to RootsMagic. It addresses common questions and is available as a free download here.

In addition, RootsMagic hosts several tutorial videos on its own You Tube channel, RootsMagicTV.com. Dozens of short videos are organized by the most popular and recent videos and by topic: installing and using RootsMagic; using RootsMagic with PAF; and using RootsMagic with FamilySearch’s Family Tree.

If you’re a RootsMagic user (or are thinking about becoming one), check these out.

Family History Episode 1 – Getting Started

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished August 8, 2013

 

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

In this episode, I chatted with Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland, California Family History Center. Her own family history journey started in her 20s with a visit to a relative’s house. She didn’t even know what to talk about! But it was a start. Years later, she visited the Northern Ireland home of her great-grandmother, and felt like she’d come home. Learn her tips for getting started and two inspiring stories of “genealogy serendipity.”

In the second half of the show, you’ll learn why choosing a database for your family tree is your first essential step. Hear about some of my favorite databases—both free resources and products you can pay for. Don’t spend too much time fussing about software: I’ll tell you why you should just pick something and go with it.

Choosing a Genealogy Database

Whether you want to build an elaborate family tree, or just want to know who your direct ancestors were and some of the stories about them, the place to start is to get yourself a family history database. You don’t have to be highly computer savvy to use one. They are VERY intuitive and user friendly. Basic data entry skills is all you need.

Now I know you’re anxious to get started finding out about the folks who came before you and contributed to putting you on this planet. But this step is key to long term success and enjoyment. I know too many people who have gotten all excited and jumped in, getting all kinds of information about their family, but without a database they very quickly end up with huge stacks of paper and stickie notes. With all this chaos they often end up duplicating efforts they forgot they already did which is a waste of precious time. And worst of all, when someone shows an interest in what they are doing, it’s impossible to coherently pull out the information from the jumbled stacks in order to share it.

Having a family history database will keep all of your findings organized, with proper background information on where you found the data, as well provide a place to pull together photographs, documents and everything else you discover along the way. It’s like painting a piece of furniture. A little prep work goes along way to a really nice finish.

Now there are lots of family history software programs out there, but you only need ONE, and all of them will serve your basic needs. So I’m going to give you my top choices. It’s you’re decision how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be.

If FREE is your price range, and you’re looking for a place to stay organized with streamlined screens to work in without a lot of startup time, then Family Tree Legends Online is perfect for you. (Family Tree Legends Online is now Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage.

Don’t let FREE fool you into thinking it won’t do the job. Legends 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 programs for Palm handheld devices and the Pocket PC. I’ve used it and it’s great. You can download the software FREE at the above link.

If you’re a PC user and are willing to spend $30-40 dollars, there are several really good and easy to use options available. You can order the product or purchase a digital download which will save you some money. And frankly, I really don’t think you need to the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. And all of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.

The top seller is Family Tree Maker which is from the folks at Ancestry.com which is the largest online records website which we’ll be talking a lot more about in future episodes. Click on its name to learn more about Family Tree Maker. This is probably the most commonly used database out there.

If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share then RootsMagic is a great choice. It’s available as a digital download from their website at RootsMagic.

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 fully supported.

And I want to stress, it’s just important that you take the steps and get started. Don’t get bogged down in analyzing software forever. If you really want to change to a different program down the road you can always do that. But the important thing here is that you have a place to put the information that you find and be able to retrieve that information so you can share it with others.

Now if you’re a Mac user I have two solid programs you could use. Again, both of these programs offer free demos if you want to test drive them:

  • iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95.
  • Reunion 9 is fairly pricey at $99.95. If you’re interested in Reunion 9, I highly recommend that you listen to Episode 51 of my more advanced Family History show called The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by my contributing partner Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist, who’s an expert on everything Mac for family historians. 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.

Now when you fire up your new software database it’s going to ask you to fill in information about yourself, then your parents and so on. In family history we always start with ourselves, and then work our way backward. So enter everything you know. By just enter data on you and your parents, you’ll very quickly get a feel for how the program works. And once you get everything in there that you know, go ahead and try and print out a pedigree chart.

And there’s our first family history term: “pedigree chart.” You’ve probably heard the term used for pure bred dogs, but pedigree just means lineage or ancestral line. It shows your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. No aunts, uncles or siblings. Just the folks you directly descend from.

Another type of chart your database can print is a descendant chart, which shows all the people who descend from one person. So if you had two kids, your descendant chart would show you at the top, and two children directly under you. This comes in real handy when you want to have a reunion of all the descendants of let’s say your great grandpa Marvin. You would go to Marvin’s card in the database, and then print the descendant chart from there. It would then include Marvin, all his kids, his grandkids, his great grandkids and so on. But it wouldn’t show the kids spouses, or Marvin’s parents. It’s just going to tell you who was born directly as a result of Marvin.

So enter what you know, and once you’ve got all that in there, play around with your new database by printing out a pedigree chart and a descendant chart. And next week we’ll start uncovering more clues to your family history.

Here’s a final thought for today: A famous idea taken from one of Shakespeare’s plays is that what is Past is Prologue. It seems to me that a key to moving forward in your life is to look back and see what’s come before. How things were done. What worked, and what didn’t. It can inspire you to continue family traditions or give you the motivation to create something new for the next generation.

Up next: Episode 2: How to Interview Your Relatives.

RootsMagic TV: Short Genealogy Tutorials and Webinars on YouTube

Now you can find short training videos in addition to free full-length webinars on RootsMagic’s new YouTube Channel, RootsMagicTV.

If you’re a RootsMagic user (or may be interested in becoming one), FamilySearch Family Tree or PAF user , you’ll love these helpful tutorials.

And let your voice be heard: They are even taking suggestions for topics to cover in future short videos, too! email them at support@rootsmagic.com.

 

RootsMagic App for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch Now Available

The folks at RootsMagic were gracious enough to allow me to share  the impending RootsMagic app with my readers in my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.  The wait is over and now the app is available for free to everyone.  Here are all the details from their press release:

SPRINGVILLE, Utah. — December 17, 2012 — RootsMagic, Inc. today announced the official release of RootsMagic for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; a free companion app to RootsMagic, the award-winning desktop genealogy software which makes researching, organizing, and sharing your family history easy.

Your Family Tree at Your Fingertips

“We’re very excited to bring RootsMagic right to your iPhone and iPad,” said Bruce Buzbee, president. “Not only is this one of the most-requested features from our users, but it is the perfect next step in our mission to simplify family history.” The app provides many useful features including:

  • Access your actual RootsMagic files via iTunes or Dropbox – RootsMagic for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch uses your actual RootsMagic files- no conversion needed. You can copy as many files as you want right on your device via iTunes or Dropbox. Users of other genealogy software such as PAF, Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, and others can convert their files into viewable RootsMagic files using our free desktop software.
  • Easily search and explore your family tree – Familiar Pedigree, Family, Descendant, and Individual Views help you quickly explore your family tree. You can also search for specific people by name or record number.
  • View pictures, notes, and sources – All of your RootsMagic data is available inside the app. Touch any name to see more information about that person as well as family members. All of a person’s information is there including notes, sources, and pictures.
  • Lists – Browse lists of your information and view more information about sources, to-do items, research logs, media, addresses, repositories, correspondences, and places.
  • Tools and Calculators – useful tools to assist you in your research including a perpetual calendar, date calculator, relationship calculator, and soundex calculator.

New Features and Platforms to Come

“We see this as our first step into the mobile world,” said Michael Booth, vice-president. “We’re interested in seeing how people use this app and evolving it to meet their needs.” A version of the app for Android devices will be available in the near future.

Available Now

RootsMagic for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch is free and now available in the Apple App Store. It does require the RootsMagic desktop family tree software or the free RootsMagic Essentials software to create, edit, or add to your genealogy files. More information is available at http://www.rootsmagic.com/ios.

 

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