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.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2010


Welcome to 2010!  Now that 2009 is in the past, and in the spirit of the new year, we’d like to present our resolutions for 2010.  While losing 20 pounds would be great for us personally, as a company our goals are a little different.

RootsMagic Updates

RootsMagic 4 Insider

When we spent over three years in rewriting RootsMagic 4, we did so with an eye on the future and emerging technologies.  Just as we broke new ground with our Shareable CD’s in version 3 and RootsMagic To-Go in version 4, we’re working on new and unique features to make researching and sharing your family history even easier.  In 2010, watch for regular updates to your software with improvements, fixes, and new features.

One much-requested feature that we’ve already been working on is making RootsMagic available in other languages.  Since RootsMagic 4 is a unicode application (computer jargon for supporting all international character sets), it is able to be translated into any language including Russian, Japanese, and Chinese in addition to western-alphabet languages such as Spanish, German, and Portuguese.  If you’re interested in seeing RootsMagic translated into your native tongue or would like to help with the actual translations, please contact us.

Personal Historian 2

Personal Historian

It’s been a long-time coming but we’re excited to be finishing up the next version of Personal Historian, our software which helps you write and organize personal histories and biographies.  Much of the development work that went into RootsMagic 4 is being transplanted into Personal Historian, giving it improved writing and publishing capabilities, better media management, and an even easier-to-use interface.  Look for previews and announcements in this blog in the coming months.

More Website Improvements

Just as the rewrite of RootsMagic set the stage for many new and exciting features in our software, the redesign of our website in 2009 has set the stage for new methods of interacting with our users via the internet.  Watch for more tutorials and support options coming to our website later this year.

More Awards

Just when we thought we had wrapped up our 2009 Year in Review and the awards we’ve received, one more sneaks in at the last minute.  This one came from the GenSoftReviews website, where people can rate and review their favorite genealogy software products.  We are honored to receive the “Best Liked Genealogy Software 2009” award.  RootsMagic finished 2009 with the highest rating of all genealogy software programs with an average of 4.95 out of 5 stars!


Thank You!

Of course, these resolutions are not a comprehensive list of our plans and goals for 2010.  There are many other projects which are in development in our secret underground laboratories which we’ll talk about when the time is right.  In the meantime, thank you again for your support.  We try very hard to listen to your problems, questions, and suggestions.  If there is something that you’d like to see us do, please contact us and let us know.  Happy New Year and may you have lots of success in 2010 (both genealogically and otherwise)!

Our Biggest Holiday Offer Ever

RootsMagic Holiday Offer With the holidays coming up, we often get requests from our users about buying copies of RootsMagic for themselves or to give as gifts to their family or friends.  And this year the requests have really come in asking whether the new version 4 will be ready in time for Christmas.  Well, there’s bad news and there’s good news.

Despite working 16 hour days trying to get RM4 out in time for Christmas, it looks like it probably won’t be ready in time.

BUT… here is this year’s 5th Annual Holiday Offer (with a special twist).

In what has become something of a tradition, we are offering gift copies of RootsMagic, Personal Historian, or Family Atlas at our $19.95 upgrade price. There is no limit on the number of discounted copies you can buy during this limited time offer which will expire December 19, 2008. You will receive the full program as well as a registration card for each copy you order.

And here is the special twist… every copy of RootsMagic 3 that you buy through this special offer will come with a free download upgrade to version 4 when it is released.  So you will be giving version 3 now, with a free download of version 4 as soon as it is released.

PLUS!  We are adding an offer we have never made before.  In addition to the $19.95 special price, you can also order our RootsMagic Family History Suite (which includes RootsMagic, Personal Historian, and Family Atlas) for just $49.95 (that’s $90 worth of software).

To take advantage of this offer, just visit:

or order by phone at 1-800-ROOTSMAGIC (1-800-766-8762).