Switching from Family Tree Maker to RootsMagic

I’ve been using Family Tree Maker since the 90’s when it replaced my paper notes on the recommendation of my sister.  I don’t remember what version I started with, but back when I bought it the program came with a set of World Family Tree CDs which had a bunch of personal trees.  It was nice having records to search and I added a lot of them to my tree from WFT.  Unfortunately years later I had to rip them back out when I realized that the records were unsourced and useless.  An early lesson learned.

Anyhow, Family Tree Maker has been pretty useful all this time.  They have made a lot of improvements, and the tie-in with Ancestry.com makes searching and data entry easier.  In spite of that, though, I am now switching to RootsMagic.

While I have known about some other genealogy programs like RootsMagic and The Master Genealogist, I haven’t spent much time looking into them, because I was already spending a lot of time on genealogy as it was and did not want to spend the time on a conversion.  I tried The Master Genealogist briefly, but it had the look of a program from the 90s and the benefits were not obvious.  I got the sense that Family Tree Maker was not the favorite of serious geneologists, but it was doing the job for me so I kept using it.

Last October, though, Elizabeth Shown Mills recommended RootsMagic in a posting in the Transitional Genealogists Forum.   She discussed how you can use it to better document the quality of your sources and to help differentiate weak from strong sources.  That sounded helpful, since I of course have a lot of both.

I did not do anything further, though, until December when I got a new Mac.  I’ve been a Mac user for years, running Family Tree Maker in a Windows virtual machine in Parallels.  I did not use the Mac version because I shared my data files with my sister, and they are not compatible between the two systems.  When I got my new system I did not feel like buying and setting up another copy of Parallels, and thought I would give CrossOver Office a try.  I had tested it before, but it does not work well with Family Tree Maker so I did not get it.  RootsMagic is supported on it, though, and I found it works pretty well.  That gave me the motivation to switch to a better program that I can run on my computer with less overhead.

Converting from Family Tree Maker to RootsMagic

I was using Family Tree Maker 2012, so to move my data to RootsMagic I had to do a GEDCOM export and import.  This got most of my stuff over but I found I was missing two things: my images and the address facts.  GEDCOM, of course, does not include image information.  What I’m going to have to do is go through my existing sources and relink them to the photos.  With 900+ images this will be a slow process.

Update 1/27/12: I was able to get my image information to go from Family Tree Maker to RootsMagic after all. Most people will not need to do what I did, unless you are moving your images to a folder outside of the regular Family Tree Maker location like I did.

To fix the images, I did another GEDCOM export and opened it in a text editor, in my case MacVim.  I looked for the FILE lines and saw that I needed to change the path to my image files from their old Family Tree Maker location to the new one. The lines coming from Family Tree Maker looked like this:

1 FILE Z:\Documents\FTM\Konarski main Media\OntarioCanadaMarriages18011928_308837660.jpg

and I needed them to look like this, because I was moving them to a different location for sharing between computers (more on this in a future post):

1 FILE C:\Konarski main Media\Media0001.jpg

I replaced “Z:\Documents\FTM” with “C:” throughout the file, imported it, and was able to get to all of the images in my Media Gallery.

The other thing I found is that the address records are not treated as general facts in Roots Magic, but are treated more like a fixed address attribute for a person, I suspect living.  I’ll need to find the address records and re-enter them as residence records with an associated address.

The Advantages of Roots Magic

Evidence Quality

You can mark facts as Proven, Disputed, or Proven False.  Facts that are disputed or proven false are displayed in red and are struck out, making it clear which facts to focus on.

Screen shot showing facts proven false

Screen shot showing facts proven false

You can also add comments on your sources and build a report for analysis as Elizabeth Shown Mills explained in her post I mentioned earlier.  I have commented my sources some, even in Family Tree Maker, but have not yet tried her method for generating a report.

Citation Quality

Family Tree Maker lets you mark citations based on the common parameters of original/derivative, primary/secondary, and direct/indirect, and even includes a setting for the clarity of the material in the source.  The problem is that it buries these under a rating indicator showing 1-4 stars.  Adding up the individual ratings does not make any sense.  While a 4-star rating is probably better than a 1-star, there are so many nuances in evaluating the quality of a citation that the star ratings are a distraction.  Also, the ratings do not stay with the citation when you copy and paste it.

RootsMagic lets you rate a citation based on the quality of the Source, Information, and Evidence.  It includes a setting for “Don’t know”, which is handy for things like census forms where you usually do not know who supplied the information.  It displays these settings in the list of sources for a fact to help you do your analysis.  Also, when you copy and paste a citation the ratings go with it, which does not happen with Family Tree Maker.  You of course have to be alert to the fact that one source can have some pieces of information that are primary and some that are secondary, but that can be set in the citations when needed.  Having it stick with the copied citation makes data entry faster.

Sources showing citation quality

Sources showing citation quality

Research Logs

It is a good practice to keep a research log of what you have done on a project.  You can  refer back to it to help keep from checking the same thing twice, you can use it to help confirm your thorough investigation of a fact, and if you are a professional you will want to use it to show what you have done with your time.

RootsMagic 5 has added what they call the Research Manager, which is a research log.  You can have different logs for different projects, and you can convert your finished to-do list items to a research log entry with just a click.  You can create a report from it later on when needed.  It is nice having your information in one place rather than keeping a separate spreadsheet.

Citation Templates

RootsMagic has a lot more citation templates, allows you to search for what you want, has clearer fields to fill in, and each template includes a reference to which model in Evidence Explained the design came from.  The citation templates in Family Tree Maker are loosely based on Evidence Explained but don’t really give you enough fields to make a good reference.

Does this mean you don’t need Evidence Explained if your are using RootsMagic and want to make solid citations?  Unfortunately  it’s not quite that good.  While it breaks out more fields than Family Tree Maker, there are often some vague fields that checking EE helps.  Also, of course, sometimes what you want to cite just does not have a model, as it is impossible to have a template for every kind of citation possible.

If you like to do your citations from scratch there is also a freeform template.  If there is a template that matches what I’m doing, though, I will use it and just check the result in Evidence Explained.  That way it will build the source list and short footnote fields and let me create master sources where I can just fill in a few details if used for another record.

Space and Time

RootsMagic helps you normalize your place names based on the time of the event.  So, for example, if you have an event that happened in Whitby, Ontario, Canada in 1843 RootsMagic will suggest that you instead use “Whitby, York, Canada, British North America.”  Family Tree Maker helps you normalize events, but it is based on the current political subdivisions to make the map lookups work.  I don’t have a strong opinion, but it seems more accurate to have the place details from the time in question, and it saves me making a note in the description field saying what the county or country was back then.

Whitby in British North America

Whitby in British North America

Things I Miss from Family Tree Maker

Automated merging from Ancestry.com

Since the same company owns Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker, they have made it easy to do an Ancestry.com search from a person’s record, filling in some of their information in the fields on the web site.  RootsMagic also does this, but only fills in the name.  Also, since the search is done in a pane rather than a Window, you cannot have your search results in one window and type in your findings in another.  You have the same issue in Family Tree Maker, but they overcome this some by the other missed feature, automated merging of records from Ancestry.com.

Ancestry.com simplifies getting data into Family Tree Maker by letting you merge an online record into the record in the program.  While this is handy, in the long run it is a bit of an impediment to good genealogy.  Relying on automated merging can cause several problems:

  • The transcriber may read something incorrectly and if you do the merge automatically you are less likely to notice.  For example, this morning I entered a marriage record from Ancestry that said that the wedding took place in Wentworth, Ontario.  It turns out it was actually in Newcastle, Ontario, but the transcriber did not figure out the handwriting.
  • Sometimes Ancestry associates the entry with the wrong page.
  • Ancestry’s citations are so-so.  If I follow Evidence Explained I often get a different style.
  • Sometimes not all fields in a document get indexed.

So while I miss being able to just save a whole document’s worth of facts with just a few clicks, I’m probably better off.

Network Synchronization

Family Tree Maker has been adding features to synchronize your tree with Ancestry.com and with your smartphones and tablets.  I have the app on my Android phone and Nook and it works OK but I’ve liked the tree better in FamilyBee.  The main advantage here of Family Tree Maker’s synchronization is that it is automatic.  I already have an arrangement set up to share my database files via Dropbox and rsync, so I don’t need the sharing for my computers, and I find I don’t need it much on my phone and Nook, so I don’t think I’ll miss this too much.

Finding What Facts Use a Source

In Family Tree Maker it is real easy to see what uses a source.  This isn’t something I use every day, but some time it is handy when I’m tidying things.  I suspect that there is a way to do that somewhere RootsMagic but it is not as obvious as in Family Tree Maker.

Update (1/23/12):

It turns out it is easy to show what facts use a source in RootsMagic, it just wasn’t as intuitive as in Family Tree Maker.  All you have to do is go to the source in the Source List and hit the Print button.  Thanks to Bruce from RootsMagic for the solution!

The Look

I wrote earlier how The Master Genealogist looks like a program from the 90s, and I’ll admit that RootsMagic sort of does too.  Family Tree Maker was overhauled a few years ago and looks much more modern.  But while I wish RootsMagic looked better, its functionality is more important.


I’m finding then, that I don’t really miss Family Tree Maker very much.  I’m sure there a number of other benefits to RootsMagic that I’ll learn as I use it more.

This entry was posted in Genealogy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Switching from Family Tree Maker to RootsMagic

  1. “In Family Tree Maker it is real easy to see what uses a source.”
    I thought I was the only person who thought about how sources were used!
    If there’s a way to check on that in RootsMagic, I can’t find it. Other than that one problem, I absolutely love RootsMagic! I’m hoping someday they’ll fix it!

    Have a great day!
    Ruth Stephens

  2. Bruce says:

    Hi, just highlight the source in the Master Source list (Lists > Sources) and click the Print button. It will print a list of all people, families, and facts which use that source.

    • Thanks Bruce! I’ve added an update to the post with the answer.

    • I’ve recently needed to do this while cleaning up records and it unfortunately wasn’t as useful as I had hoped. Here is what it gave me for one of the citations:

      1. Nichols, Barber (Occupation). Oath of John F. Carter; 4 July 1885
      2. Nichols, Barber (Property). Oath of John F. Carter; 4 July 1885
      3. Nichols, Barber (Property). Oath of John F. Carter; 4 July 1885
      4. Nichols, Barber (Residence). Oath of John F. Carter; 4 July 1885
      5. Nichols, Barber and Parshall, Lucy (Family). Oath of John F. Carter; 4 July 1885

      The results are similar for other citations. The problem here is that it gives the type of record where the citation is used by not the date. For something like Residence this can be tedious to work with, as I have to go through each Residence record and see if it has the citation to the John F. Carter oath. It would be real helpful if the date of the record were included.

  3. Hi Bruce!

    Thanks so much for your help! Being able to see how a source is used is one thing I did like about FTM, and I couldn’t figure out how to do that in RM. I have several sources that I don’t think are actually being used anymore, but I didn’t want to delete them, just in case. Awesome!

    Thanks again!
    Ruth Stephens

  4. Pingback: RootsMagic on the Mac with CrossOver Mac 11 | GenVoyage

  5. Eric says:

    Great review. I started using Family Origins (the predecessor to RootsMagic) years ago and have always been very pleased. There are features of the software that I am still discovering.

  6. I was going to switch to RootsMagic 6. I have Family Tree Maker 2011. I can’t do a gedcom file with images….. I have probably 5000 of them in FTM and MANY more I want to add. I would hate to have to enter them all over again in RootsMagic. But I LOVE the online publishing feature. I saw your work around written above for this problem, however I am not sure what to do with mine. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks,

    • The GEDCOM from FTM 2011 should include paths to the images. When I migrated I decided to keep the files in the same place, so I used the paths in the GEDCOM file. For some weird reasons in my environment I needed to edit the GEDCOM and do some mass substitution to fix some paths, but you may not need that. I would go ahead and try the migration and see how it works. If you can’t get to the images RootsMagic should tell you where it thinks they were and you can see if correction is needed. Let me know how it works out or if you have more questions.

  7. Rick Ortenburger says:

    I opened my gedcom file that I created the other day in notepad to try to find a media path or file like you did above with MacVim. ( I have a PC Windows 7) It’s not there? When I create the gedcom 5.5 (standard) I can’t check the box for media files. So I think my gedcom is not including paths to the images. There is an option to create a gedcom FTM 16. So I don’t know what to do? Or what I am doing wrong? And help is appreciated.

  8. I would have used standard gedcom, but I’ll have to look on my system. I think I still have FTM 11 or 12 installed somewhere.

  9. Rick Ortenburger says:

    Ok thanks, I’ll wait ti hear for any suggestions.

  10. OK, I just tried it with FTM 2012 and it worked. I picked GEDCOM 5.5 and then for the destination I picked “Other”. Here is what an entry for an image file looks like, at the end of the block:

    1 NAME FamilySearch Beta
    1 ADDR https://beta.familysearch.org
    1 EMAIL
    1 PHON
    0 @R21@ REPO
    1 NAME Chicago Public Library Digital Collections
    1 ADDR digital.chipublib.org
    1 EMAIL
    1 PHON
    0 @M1@ OBJE
    1 FILE Z:\Documents\FTM\Konarski main Media\Media0001.jpg

    Your file will probably be in a more useful place than your Z: drive, but I had a special setup. If you want RM to get the files from the same FTM directory then it should be able to use the path as is, otherwise you will need to so a global replace on the path.

    • Rick Ortenburger says:

      I don’t see any of this when I open the file in notepad? It appears this won’t work for me? I have FTM 2011. I see NO evidence of an of the above words in the file.

      • Bad news. I dug around and found a copy of FTM 2011 and did the export. As you discovered, it does not include the media files. I then loaded the same file into FTM 2012 and when I did the export, I noticed that the feature to include media files was not greyed out the way it was in FTM 2011 and when I looked at the GEDCOM file it then had the FILE entries for the images. Unfortunately it looks like if you want to move your images to RM without retyping the connections to them you will need to first upgrade FTM to 2012.

      • Rick Ortenburger says:

        So just to be sure – when you used FTM 2012, the box for the “include image files” was not greyed out and was actually checked. So yes if that is the case the only way to avoid redoing all of the images in RM 6 is to 1st upgrade to FTM 2012. Thanks for your help.

      • Yes, that’s unfortunately the case.

  11. Rick Ortenburger says:

    Hi again Beirne,
    So I upgraded to FTM 2012, I created a gedcom for RM6, it worked, yay, thanks for the previous advice! But another question. For the primary person, shown on a pedigree chart (for online publishing). Do I have to add in manually a photo for each person or is there a way to get it to sync from the gedcom file which had a primary photo on FTM? Thanks for any advice.

    • I ran into this this past weekend. Open up the person’s record and then hit the media button. Double – click on each picture and uncheck the primary photo box for each picture but the primary.

  12. Jerri Levenson says:

    Thank you for the great article. I’m rather new to geneaolgy and I really want to make sure I’m doing it the “right” way with lots of backing up and source citations. I really like the research manager option for Roots Magic but I did have one question. When I’m on ancestry and I link to a document with an image (say a census) the image is linked, but I don’t have a saved copy of the actual image like I would for my own images (I keep them in a organized drop box files). Is it worth saving these images or am I just being overly cautious about the information? Also, is there anyway to get these images imported into Roots Magic?

    • I’m the same way, I also like to keep a copy of the images on my own computer as well. What you can do is download the images from Ancestry into the media folder that Root Magic sets up and then you can add it as a media item for your reference.

      • KnitterGamer says:

        Don’t forget to save copies either in the cloud or on an external backup device! A few weeks back, I took my desktop in to have the motherboard switched out and the bozos as the local ThinkGeek, authorized the junking of my computer–without calling for permission first!–and I’ve lost quite a bit of data. I’d hate for anyone else to go through that.

  13. KnitterGamer says:

    Personally I use, Reunion for Mac. I started using Reunion when it was made for the original Macintosh in the early 1990s. It used a rather intuitive system that looks and feels a lot like how my note taking started out on 3×5 cards. Then Sierra discontinued it to focus gaming. So I converted everything to FTM…ugh, all the erasing of random alphanumeric gobbledygook that randomly appeared in ALL my entries. And it just didn’t have the intuitively easy use. So I changed over to Legacy. It has the same formatting style as Reunion and runs nicely on my PCs. Huzzah for the Brits, who bought Reunion it and updated it nicely. So currently, I use Reunion on my Mac laptop, and Legacy on my PC desktop and laptop. I am rather new to formal genealogy and I like how you demonstrate Roots Magic’s formal sourcing. Plus, all the newer updates let one add audio, video and pictures rather simply. However, I’m not sure I want to change over– again. As long as I’m documenting and sourcing everything GHS style, (I had been using an adapted version of APA style sourcing, as that’s what I know exceedingly well from my college years) does it “really” matter what Genealogy Program you use? Thanks for your informative blog. Thanks to you, I now am a devout user of Evernote. And I’m looking into Evidence, as well as the online BU genealogy certificate class.

  14. I’ve been thinking about making the switch, mainly for the citations. To me it seems like every time I enter a source, it just doesn’t quite fit the template and there’s a few sources that I just never can get to look right in FTM – Find a Grave is the biggest one for me. I saw a custom template someone made in RM for Find a Grave and it just made so much sense.

    I just wish RM was a little more polished and updated looking. I really like the layout in FTM with being able to see the pedigree view, the Family group, the index and the individual details all onscreen at once, Everything is pretty easy to navigate around and I do really like the blended family view. If I do stick with FTM it would be for the aesthetics and ease of navigation.

  15. Sharon says:

    Hoping somebody is still around to help. My current trees are in FTM Version 10 [note, not 2010, but the OLD Version 10 June 28, 2002]. I am thinking of switching to RootsMagic — I also have a Nook HD + [runs Android] and then could take my info with me, on the Nook. Seems that many features on the OLD FTM don’t want to work, and I am not sure how to do a GedCom on it, or if it just does not want to do that, either. I used to be able to transfer reports to PDF, but that does not work, either. As the file is approaching 12,000 individuals, I am loath to start from scratch. Can somebody please help? Oh, and that is just one Tree ………..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s