Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic!  Part 12: Growth and New Products

NOTE: This is Part 12 of our ongoing series documenting the history of our company. If you’re just joining us, be sure to read Part 12345678910, and 11.

Once RootsMagic 4 and RootsMagic Essentials were out the door, we tried to concentrate on upgrading the software and adding new functionality.  But we were hearing from our users that they wanted to be able to take their data on their new tablets they’d gotten for Christmas. The only problem was that we had no programming skills on tablets, either iOS or Android.

Rather than hire new programmers just to write apps, we decided to outsource them.  We got a bunch of bids from companies all over the world, but finally ended up selecting a local company here in Utah.  We knew that genealogy software is actually very complex, and this company was actually already familiar with RootsMagic and genealogy software in general.

If you’ve ever hired out programming, you know it can get very expensive.  And we were faced with the decision how to recover the costs of creating these new apps.  In the end, we decided to leave them as read-only to keep our costs down, and to make them available for free.  We released our iOS app in Dec 2012, and didn’t know it would take another year of development before we could get the Android version out.


Back when we released RootsMagic 4 we assumed we’d never have to rewrite the program again.  But as we got more and more requests for a Mac version it became clear that we might get to do just that.

We knew there were a couple of options… write a separate Mac version (or have another company write a Mac version for us), or rewrite the program so that we could compile the same program to both Windows and Mac.  We’ve seen too many programs where their Windows and Mac versions are quite a bit different (both interface and functionality), so we really didn’t like the first option. The second option would ensure that both Windows and Mac users would always have the same functionality, yet redesigning the program again seemed daunting.

So in the summer of 2014 we began rebuilding RootsMagic so that we could compile natively to both Windows and Mac.  But having done this multiple times, I knew firsthand how long it could take, and the Mac users were getting more and more vocal.  So as a temporary fix, we contacted a company called Codeweavers that wrote software to let Windows programs run on a Mac. We had them build a custom wrapper for RootsMagic, and in September 2014 we released MacBridge.

Since we had to pay Codeweavers for every copy of MacBridge we distributed, we sold it as a separate program so we could keep track of the numbers.  The MacBridge program allowed you to install the Windows version on your Mac, but the process was somewhat unwieldy, and it was hard to explain to users how it was supposed to work.

We decided we needed to simplify this whole Mac “wrapper” thing, and worked out a license with Codeweavers where we could pay a flat amount every month and be able to distribute unlimited copies.  This not only allowed us to create a “RootsMagic for Mac” standalone installer, but also meant we could distribute free RootsMagic Essentials with the wrapper as well. And yes, we continue to eat the cost of that monthly license to this day 😉

While we continued to work on the new Mac/Windows version, we decided to release a new version of RootsMagic based on the older code with some exciting features we had been working on.  RootsMagic 7 included a new feature called WebHints, which would display hints from FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast, and let you click on a little lightbulb to jump to those sites to see the hints.  We also announced MyRootsMagic, where registered users could easily post free websites of their family tree.

Then in December 2015, Ancestry dropped a bombshell that they were discontinuing their Family Tree Maker program.  About this same time they contacted us and asked if we were interested in working with their API and integrating RootsMagic with Ancestry.  Of course we jumped at the opportunity. I had been asking Ancestry to work with their API for years without any luck, so this came as a very pleasant surprise.  After crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s, we jointly announced that we would be working together on February 2, 2016.

We optimistically guessed that the new Ancestry features would be done by the end of 2016, but we underestimated the complexity that lay before us.  And as we began work on the integration, we noticed that our RootsMagic 7 sales were dropping. We realized that users were holding off buying RootsMagic until the Ancestry features were released, so we announced that the Ancestry features would be a free update to version 7.  Sales immediately picked back up, but we realized this meant that RootsMagic 8 which we were working on separately would have to be put on the back burner until the Ancestry integration was done.

We tried to be as transparent as possible about progress on the Ancestry features.  Normally we wouldn’t pre-announce a new feature, but in this case Ancestry wanted it to be known that we were working on this functionality.  So it left us open to a lot of second-guessing by users as the development went past our estimated release.

During the latter part of development, I started growing a beard and started joking that I wasn’t going to shave until the Ancestry features were released.  Finally, on June 28, 2017, we announced to the world in a short live video from our “secret underground laboratories” that it was finally here.  It was kind of a ridiculous video, but was also kind of an emotional release from all the hard work we put into those features.

After releasing the Ancestry integration it was tempting to just take some time off, but we knew we needed to get back to work on RootsMagic 8 since it had been pushed to the back burner for a year and a half.  We also knew that we needed to release an update to our Personal Historian software which we had been working on prior to the Ancestry announcement.  The update was already close to ready, but we hit a little snag with the main new feature, importing from Facebook.  In order to import from Facebook, we were required to submit the program to Facebook.  Normally that would have been a simple procedure, but Facebook was in the news for allowing companies to take users data and use it in ways the user didn’t want.  Facebook cracked down on accepting new developers with products that could read data from Facebook.  We were finally able to get approved since we were able to show that we (RootsMagic) didn’t get the data ourselves; that the data was simply downloaded onto the users own computer.  At first we were concerned about releasing an update that read from Facebook, but then we realized we actually were providing a feature that Facebook users needed… the ability to get a copy of all of their data downloaded onto their own computer.  Personal Historian 3 was released in March 2018.

So where are we today?  And what does the future hold for RootsMagic?  When we started this blog years ago, the main purpose was to give a sneak preview of our soon to be released RootsMagic 4, and for the next little while we’re going back to those roots to give you a peek at RootsMagic 8.

Of course everyone wants to know what new features will be in version 8 (we all like new features).  And while we’ll have new features, let me just say that  RootsMagic 8 is being designed with our current users in mind, simplifying existing functionality, reducing “clickiness”, and other improvements requested by users.  Underlying code is being redesigned to provide us with a framework for additional functionality in the years to come.

So stayed tuned to this blog as we begin to unveil the most exciting version of RootsMagic ever.

45 thoughts to “Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic!  Part 12: Growth and New Products”

  1. I read the blog with great interest. I have been using RM since I converted from the old FTM program that Ancestry stopped supporting. I have not been tempted to go back. Regarding new features — I applaud efforts to streamline common functions, by reducing the “clickiness”. Another useful improvement would be a reduction in software crashes. RM crashes on my during web searches, and during tree updates on Ancestry. In some cases it simply freezes, and in other cases there is an “out of bounds” fault for an address or some database access. There are many possible features available to support DNA test results, including color coded clusters (e.g., Dana Leeds method), naming common ancestors (I use a custom fact for this at the moment), and probability calculations for cousin relationships. So these are just some possible ideas.
    –Alan Wilson

  2. Waiting patiently for MacBook Pro RM8 or a fix for RM7 from 32 bit to 64bit. Can’t open until updated. I am unfortunately working with the Catalina Beta OS. RM will not open. Is there a work around I can use. CS not very helpful in understanding . Also Family Historian 3 will not open.
    I am working on an extensive project and need to access RM.

    Reply: Catalina is still in beta and is not supported at this time. We do not advise RM users to upgrade to Catalina until after it is out of beta. RootsMagic is a 32-bit program with a CrossOver wrapper to run on the Mac. Catalina only works with 64-bit programs. It is the CrossOver wrapper that needs to be updated to run 64-bit. CrossOver is currently working on that for RootsMagic 7. RootsMagic is working on the native Mac version of RootsMagic that will be version 8. We will make sure it meets Apple’s requirements. For now, you will need to remove Catalina in order to run RootsMagic.
    Renee, RootsMagic, Inc.

  3. I use Roots Magic but it is very involved and difficult to use. I have to click, click, click to add basic information like birth, death, marriage, etc. My ABSOLUTE FAVORITE genealogy program of all time was Family Tree Legends, version 5 by Pearl Street Software. I waould pay about anything to have it again. It was intuitive, easy to navigate and far superior to anything that Ancestry has ever done in the way of programs. See it if you want to see how EASY a genealogy program can be. It’s out of business now which is too bad but still the best I ever saw. What a great model that would be.

  4. My goodness, Bruce, you certainly are tantalising us with version 8!
    I’ve only got 15000+ names on my database, but there is no doubt I couldn’t do without RM. So much detail can be stored on the programme, it’s quite amazing – keep up the good work, and all strength to your elbow.

  5. Whew!!! Ych y fi (the Welsh equivalent for “Oy Vey!” or “Uff da!”) What a trip y’all have been on!

    I’m really happy that now we can do the same work on our MAC (upstairs) that we do on our lap-top (downstairs.)

    I’m highlighting this for my wife who is far more tech savvy than me. We have a lot of material that needs to go on here. This is particularly true in my case because I have been working on my Siegle line to bring in all the people I could for a cousin who has been researching the line for 20 years back to the 1500s and our line was the tail end of his journey.

  6. I just hope the RM8 comes out soon and solves the major issues with backing up one’s media files. I used the “Backup media files” multiple times and it really has caused me major issues giving me MANY duplicate files; providing some files titled with a long list of numbers; or naming a file by my original title that landed with multiple persons in my database. This last item is a real mess. It can be found under one person with the wrong title but the correct data for that person; and found under a different person with the same wrong title AND the correct data for that person. With 22,000+ people in my database, it’s taking me forever to correct all the data.

    Reply: Unless you are restoring the backup media into the original media folder duplicate files won’t be created. RootsMagic would still only be linked to one of them. RootsMagic is unable to rename your media files, so look for an outside source that is capable of doing that. I have seen Indexing and backup programs do that.
    Renee, RootsMagic, Inc.

  7. I really enjoy using ver 7.0. I strive to keep my data on MY computer as a backup in case of SLC crashing, EMP, or whatever. I look forward to Ver 8.0 being released and I am happy to use it. All I can say is to keep up the good work and thoughtfulness in making very functional and useable.

    Darrell, in Oklahoma City.

  8. I wrote a genealogy program using Microsoft Access.
    I assigned a Family code to each; therefore all families stayed together.
    A person would have the same code as the parent, born first an A would be added
    born second a B would be added. etc

  9. Will the new Roots Magic enable importing data from Family Search directly into Roots Magic and vice versa?

  10. Bruce, your company history is fascinating. I hope with the new edition of RM you fix the everlasting font size problem. For example, in the Citation Manager, I can easily increase font size in the Research Notes box, but the font in the “Source” and “Free Form” boxes is too small and not adjustable. Similar situation on the Edit Source/Citation page where fonts in the two left boxes are too small and can’t be enlarged. It would be good if you could make all fonts user-adjustable.

  11. Great read! I’m hoping version 8 would be a web version as I jump from device to device and would love to have my tree on the web,

  12. I trust that the transition from RM7 to RM8 will be as seamless as the prior upgrades have been. Prior changes have been easy, adding new features without complicating what already works well, and making it so that the learning curve is not difficult.

    I don’t use a MAC, so that is not important to me, but I look forward to continued improvement and ease of use.

  13. Thanks Bruce,
    Your comments are much appreciated. It’s nice
    to hear directly from the founder of the company on such a personal basis. Looking forward to the new version of Roots Magic and wonder if you are any closer to assigning Half Relationship Tags where they exist?

    Suggestion for an option. A check box that would cause a persons notes to record the Relationship to the Root Person such as “2nd Great Grandfather to Root Person Name)”?

  14. I enjoyed the RM4 teases and found it a great way to gain user opinions and some great opinions. It does have the drawback of raising expectations and impatience but good testing should protect against premature release so I look forward to the tease.

    You have certainly had an overly complicated number of years and I would sincerely hope once you get the common code stable the years to come will allow you to move from strength to strength with new desirable features.

  15. I enjoy using RootsMagic 7 but would greatly benefit from being able to search by given or first names along with the surnames. The Norwegian family history books (bygdebok) that I use for my Norwegian family research are indexed by given names first.

  16. .My old Rootsmagic has been corrupted. Is there any way if I bought a new one my data could be transferred to your new Rootsmagic when it becomes available?

    Reply: The database would need to be currently working in RootsMagic before it will import into the next version. It would be best to File>Restore a backup made before it was corrupted. Then go to File>Database Tools and run all options there in consecutive order.
    Renee, RootsMagic Inc.

  17. Wow! I’ve been with you longer than I thought. I thought I was a newbee getting into RootsMagic 7, from Family Tree. Turns out Parsons, Family Origins had been my initial ancestry programs from the start. Well done, keep on programming! Looking forward to 8.

  18. Am I missing something here? Has Roots Magic Version 8 been released yet, if not what is the expected date of the release? Presently still using Version 7.

  19. Does this mean we will be seeing Rootsmagic 8 this year. There are features I don’t use in RootsMagic 7, but it there are new ideas in 8 I would like to know about them when it does come out.
    Thank You
    Mary Gilmore

  20. I’ve been away from geneaology for several years and am having trouble making connections to Roots Magic etc. I am hoping that I will not have more difficulties getting restarted with this soft ware.

  21. I like being able to add diacritical marks to the text in my notes. Why are we not able to do that in our data entry of names and place names?

    Reply: Use Ctrl-T to bring up the Character Map in those areas of RootsMagic. If you know the Alt codes for your diacritical marks it will also speed up data entry.
    Renee, RootsMagic, Inc.

  22. Great Blog.
    However, I have an issue with RM7.
    Prior to civil registration (British), you seldom get birth dates – just baptism dates.
    RM7 does not appear to calculate from baptisms for screen or reports. I struggled with this until I found that if I changed to christenings it worked.
    What is difference between Baptism and Christening?
    How can I globally change all Bpts to Chr for 4,500 records?
    Cheers Keith

    Reply: Visit our RootsMagic Users Facebook group. There has been much discussion on using Baptism vs Christenings there. https://www.facebook.com/groups/RootsMagicUsers/
    Renee, RootsMagic, Inc.

  23. I have been with you for 30 years and do all my family history research and input from the database spreadsheet I have created on RootsMagic. Keep up the good and never, never go away. DN

  24. Been with you guys since the beggining. You were my 2nd program since I got my first computer over 30 years ago. My tree exceeds over 50,000 people and its still growing with no issues.
    I reccommend you to everyone and I’ll be a lifelong customer. Can’t wait for 8!

  25. Looking forward version 8. I continue to have problems with frozen frames where no arrow appears. Have to control alt delete to close. Not good for the database. And, thanks for all the hard work. wrc

  26. I have always loved your product from the first time I was introduced to it. I had hoped to be a part of the Beta testing but am excited to see the new features in RM 8 as previewed at RootsTech 2019. If there was an additional tweak to the already existing RM8 it might be to have the BMD already in place in the Edit Screen for each individual in a tree as a sort of default. It would make sense to me, since everyone needs at least birth and death and most need marriage. It is easier to delete an unwanted fact than to go in for each individual and separately add the BMD. Just a thought. Looking forward to the release sometime between now and midnight on December 31st!

  27. Delighted with the content of he latest Update.
    I started using PAF many years ago . . . probably in the early 1980’s . . . until the offer of upgrading to RootsMagic came along. I also use Family Historian but not to the full extent of its capabilities through lack of time!
    Now I would not consider using any other family History software than yours.
    Thank you for continuing to develop and add value and ease-of-use to an already excellent program.
    TJD “Barry” Erskine

  28. happy birthday–I still don’t know all of the tricks & features that are available to everyone –but when I contact your support team–they take me through the process step by step–keep up the good work–looking forward to rm8

  29. I am hoping that the new edition to Roots Magic with have a way to have some sort of color coding or a checked box that will let me know when I print out the lists (birth, marriages, deaths, etc) which are proved with records. I am having to highlight now & understand some of the other gen. programs have this function. J

  30. Have used Family Origins and RootsMagic for many years and think it is the best!
    I recently purchased an IPad for the purpose of portability as I am out and about researching.
    I want to know if there is a way to be able to enter data into one device (either my computer or my IPad) and have it record on BOTH devices? Can you please email me how??

  31. Would love to be able to import sources from FS but don’t want to add a new source to my presonal free form master list. Why can’t I import and choose a source I already have from my master list to put it under? I just don’t import so I takes me a lot of time.
    When I add a source it gives me a place to add the webtag but then at the person page I need to add the webtag again. Why is this?
    When exporting a source to FS I then half to go to FS, go to the source I just added, copy and paste the link to the the Web page URL box. How can I get the link there to start with? I know it works from the master source list that comes with RM but not from the free form source list.
    Thanks for listening. I spend at least 30 hours a week working in RM and have for years.
    Leland Jones

  32. Hi Bruce, you have been doing a tremendous work over the years. Listing everything I love would be too long, but the easiness to enter data, source management, freedom we have in the software (a lot of in-built templates but own design if we want to) and even the access though SQLite make it close to perfection already. The few points I wish RM8 would bring would be a full tree view, improvements in mapping, ability to store and run SQL queries from RM and a way to share trees and sources with family and most of all other RM users (Ancestry and FamilySearch are not there yet for sources/proven facts).Nonetheless I want to reinforce I am more than happy with 98% of the software already, it ticks everything I was looking for when I purchased it. Expected date for RM8 release?

  33. One feature really needed is a simplication of the merge feature… when merging “new” info from Ancestry into Roots, there are often 12 new sources, etc that is very time consuming to input. maybe an input all on source material would be helpful

  34. Running RM7 on MacBook Pro. Recently upgraded operating system from MacOS Sierra to MacOS Mojave v 10.14.5. RM7 will not open and I get the following error message. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
    Initialization Failure
    CrossOver is unable to initialize a critical component.
    Failed to import cxutils module into Python. See console for errors.
    The program will now exit.

    Reply: You will need to do a complete uninstall/reinstall of RootsMagic, including the CrossOver wrapper around the program. The link below is a knowledge base article that gives directions along with a video demonstration.
    Renee, RootsMagic, Inc.

  35. Back in the mists of time I was compiling all of my information on FGS in 3 ring binders. When I had a bookcase full I decided that was enough. I went to a computer store (Radio Shack?) and purchased a IBM PCjr. Had a 2nd floppy disk drive installed and bought a box of floppies. after writing my own genealogist program in DOS and BASIC, I decided I didn’t have time to both write the program and do genealogy.
    I shopped in a bookstore and found a computer program, I believe the name was Roots, then later RootsII. This worked out well as the years went by and I kept upgrading to PC’s with more and more hard disc space.
    I remember my first Compaq – 20,000 bytes of hard drive. I thought that would last for years and years. A month later it was full. I purchased external hard drives. Roots kept moving on, eventually I was devastated to learn that Parson Tech purchased them. I thought that was the end of my favorite Roots program. Family Origins came out and was compatible and similar. I hung out with that until one day – BAM, Ancestry purchased the company and announced FO was going away. Thank GOD, that didn’t happen, Ancestry finally released the program back to you guys and RM was reborn.

    At present I’m working on a 2 volume set of my ancestors from Ruston, Louisiana area. If this is successful, i have thoughts of creating more books, since I have over 217,000 people in my DB and many different family lines. Some of which have no relationship to either my wife or myself.
    Thanks to the support at RootsMagic I have been able to work continuously for over 45 years in genealogy and most of that time in this one program.

  36. Thanks a lot for documenting your work – I was an undergrad in the Bay Area during the early 1980s, so I was a witness to these changes. It’s been a long time I’ve realized since I started documenting our family with my grandmother Sarah Wagner in San Jose, before she died in 1997. Family Origins seems like yesterday! And here we are, two generations after the moon landing. Your program has changed my family’s understanding of itself and our place in world history, and for that I am deeply grateful.

  37. I have several requests for Roots Magic 8. How about (a) enabling Chinese script, traditional and simplified, straight from the keyboard instead of the cut-and-paste work-around I use now, (b) allowing name order to be specified for each individual, and (c) publishing a Chinese-language version. My Chinese cousins like Roots Magic, but most don’t have good English-language skills and are unlikely to gain any anytime soon. You could well sell many millions of copies of the latter, especially as the Chinese invented genealogy, agreed it was for political purposes, but it was invented by them in 1064BC.

  38. We really enjoyed reading this history. The thing that made it so enjoyable was that we could see our family history development within the RootsMagic development. We moved from Personal Ancestral File to RootsMagic when we read that it was recommended by PAF as PAF would no longer be supported by FamilySearch. Our journey with RootsMagic has been wonderful. We love the program with all our hearts and have been your greatest sales people ever! We recommend it to everyone we work with as Family History Consultants for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have been Family History Consultants off and on for many years and really appreciate the support RootsMagic has given us as well as the continuing updates and wonderful versions. Thanks for the ride!!

  39. It’s a race between my funeral and RM’s Version 8. I’ll hold your bets. If version 8 is released first, I’ll return your bets, if not, you will have to find me for a refund.

    Any bets?

  40. All I ask is for users to be able to adjust font sizes in the all-important edit boxes. That is the only reason I cannot use RM. Can’t easily see what I am typing during data entry! I know I am not alone in this. So hoping this is a fairly easy fix to include in the next release.

  41. Hi there,

    I have been using RM since migrating to a Mac in 2015 and have loved it. i really look forward to RM8 and would appreciate some templates for Scottish Registration entries – we brits are not all English after all and Scotlands People is probably one of the most integrated online geneology sources.

    BW John

  42. Please can we have a lot more colours for personalisation of trees on version 8 – hopefully a very simple request. Thank you

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