Personal Historian 2 Software Released

Latest Version of Personal and Family History Writing Software Now Available to the Public

SPRINGVILLE, Utah. — September 28, 2011 — RootsMagic, Inc. today announced the official release of Personal Historian 2, the latest version of the ground-breaking computer software which helps you write the story of your life and of other individuals.  Personal Historian breaks this seemingly monumental task into small, manageable pieces and then reconstructs it into a complete, publishable document.  With the release comes a free “Essentials” version of the software as well as a discount offer for new users and previous owners of the software.

Bring Life to Your Life Stories

“Many people want to write a personal history about themselves or family members but get lost or overwhelmed,” said Michael Booth, vice-president and lead developer of the software.  “It’s very gratifying to hear people tell us that they are finally able to write their life stories thanks to Personal Historian.”

Personal Historian creates an interactive timeline of a person’s life to keep the stories organized, give context to life events, and to allow users to write stories in any order they wish. When ready, Personal Historian will compile the stories into a finished book complete with table of contents, chapters, pictures, indexes, and more.  The book may then be printed at home, edited in a word processor, published professionally, or shared with friends and family.

New Features

“The new features in Personal Historian 2 have been worth the wait,” said Bruce Buzbee, president. “While we’ve added many new and powerful features, we’ve worked hard to make the software even easier to use than before.”

Personal Historian 2 boasts an impressive list of over 40 features including streamlined step-by-step wizards; expanded timelines and memory trigger questions; easy filtering and searching of stories; management of categories, people, and places; improved outlining and writing analysis; wrapping of text around pictures; fonts and text styles; and more-powerful publishing and output options.

Free “Personal Historian Essentials”

RootsMagic is also releasing a new, free edition of Personal Historian named, “Personal Historian Essentials”.  Personal Historian Essentials contains many core features from the Personal Historian software and the two products are fully-compatible with one another.  “We wanted to give everyone a risk-free option,” said Booth.  “Personal Historian Essentials is perfect for someone who wants to start writing a personal history but doesn’t know where to begin.”  Personal Historian Essentials is available for download at

Discount Offer

To celebrate it’s release, RootsMagic, Inc. is pleased to offer a special introductory offer for Personal Historian 2. Through October 31, 2011, Personal Historian 2 is available for a special introductory price of only $19.95, saving $10 off of the regular price.  The discount is available only on the Personal Historian website at or by calling 1-800-766-8762.

About RootsMagic, Inc.

For over 20 years, RootsMagic, Inc. has been creating computer software with a special purpose- to unite families. One of our earliest products- the popular “Family Origins” software, introduced thousands of people to the joy and excitement of family history.

That tradition continues today with “RootsMagic”, our award-winning genealogy software which makes researching, organizing, and sharing your family history fun and easy. “Personal Historian” will help you easily write and preserve your life stories. “Family Reunion Organizer” takes the headaches out of planning those important get-togethers. And “Family Atlas” creates beautiful and educational geographic maps of your family history.

For more information, visit

Source: RootsMagic, Inc.

Personal Historian 2 Synopsis

Yeah, I know synopsis is a fancy word for this article, but we’ve been blogging all month about all the great new features coming in Personal Historian 2 and we didn’t want to make folks have to dig through all of those articles.  So here is a list of those articles that you can just click to get to.

Personal Historian Essentials

As I mentioned last time, I have one more new Personal Historian “feature” to share with you.  While not technically a feature, it is an exciting change.  With the release of version 2 we will be replacing the usual demo version of Personal Historian with a new free Essentials version.

Personal Historian Essentials will share many of the same features with the full Personal Historian software including clean and friendly screens, the ability to add an unlimited number of stories, categories, writing tools, LifeCapsules, and the ability to publish a complete personal history.  The full version of Personal Historian will be available for purchase and include features not available in Personal Historian Essentials.

So what comes next?

Later this week we will begin taking orders for Personal Historian 2 and release it as a download, followed a few weeks later by the CD version (it takes a few weeks to get CDs duplicated and packaged).  When we begin taking orders you will be able to pre-order the CD and get the download early if you want to do that as well.

And if you want to watch a live demo of the new Personal Historian 2, don’t forget to join us for our free webinar “What’s New in Personal Historian 2” this Wednesday (Sept 28th) at 6pm MDT.  To sign up for the free webinar, visit:

Publishing Your Stories with Personal Historian 2

One of the most powerful enhancements in version 2 is the Personal Historian Publisher.  The Publisher lets you create complete books, including cover and title pages, table of contents, copyright page, chapters with your stories, indexes and more.

Create Multiple Personal Histories

The Publisher lets you create multiple books from a single file.  When it comes time to print your book you may want to sometimes print every story, or you may want to only print certain stories.  Publisher lets you design custom books, each with their own cover and title pages, their own sets of chapters and selected stories, and their own index.  You can then quickly print different versions of the person’s history by selecting one of the books and generating it.  As an example, you might create one book that includes all of the person’s stories, another without “private” stories, and another with just the stories in the education category that occurred between the ages of 12 and 19.

Design Your Own Chapters

Personal Historian can organize your stories in several different ways.  It can group your stories based on their primary category, or group them by the person’s age, or not group them at all (by putting them in a single chapter).  You can customize the order the chapters are printed, including just rearranging them by dragging and dropping them.

Add Special Sections

Publisher doesn’t limit you to chapters with your stories.  You can also add special sections like a cover and title page, preface, dedication page, and more.  You can even have Personal Historian automatically create a Table of Contents for your book.

If you have tagged your stories with the people and places in those stories, Publisher can even create indexes for your personal history.

Preview Your Books

The Report Viewer shows you on screen what your book will look like on paper.

On the left is a list of thumbnails of each page in the report. You can use the arrow keys or the scroll bar to scroll through each page in the report, or you can use the mouse to scroll down (or up) and go to the desired page.  You can zoom in and out to see more or less detail.

Print or Save Your Books

The Report Viewer makes it easy to print or save your books.  Just click the Print button to send your book to the printer, or click the Save button to save your book as either a PDF (Acrobat) or RTF (Rich Text) file.

Email Your Books

If you want to send a book to friends or family, you can click the Email button on the Report Viewer, and Personal Historian will automatically save your book to file, open your email program, start a new email and attach the book to the email.  All you have to do is enter the email addresses and a short message.

So that’s an overview of Personal Historian 2.  In our next post I have one last new “feature” to mention, as well as details about the release, so keep watching.

New Tools in Personal Historian 2

Personal Historian has always had tools to help you write and organize: spell checker, thesaurus, readability check, outline creator, filters, and more.  Here are a few of the new or improved tools coming in version 2.

The first 3 tools I’m going to mention can be found on the screen where you write stories.  You can click the image to see it full size.

Multiple Categories

You can now assign a story to more than a single category.  Categories help you when you want to find or filter your stories.  You can create as many categories as you want, but in the past you could only assign a story to one of those categories.

Now it is possible to do things like assign a story to a “Private” category, a “Family” category, and an “Education” category all at once.  That story will then appear when you choose to view any of those categories.

People List

Personal Historian will now let you keep a list of all the people you mention in a personal history.  If you import from a genealogy file, those people will automatically be included in the People list, but you can also add additional people to the list as you see fit.  You can tag each story with people from the People list, and later filter the story list based on any group of people you choose.  For each person you can track their name, sex, relationship to the main person, and the range of dates they were involved in the main person’s life.

Place List

Many stories take place in more than one location.  You can now keep a list of all the places you mention in a personal history.  Like the People list, any places will automatically be added to the list when you import your genealogy file.  You can tag each story with places, and later filter the story list based on any group of places you choose.  Even cooler, you can filter the story list to only stories which occurred within a certain distance of any place.


To assist with your places, Personal Historian also includes a Gazetteer of over 3.5 million place names.

Better Filtering

You’ve always been able to filter your stories in Personal Historian, but now it is even easier.  Status and category filtering can now be done instantly from the new filter panel on the left of the main Story List.

And don’t forget about the new filtering options mentioned above (people, places, and places within a certain distance).

More Story Tools

And here are a few of the handy tools available when you are editing a story:

  • Full screen mode lets you expand the edit area to fill the entire screen
  • The outline organizer now lets you copy your outline into the writing area
  • The improved Readability Check screen makes it easier to see how to improve your writing
  • You can now have Personal Historian read your story to you
  • Personal Historian can now be set up to take dictation (you talk and it writes)

Using LifeCapsules in Personal Historian 2

Our lives are shaped by more than just the things we do.  Historical events and cultural happenings (music, tv, movies, radio) all impact our lives and the things we do.  We’ve talked about adding stories to create a personal history, but Personal Historian allows you to add context to a person’s life with LifeCapsules.

A LifeCapsule lets you add topics to your story list about historical and religious events, epidemics, cultural happenings, and even “memory triggers”.  When you add a LifeCapsule to your file, Personal Historian will include topics in your main screen story list.  So, for example, if you add a U.S. history LifeCapsule, you will see historical events which occurred during the person’s life intermingled with your own stories.  In this sample screen you will see that several different LifeCapsules have been imported (click the image to see it in full resolution).

Now while you may want to write a story for certain LifeCapsule topics that get added, they are also useful for triggering other memories that you may want to write about instead.  For example, you might not want to write a story about the start of the Great Depression, but showing that it occurred during the teen years of a person might give you more insight into some of their behaviors later in life.

In addition to expanding the existing LifeCapsules, Personal Historian 2 adds a number of new LifeCapsules.  Included are (remember that features new in PH2 are bold):

  • African American history
  • Australian history
  • British history
  • Canadian history
  • Catholic history
  • Epidemics
  • Foods
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Inventions
  • Jewish history
  • LDS history
  • Memory triggers
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Radio shows
  • Television
  • Toys and Games
  • U.S. history
  • U.S. holidays

Stories added by importing a LifeCapsule work just like your own stories… you can edit them, delete them, filter or search by them, and include or exclude them in your published personal histories.

In addition, we will be releasing a new LifeCapsule Editor about a month after PH2 is released, so you will be able to create your own LifeCapsules to use and share with others.

In our next sneak peek we’ll look at some of the new tools in Personal Historian 2, including the new Person and Place Lists which you can use for tagging stories.

Importing Genealogy Data into Personal Historian 2

So where do you start when trying to come up with stories for a personal history?  If you have been entering data into a genealogy program you can use that information to get you started.

Personal Historian will import the events from any group of people you select, including any pictures or sources (remember, bold items are new in version 2).  You can import from RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker (16 and earlier), PAF, Legacy, or GEDCOM.

You can choose who the personal history will be about, as well as any other family members you want to include.  You can even select which events you want Personal Historian to import.  So you could just choose basic events like birth, marriage and death, or you could choose to include all events like occupations, residences, and more.  Personal Historian will display the imported events on the main screen Story List (click the image to see it in full resolution).

If you have any notes, sources, or pictures attached to events, Personal Historian will import those as well.

You don’t have to write a story for every event that Personal Historian imports, but you can use them as placeholders to write about later, or to just use for context in the person’s life.  If you really don’t want the event just highlight and delete it from the main Story List.  You also don’t have to stick with the computer generated story titles.  You can easily change “Kathleen Peggy Hobbs (Wife) was born” to “Ronald’s Future Sweetheart Arrives”.

Finally, what happens if you add more information to your genealogy software?  Well, just re-import the file into Personal Historian.  In the past that would have been a very bad idea because you would have ended up with duplicate events / stories.  But in version 2, Personal Historian will check as it is importing to make sure it doesn’t import duplicate events.

So once you have imported your genealogy information into Personal Historian, its time to add some context.  Next time we’ll talk about LifeCapsules, an easy way to add historical timelines or memory joggers to your personal history.

Writing Stories in Personal Historian 2

As I mentioned last time, putting together a personal history is as simple as writing some stories.  You don’t have to write your stories in any particular order… Personal Historian will arrange them for you as you create them.  So if you remember something that happened in the 4th grade, just click “Add Story” and write about it.  Personal Historian will bring up a screen like this to write your story (you can click on the image to see it larger).

The story writer has three sections: 1) information about the story such as the title, date, etc, 2) a story editor to write your story and 3) an organizer to help put your thoughts together.  As before, features new to version 2 will be bolded.

Story Information

When you write a story you can also include a title, the date (or date range) of the story, and the status of the story (are you still working on it, finished, or have you not even started yet).  These additional items are shown in the story list on the main screen and help you organize your stories.

But the real power of this additional information is the ability to categorize stories, and to tag a story with the people and places mentioned in the story.  This information can also be included in the main story list, but its main purpose is to help with selecting stories.  Imagine being able to say “Show me all the stories that occurred within 50 miles of Ames, Iowa“, or “Print just the stories that refer to one of these 5 people”.  And new in version 2 is the ability to assign a story to more than one category.

Word Processor

A big chunk of the feature requests for Personal Historian have to do with the story editor, so we spent a lot of time working on that.  The number one feature request was to allow text to wrap around pictures, and as you can see above, that wish has been granted.  Also new in version 2 is the ability to use multiple fonts in your stories.  But we didn’t stop there.  You can now create “styles” (which include font, attribute, and paragraph settings), and apply those styles to paragraphs in your stories.  If you change the settings for a style, that change will affect all paragraphs using that style.

If you have wanted more room to edit your stories, you can now click a button to toggle in and out of full screen mode.  And if you are the kind of person who likes to document your stories, Personal Historian now supports footnotes.

There are also a number of tools to help you write better, but we’ll talk about them in an upcoming article.


Remember back when you had to write a paper in school?  Your teacher probably told you that you could write better if you first created an outline of your story.  Did we listen to that advice (probably only if our grade depended on it).  But those teachers were right, and Personal Historian provides an organizer that makes it easy to create an outline.  Just begin typing ideas into the organizer, but don’t worry about what order those ideas are in.  Just brainstorm and type everything you can think of that you might want to include in the story.  The organizer then lets you easily drag and drop all those ideas into an outline.  That outline is always available and is saved along with your story.

Coming Up

So are you worried about trying to come up with ideas for your stories?  In our next article I’ll tell you how to import story ideas from your genealogy software, and from there we’ll see how to use LifeCapsules for even more ideas (including a bunch of all new LifeCapsules in version 2).

Getting Started with Personal Historian 2

Time to start those sneak previews of Personal Historian 2 that we promised last week.  Rather than just list what’s new in PH2, I’m going to talk about Personal Historian features but I’ll bold the items that are new to version 2.

As I mentioned last time, Personal Historian lets you write stories about your own life or the life of your family members.  We have a lot of folks who order Personal Historian for their parents to get them to finally write down all those stories they like to tell (and that we like to hear).

But instead of just cramming all those stories into a big word processor file, Personal Historian displays a timeline of those stories (you can click on the image below to see the full resolution).  Just click “Add Story” and you can write a new story, complete with text, images, title, date, and much more.  You can assign each story to categories (PH2 now lets you assign more than one category to each story).  You can also tag each story with the people or places you have mentioned in the story.

You can choose which columns you want Personal Historian to display for each story, including the title, date, status, category, or age at which the story occurred.  New in PH2 is the info bar at the bottom of the page which will show you all the information about the currently highlighted story, so you don’t have to try and cram every column on the screen.

Personal Historian will automatically sort your stories as you add them, so it is easy to find any story you have already written.  You can change the order the stories are sorted just by clicking the header of the column you want to sort by.  When you want to work on a story, just double click the title of the story to open the story editor.

But Personal Historian is more than just a list of your stories.  It lets you filter stories any way you can imagine.  This means you can write all the stories of a person’s life, but then tell Personal Historian to only display certain stories as you work on them.  You can filter by date, age, title, categories, and even the people or places mentioned in the stories.

There are even shortcuts for some of the filters.  If you want to filter by the story status or categories, Personal Historian now displays a list on the left side of the main screen that you can just check or uncheck.  If you want to only display stories during a certain date range you can do that by dragging the left and right brackets on the timeline at the top of the screen.

One of the best new features in PH2 is the full text search.  In the upper right corner of the main screen is a field called Search.  Just type any text into that field and Personal Historian will filter your story list to include only those stories which include that text.  Personal Historian will even display the context that the search text is used in each of those stories.  But don’t let the simplicity of the full text search fool you.  You can display stories that don’t contain certain text, that contain some text but not others, or any other combination.

In upcoming articles we will touch on how to add historical and other timeline items (including the new LifeCapsules provided by PH2), the all new story editor, the enhanced import capabilities, and the new publisher.

Personal Historian 2 Sneak Preview

It’s no big secret that we are finally about to release Personal Historian 2.  We know it has been a long time coming.  Those of you who have been with us for a long time (back to the old Family Origins days) know that in the past we were able to get major upgrades of our programs out a lot quicker than we have recently.  I know we could make a lot of excuses as to why this is, but I hate excuses from companies I buy software from, and I know you feel the same.  So I’ll just say we have made some changes in priorities around here that will help us get all the really cool new stuff out to you faster.

We are currently beta testing Personal Historian 2, so for the next couple of weeks on the blog we will be offering a sneak peek at the new features which are coming.

But first, I know a lot of you may not be familiar with Personal Historian, so let me tell you a little bit about it.  Personal Historian helps you write… you guessed it… personal histories.  It could be your own life story, or the life story of one or both of your parents, or the life story of one of your ancestors.  Everyone has a story that needs to be told… in fact… a lot of stories.  And that is where Personal Historian comes in.  Instead of trying to type all those stories into a big word processor file, Personal Historian lets you add stories, and builds a timeline of those stories, like this:

You can choose which columns you want Personal Historian to display for each story, including the title, date, status, category, or age at which the story occurred.  Personal Historian will automatically sort your stories as you add them, so it is easy to find any story you have already written.  You can then just double-click any story in the list to edit it in a full featured word processor window.

But Personal Historian is more than just a list of stories.  It lets you filter stories any way you can imagine, add historical and other timeline items, provides memory joggers and story organizing tools, and lets you publish all those stories (or any group of those stories) into a complete personal history.

So stay tuned the next couple of weeks as we show you all the cool new features in Personal Historian 2, the easiest way to write a personal history.