RootsMagic is so good, we’ll buy it for you. Seriously.

RootsMagic is so good, we’ll buy it for you. Seriously.

It’s official…we’ve converted all my trees to RootsMagic, synced them up to Ancestry.com without issue, and I’m done with Family Tree Maker. My only regret is that we wasted as much time (and blog posts!) waiting for FTM 2017 as we did. Months after we paid $29.99 to pre-order the version of Family Tree Maker, and four months after we were promised the product, we still can’t sync my main tree with Ancestry.com (Family Tree Maker 2017: 110 day (and counting) since we had working software). I tried RootsMagic as a test, and it’s synced first time/every time, and migration was nearly painless (Quick Review: RootsMagic 7.5 now sync’s with Ancestry.com, effectively killing MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker).

In order to pull people from FTM, RootsMagic is offering those of us who have an Ancestry.com subscription the full version of RM 7.5 (which includes TreeSync) and an E-Book with tips/tricks for using RootsMagic for $20 until July 31st!! That’s less than we paid for the FTM pre-order than never worked!!

We’re not sure you can get your money back from Software MacKiev for their failed product, but we’re happy to give you a reason to get out from underneath Family Tree Maker and on to a product that works and is supported, without having to spend more to do so.

So, here’s what we’re going to do: We’re going to buy you RootsMagic 7.5. The first 100 readers that made the mistake of pre-ordering Family Tree Maker 2017 who take advantage of the RootsMagic special (RootsMagic Special Offer) which gives you RootsMagic for $20, by July 31, 2017 will get a check from us for $20. Send us a copy of your pre-order email, and your RootsMagic confirmation email (send to: rick@anamericangenealogy.com), and we’ll mail you check for $20. It’s that easy.

Order Emails
Send us these two emails, and we’ll cut you a check for $20!

We’re not sure you can get your money back from Software MacKiev for their failed product, but we’re happy to give you a reason to get out from underneath Family Tree Maker and on to a product that works and is supported, without having to spend more to do so. As always we are sponsored by no one, and we aren’t affiliated with RootsMagic in any way, this is just an incentive to help others who love this hobby to get back to using the tools they need.

Speaking of which, we’ll have one more deep dive into migrating from FTM to RootsMagic in the next week or so, and then enough talking about software, and back to talking about our person journey!

Quick Review: RootsMagic 7.5 now sync’s with Ancestry.com, effectively killing MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker

Quick Review: RootsMagic 7.5 now sync’s with Ancestry.com, effectively killing MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker

Two quick points. First, as always, we receive no financial benefit or consideration for any product or service we review/recommend here. Everything we discuss is our opinion alone, and we talk about it because we use it. Second, this is a quick review with only about 24 hours with the product. We’ll follow up with more detail, and possibly a more complete opinion shortly, but we’re pretty confident in the what we’ve found in the time we’ve spent with this product.

Quick take on moving to RootsMagic 7.5: This migration was easy, and just over 24 hours after we put a test tree into see how the product looks/works, we’re hooked, and Family Tree Maker is soon dead to us.

The bottom line is this: RootsMagic does everything that Family Tree Maker used to do, and does now, moving over was not painful, and it resolved our issues immediately. Additionally, it does some things much better than FTM, and the switch was painless. We’ll never go back.

To add a little more detail, to test we migrated a Family Tree Maker 3.1 tree that was synced to Ancestry.com (before Software MacKiev missed it’s April 1 shipping deadline, and broke FamilySync) that had both custom data elements and extensive home-grown citations attached to facts. The test was to get the tree into RM, get it synced to Ancestry.com, and after confirming that the data migrated properly, use RootsMagic to attach new sources and facts to the tree, to see how it works vs. Family Tree Maker.

RootsMagic is better than Family Tree Maker at:

  • Adding new family members – Very simple and intuitive, with fewer clicks and easier to run through a page of newly discovered ancestors in an old book.
  • Creating new sources – The kludgy, and totally inaccurate (as it relates to the Elizabeth Shown Mills Evidence Explained format), source/fact process in Family Tree maker is completely blown away by RootsMagic. We were amazed at how quickly and easily we were able to use the Free Form template to enter the Source List Entry, Full Reference Note, and Short Note entries for a source. Quick, easy, obvious, simple.
  • Citing sources to multiple ancestors – Again, MUCH simpler and easier. Two clicks and quick search each time…we were amazed at how easy it was to take a page from a book and source it to everyone listed on that page.
  • Citing multiple pages of a source book – I don’t know why we’ve all suffered for so Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 11.18.52 PMlong with the way FTM approached this, but RootsMagic uses a “Master Source” model that includes the 3 types of source citations you’d use (if you’re making an EE citation), but it allows you to enter a page number each time (if you’re using a book) without additional clicks. So when you turn a page, and add the name and birthdate of a new ancestor, you merely click the Sources… button, click on Cite Source… and enter the page number.
  • Nicknames – Wow!!!! How have we ever lived without this feature in Family Tree Maker? My 2x Great grandfather William Ephraim Tradewell was always referred
    Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 10.49.13 PM.png
    It makes so much more sense than FTM, why have we been struggling with it for so long?

    to as Wesley though out his life, including in his Civil War service records. It’s WAY better to now be able to enter that as his nickname and have it show in quotes than it was to deal with it in FTM.

RootsMagic is the same as Family Tree Maker at:

  • Syncing with Ancestry.com – It worked first time for us, no effort, and we were back using sync just like we did last on May 30! It was a piece of cake, and it has worked perfectly each time/every time.
  • Web searching with Ancestry.com – Neither of them do it very well, both have really bad interfaces to search and merge, but RM worked just as well as FTM.
  • Basic Tree entry/management – You can enter person notes, fact notes, data elements (e.g. Birth, Death, Marriage, etc.), custom data elements (we use 3 different ones for DNA matches), and all of the day-to-day data/management you do in your tool, is the same for both FTM and RM.

Areas RootsMagic needs to work on:

  • Syncing new users from RootsMagic to Ancestry.com via TreeSync – RootsMagic is really bad at adding new users to your Ancestry.com tree. Each one requires you select the user, click the Add… button, and then a progress screen pops up until it completes. You have to repeat the process for each new users added in RootsMagic,

    and so when we went through two pages of an old book, entering the ~15 ancestors listed in those, it took WAY too long to sync with Ancestry. FTM is way better at this.

  • Navigating between parts of your family tree – Let’s be clear right away: The main User Interface in both products is not good. They are both old, dated, and look like they have largely been unchanged since the early 2000’s. Both need to look at the Ancestry.com interface and copy it, while they work to build and improve off of that. But, Family Tree Maker is much better at letting you move up and down your tree, and to expand and select different branches of the family on the fly. RootsMagic essentially only gives you a pedigree view, and limits you into only working on the ancestor you select initially. So, for example if you select your 2x GGF, and you have selected his oldest son, and now you want to select his next child to add a new marriage…good luck. It seems impossible. We still haven’t figured out how to select children from the main Pedigree view.  FTM is not good at this either, but it’s way better than RM.

Quick take on moving to RootsMagic 7.5: This migration was easy, and just over 24 hours after we put a test tree into see how the product looks/works, we’re hooked, and Family Tree Maker is soon dead to us. It’s been 8 days since we opened our issue with their “swamped” support desk (their words, not ours) and we haven’t heard a word from Software MacKiev. In-fact, we’ve never even received an acknowledgement of receipt of the issue. But in 24 hours, those trees are synced in RootsMagic, and we’re back using our tool to further our research.

 

Family Tree Maker 2017: 110 day (and counting) since we had working software

Family Tree Maker 2017: 110 day (and counting) since we had working software

On April 1, 2017 Ancestry discontinued support for TreeSync, rendering the software largely unusable for many FTM users. Software Mackiev was unready for that change, even though they had not only known it was coming, but they had gotten a 4 month extension from the original target date from Ancestry. Three-and-a half months later Jack is cheerfully trumpeting that we’re at the finish line…but for a large chunk of FTM users, we’re not closer to getting back to the basic functionality we enjoyed on March 30.

I keep seeing Jack (and his wife apparently) complain about how much “free” software they’ve “given away”, and how hard they are hawking $20 hats and other trinkets to recoup their expenses

That’s bad enough, but the kicker is this: once the software works as it once did, you’re likely to be disappointed about how it’s essentially the same software you’ve used for

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.52.09 AM
 I’m not allowed to release screen caps of FTM 2017, but to get an idea of what the “People” tab looks like, imagine the colors are reversed, the boxes are little more square, and the pictures are smaller and hard to see

years. This “update” is nothing more than restoring lost functionality, and a photo feature that has almost no controls and you’ll never use. We’ve waited all this time, paid our money and waited, suffered through not being able to effectively use the tool that is central to our work…for essentially nothing new.

It’s the same interface, with the colors reversed. The SUPER ugly/kludgy Ancestry Hint merge screens? Same. The People/Facts screen? Same. Places, Media, Sources? Same. It look EXACTLY the same. Maybe color coding will be helpful down the road…but I promise you I wouldn’t have taken my trees offline for 4 months for color coding. Or a photo tool that does next to nothing, and doesn’t do what it claims to do very well.

Going back several months, I said my worry was that this software company was over their head with this package (Mackiev’s latest update engenders even less confidence, puts 2017 release 3 weeks behind with no firm date for release). Mackiev is a company that has focused on smaller, offline, products. This was a huge step into a product that had a large, passionate, knowledgeable and that was connected to a 3rd-party, online vendor, and they clearly weren’t ready.

In my support sessions they have indicated that they are “overwhelmed” by the issues related to this “finish line” release, and they can’t deliver ETA’s for either resolution or even response. It’s clear to me that they overestimated how “done” this release was, so they are understaffed to deal with the volume of issues they’re facing.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.07.55 AM.png
Only 24th in line this time…better than 38th last time! No help either time, regardless of the wait

This continues a long line of underestimations by this company, from thinking a handful of beta testers would suffice, then 1,000, then 25,000 to thinking they would release the first beta in November of 2016 when they couldn’t release it until well after April 1st.

I have no confidence this product will survive. Given my decades of software deployment and support, it seems likely they completed this release at GREAT cost to the company, sell the release as long as there is demand, and then sunset the product before they have to do another release. I keep seeing Jack (and his wife apparently) complain about how much “free” software they’ve “given away”, and how hard they are hawking $20 hats and other trinkets to recoup their expenses. Not a good sign…but there’s not a good sign anywhere with this company…

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 9.42.26 AM.png

 

Unearthing lost treasure: The inventory of our family history windfall’s first box is complete

Unearthing lost treasure: The inventory of our family history windfall’s first box is complete

In my last post (Coming up with a plan to manage my new, huge family history collection) I discussed how we were hopeful we’d find a balance between protecting this amazing find of a life time, and our family life, work, other genealogy, blogging, sleep, etc. That I haven’t posted in a month or so should give you a good indication of how completely we’ve failed at finding anything close to balance!

However, the first of the three boxes we received has now been inventoried and stored archivally, and it’s given us hints of just what an amazing collection this is. By the numbers, we found over 250 photographs, over 175 newspaper clippings related to the family, and over 250 documents ranging from invitations to the Teddy Roosevelt White House and speeches to Congress, to letters home from college and recipes.

IMAG1038
Box 1, Before
IMAG1151
Box 1, After

The material has filled 4 Gaylord boxes (actually Hollinger boxes, but everyone just calls all metal-edged boxes Gaylords), a photo sleeve for all pictures 5″x7″ or less, and a 16″x20″ flat photo storage box for the larger pictures. As you can see, we’re still using the cardboard boxes that the 5″x7″ photo sleeves were shipped in to store the photos, but that’s just until the order is placed for the Gaylord “shoe box” to hold them.

Each piece of paper is separated by a sheet of acid-free printer paper, with all staples, paper clips, clasps, etc. removed. Each item was given a number, and inventoried with basic info like date, sender, receiver, # of pages, etc. Once the inventory and archiving of all 3 of these boxes is complete, we’ll go back and scan and catalog each item, and share them out publicly for consumption.

By the numbers, we found over 250 photographs, over 175 newspaper clippings related to the family, and over 250 documents ranging from invitations to the Teddy Roosevelt White House and speeches to Congress, to letters home from college and recipes.

Luckily, it wasn’t all work. About a month ago my cousin Denise, who is working on putting together the Morse family reunion in Oregon in August, asked if we could share photos from this collection for some of the materials. We were able to scan and share more than a dozen pictures that likely haven’t been seen in at least 30 years, as well as several originals that have been circulating through the family as scans of photocopies. It was fun to go through images and piece together which ones were related to the Morse family, and who the subjects in the photos were. It was also very gratifying to share out high quality images of some of these originals that we came to know through copies of old family reunion books, and hoped we’d some how get access to the originals one day.

And, of course, as we were reading through the documents quickly to gather information for the inventory, we came across lots of great information that jumped out at us…even though it was not all flattering.

Sadly there were a lot of dated references to “darkies” and the like as my Great Grandparents wrote home about their first trips to Washington, DC during his first term in Congress. Additionally, my Great Grandfather gave a speech talking about First Nation issues in the early 1900’s that really captured some of the most accurate and honest understanding of how we as a country unfairly destroyed these nations, but in the same speech he both calls for the cultural genocide of these First Nation bands that had survived, and contrasted their strong, positive culture with the “lazy” negroes.

There also was a lot of very personal and touching moments like when my Great Great Grandmother wrote her daughter on Christmas Eve about how lonely she was and how she wished that all of her children could be under the same roof again “singing college songs”.

We also got to follow my Grandmother Catherine’s path through college (she wrote home 2x a week for 4 years, and her mother saved every letter), from how she was dating many boys, to

Catherine (Morse) Leonard, portrait (P17-0018)
My Grandmother Catherine (Morse) Leonard’s senior portrait (college), 1932

how she got in trouble for drawing in the school hymnals and had to pay an $8 fine…which she found very unfair. We are lucky enough to have her father’s response to that letter, which basically said that she should keep quiet and pay the fine now, and give the Dean both barrels once she’d officially graduated!

 

 

It came as a bit of a shock learning that my Grandmother dated both the future Governor of Wisconsin Warren Knowles and Hollywood actor Jack Carson, one of the biggest comedic stars of the “Golden Age of Hollywood”.

So, all-in-all it’s been amazing going through all this work, but it most certainly been work. One of our DNA tests came back late last week, and so we spent the weekend working on the Tradewell brick wall we talked about a few months ago, with a little progress, so we’re trying to get back to enjoying all parts of this hobby. But this is a pretty major undertaking!