Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic! Part 11: Rewriting RootsMagic

January 24th, 2018

NOTE: This is Part 11 of our ongoing series documenting the history of our company. If you’re just joining us, be sure to read Part 123456789, and 10.

As 2007 rolled around, we began talking about rewriting RootsMagic from scratch. We were still using the same old dBase file format we started using in Family Origins over 10 years earlier. Among other problems, it didn’t support Unicode (which meant it couldn’t handle special characters like Cyrillic and others), and each RootsMagic database contained over 30 different files, which users didn’t always keep together properly. We also wanted to add some new functionality which we couldn’t just squeeze into the existing code. Once the dust had settled, we had not only chosen a new database format, we also changed the programming language we were going to use.

As we began work on the rewrite, the first thing we realized was we weren’t just rewriting our own code, we were having to find replacement libraries for all the behind the scenes things as well. We had to find new libraries to handle spell checking, zipping files, image manipulation and a dozen other functions, and had to rewrite several other libraries ourselves. It was turning out to be a much bigger project than we originally planned for.

Adding to the work, we were approached by FamilySearch during this time about a new system they wanted us to support. They were calling it “New FamilySearch”, and it was in the early stages of development. It was good timing for us since we were redesigning everything anyways, but it was trickier from a marketing standpoint. Everybody wanted to see our new FamilySearch features, even though we hadn’t even released the new version yet. We began demonstrating the FamilySearch features at genealogy conferences, but keeping the main part of the program basically hidden. I still find it funny that we ended up winning two FamilySearch awards (“Easiest to Sync” and “Best Dashboard”) two weeks before we officially released the program.

bruce and mike 2

Over the next year and a half we worked on RootsMagic 4 in secret. As time went by without us releasing a “new version” some customers began to worry that we had “abandoned” the program, even posting those thoughts on our forums and mail lists. We didn’t want our competitors to know we were doing a rewrite, so we slowly leaked info that version 4 was in the works. But it wasn’t until July 5, 2008 that we started spilling the beans. On that day we started a new blog, and began writing “insider” articles about the new features coming in RootsMagic 4.

http://blog.rootsmagic.com/?p=6

We knew we were still months away from being able to release the program, but we also knew we had tons of new features to write about. We started with the smallest new features, and worked up to the major new features. We blogged through the development, community preview, beta test, and release of the program. Little did we realize when we started the blog that it would be over 8 months of blogging before we actually released the new version.

RootsMagic 4 Insider

Finally, on March 25, 2009, we officially released RootsMagic 4. It felt like such a relief to finally get it out the door. But the first 6 months were a rocky road, as bugs were getting reported faster than we could fix them. Apparently having 2000 users testing the program during our community preview, and even more during our public beta wasn’t enough to find all the bugs. Mike and I worked around the clock trying to fix bugs, but users were getting angry that we weren’t fixing them fast enough. There were more than a few times that Mike and I wondered aloud if it had been worth doing the rewrite.

We kept plugging away fixing bugs and things began to settle down. Sales were great, but we knew there had to be a way to reach even more people. I began to think about my old shareware days, and wondered whether something along those lines might work. Since the old Family Origins days we had provided a demo version of our software. The demo version had all the features, except that it would only hold 50 people. I had always hated that 50 person limitation, but figured that was how demos worked.

Mike and I talked about getting rid of the demo, and instead offering a free “lite” version of the program, one which had all the “essential” features necessary for a genealogy program. But our main criteria was that it use the same file format as the full program. We had a lot of customers who wanted to share their database with a family member, but didn’t want to have to buy another copy of the program to do that. We made a list of RootsMagic’s features, and then painstakingly went through each one to decide whether that feature was essential to tracking your family history. Some items on the list were easy… people, notes, sources, pictures, pedigree charts and family group sheets were all essential to a good family history. Some were not so easy… is it essential to be able to create wall charts of your family?

RootsMagic Essentials

Finally, on November 18, 2009, we released (what else?) RootsMagic Essentials. While we were excited about this new direction, we were also nervous about whether offering a fully functional free version of our software would eat into our sales, or whether the added exposure would make up for it. We were so worried we even made sure we had the ability to switch back to the limited demo version if things got too bad. Luckily that wasn’t necessary, as RootsMagic Essentials became one of the best ideas we ever had.

Next: Growth and New Products

It’s Here! RootsMagic releases Ancestry Features

June 28th, 2017

Ancestry-RootsMagic-Header-2017-03

Last year, we announced we were working with Ancestry® to integrate Ancestry Hints® and Ancestry’s records and online trees with our software. After months of development and the feedback of thousands of testers, we’re pleased to announce the release of RootsMagic 7.5, a free update to RootsMagic 7 that adds two amazing new features: TreeShare™ for Ancestry and the addition of Ancestry Hints to RootsMagic’s WebHints™ feature.

TreeShare for Ancestry

RootsMagic’s TreeShare for Ancestry will let you move data between your RootsMagic files on your computers and your personal Ancestry online trees. You can transfer people, events, notes, source citations, and even pictures between the two systems.

RootsMagic users also gain the ability to easily share and collaborate with others by giving family members access to their Ancestry online tree. Using the new TreeShare feature, family members can then synchronize the latest changes and additions to both the online tree and their desktop computers.

Ancestry Hints Integration

Works-With-Ancestry

RootsMagic leverages the Ancestry Hints capability, and as possible matches are found, users may conveniently review them from within the software. RootsMagic then lets you add new information and media from matching records into your file.

Free RootsMagic Essentials Software

For those that are just starting their journey into the world of genealogy, RootsMagic offers “RootsMagic Essentials”- a free version of their software with a limited set of features tailored towards beginners.

If you have an account with Ancestry, RootsMagic Essentials includes the ability to upload your file to Ancestry or download your existing online trees from Ancestry.  If you are a subscriber to Ancestry, RootsMagic Essentials also allows you to search and view all of the content in your subscription.  Those wishing to compare and transfer individual records between RootsMagic and Ancestry will want to use the full-featured RootsMagic software.

Celebrate with a Giveaway

To celebrate this monumental release, we’re holding a special giveaway. We’re giving away a 1-Year Ancestry World Explorer Membership as well as 3 Ancestry DNA Testing Kits. To enter, use this entry form:

RootsMagic TreeShare Giveaway

Available Now

The update is free for users of RootsMagic 7 and RootsMagic Essentials 7 and is available via direct download or through the “Check for Updates” feature within RootsMagic. To learn more about these features or to take advantage of a special offer for Ancestry users, please go to http://www.rootsmagic.com/ancestry.

Questions about upcoming Ancestry features? We’ve got answers!

March 28th, 2017

TreeShare Questions

There’s a lot of interest in our upcoming update which will add Ancestry integration to RootsMagic. We’re getting many questions through all our support channels about this, and we’ve tried to share as many details as we could. But there are lots of spinning plates in the air, and there are many people from multiple companies working to make this happen. So we haven’t always been able to give answers as specific and detailed as some have wanted.

Now that we’re getting close to releasing these features, we’re able to share a little more information and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

What are these Ancestry features?

RootsMagic’s TreeShare for Ancestry will let you move data between your RootsMagic files on your computers and your personal Ancestry online trees. You can transfer people, events, notes, source citations, and even pictures between the two systems.

RootsMagic’s WebHints will automatically search Ancestry’s extensive collections of historical records from around the world. As possible matches are found, you may conveniently review them from within the software. RootsMagic then lets you add new information and media from matching records into your file.

When will these features be released?

As already mentioned, many people and companies are working hard to make sure the new features are fast, stable, secure, and valuable to you, our users. The features are currently being scrutinized by an ever-growing group of testers. As problems are found, we correct them and put out a new update for the testers. Things are looking very promising and, barring some unexpected problem, we anticipate releasing the Ancestry integration to the public before the end of April.

How will I connect my RootsMagic file with my Ancestry online tree?

At release, you’ll have two options: 1. Upload your RootsMagic file to a new Ancestry online tree, or 2: Download an existing Ancestry online tree into a new RootsMagic file.

Can I connect multiple RootsMagic files to a single Ancestry online tree?

Yes. This means that you can use TreeShare from different computers working with the same Ancestry tree. In fact, we chose the name “TreeShare” to highlight an important side-effect of this. You can invite family members to edit and add to your Ancestry online tree. Each family member can then connect their RootsMagic data with the central tree to collaborate with one another. RootsMagic will also give you complete control over what information you share with each other.

How will I keep my RootsMagic file and Ancestry online tree synchronized?

After the initial upload or download, everyone will be in sync between the RoothsMagic file and Ancestry tree. As changes are made to either RootsMagic or Ancestry, RootsMagic will let you know who and what has changed and will allow you to easily select what to move back and forth. Rather than force your RootsMagic file and Ancestry tree to always look exactly the same, you as a user will choose what to share. This is what allows two (or more) different people to be able to connect to the same tree without forcing each other’s data into the other’s file.

Can I use TreeShare to backup my data to Ancestry?

The best backup strategy is to have multiple backup strategies. Saving your data to an Ancestry online tree is a great additional option for preserving your work. All the essential information including people, events, notes, sources, and media which are common to both systems are kept in an Ancestry online tree. However, RootsMagic-only data such as To-Do lists and Research Logs won’t make the journey.

Will any of the Ancestry features be included in the free RootsMagic Essentials software?

Yes. RootsMagic Essentials is the free version of our software which has a limited set of features tailored towards beginners. RootsMagic Essentials will include the ability to upload your file to Ancestry, download an online tree from Ancestry, and search Ancestry’s collections for WebHints. More advanced users wishing to compare and transfer individual records between RootsMagic and Ancestry will want to use the full-featured RootsMagic software.

I have multiple computers and operating systems. How many RootsMagic licenses do I need to buy?

Just one. Our software license is for the household, so you are welcome to install it on all of your own computers. You can even use RootsMagic To-Go and install to flash drives to take with you. The license covers both our Windows and MacOS versions.

I already have RootsMagic 7. How will I get these new features?

TreeShare for Ancestry and WebHints will be in a free update to RootsMagic 7, expected to be released sometime before the end of April. When you run the software, it will check for any updates via the internet, download, and install them. We will also send out an announcement via blog, mailing list, and celebratory dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Other Questions

If you have other questions, first check our previous list of frequently-asked questions and their answers. If you still can’t find your answer, feel free to contact us through one of our many support channels.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Based on the feedback from our current testers, we think you’ll love these new features and find them worth the wait.

[Edited to clarify details about the synchronization process]

A Sneak Peek from the Underground Labs

March 3rd, 2017

Top Secret

I’ve managed to climb out of the RootsMagic underground labs for a quick break and was able to sneak some top-secret documents past the watchful gaze of the RootsMagician. I’m excited to give you an exclusive look at some long-awaited new features coming to RootsMagic 7. (Keep in mind that these features are still under development and may change before they are officially released). So here’s your first look at two of these new integrations with Ancestry.

TreeShare

Our upcoming TreeShare for Ancestry allows you to connect your RootsMagic data with an Ancestry Member Tree.

TreeShare-01

Once connected, you can quickly find differences and share data between the two trees.

TreeShare-02

WebHints

RootsMagic 7’s WebHints feature automatically searches for matching records from many providers including FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage. And coming soon to this list is Ancestry! Just click on a light bulb next to a person’s name and you’ll see the WebHints screen:

Anc-WebHints-B01

Click on “Ancestry,” and you’ll see a list of matching records from Ancestry’s many collections. This is familiar territory for those who have already used our WebHints.

But this is where the similarities to the other record providers end. Instead of just viewing the records, you can click on information contained in the Ancestry record and copy it into your own RootsMagic file. It can even incorporate images and source citations!

Anc-WebHints-03

Become a Tester

Currently, these features are being put through their paces by a group of testers. As the features become more polished and stable, we expand the group of testers and repeat the process. If you’re interested in becoming a tester and get early access to these features, you can sign up at here.

Well, it looks like my break is about over and it’s time for me to return to the underground labs. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this quick glimpse at these exciting new features coming to RootsMagic 7. Don’t forget to sign up to be a tester and- uh- please don’t tell the RootsMagician where you heard about all this.

RootsMagic at RootsTech 2017: The RootsMagic Daily Giveaway

February 6th, 2017

2017-Daily-Giveaway-Header

RootsMagic is pleased to sponsor RootsTech 2017, the largest genealogy conference in the world. You can read about several of the ways you’ll be able to interact with us at the conference and the GBA Colossal Giveaway where you can win some amazing prizes. Today, we announce a second way to win prizes at RootsTech- the RootsMagic Daily Giveaway!

You’ll have a chance to win one of over $4000 in prizes from RootsMagic and some of our generous friends. Prizes include:

and of, course:

  • Software, books, bags, and more from RootsMagic

RootsMagic Daily Giveaway at RootsTech 2017

To enter:

  1. Find the RootsMagic Daily Giveaway Entry Form in your RootsTech attendee bag. Forms are also available at our booth.
  2. Complete the word search puzzle on the entry form. Don’t forget to write your name on it.
  3. Drop off your completed entry form at the RootsMagic booth in the Expo Hall (#723).
  4. Come back to the RootsMagic booth every day at 12:50 pm for our daily prize drawings. You must be present to win.

2017-RM-RootsTech-Expo-Hall-Map

Be sure to stop by the booths of those who donated prizes and thank them for supporting the RootsMagic community!

RootsMagic at RootsTech 2017: GBA Colossal Giveaway

February 3rd, 2017

RootsTech 2015

RootsTech is coming soon, and we’re busy getting ready for it. We’ve already written about several of the ways you’ll be able to interact with us at the conference, and we promised to tell you about two different games and giveaways that we’re participating in. Today, we’ll tell you about the first.

RootsMagic is a member of the Genealogy Business Alliance. This is a group for genealogy business leaders to discuss best practices, network, and create a united voice in the genealogy community. This year, RootsMagic and 15 other members of GBA have joined together for the GBA Colossal Giveaway. In it, we’re all giving away almost $3000 worth of prizes!

GBA Colossal Giveaway

To enter:

  1. Visit a participating booth in the expo hall (see this map)
  2. Look for the GBA sign
  3. Submit an entry using the sign-up sheet
  4. Visit each participating booth to enter again
  5. Winners will be randomly chosen after the conference and notified via e-mail to arrange prize delivery

2017 GBA RootsTech Expo Hall Map

See here for the official rules.

Watch this blog because we still have one other giveaway to tell you about!

RootsMagic at RootsTech 2017: Join us at the largest global genealogy conference

February 2nd, 2017

RootsTech 2015

We’re just one short week away from the largest genealogy conference in the world: RootsTech! It’s being held Thursday, February 9 through Saturday, February 11, 2017, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve been a part of it since the beginning and this year is no exception. In fact, this year we’re pleased to be an official sponsor if this event!

Expo Hall

Don’t miss the free expo hall with the largest gathering of genealogy products and services in the country. Be sure to visit the RootsMagic booth (#723) to meet the RootsMagic staff, ask questions, and get special discounts on RootsMagic products.

2017-RootsTech-Expo-Hall-Map

View a Map of the Expo Hall

Expo Hall hours (subject to change) are:

  • Thursday, February 9, 2016, 10 am – 6 pm
  • Friday, February 10, 2016, 10 am – 7 pm
  • Saturday, February 11, 2016, 10 am – 4:30 pm

And while you’re there, stop off at the nearby Cyber Cafe and help yourself to wireless Internet access, recharging stations for electronic devices, and refreshing beverages!

RootsMagic Class Session

This year, we’re offering a class entitled, Planting Your Tree in RootsMagic. Here’s the description:

“It has never been easier to find and learn about your ancestors through internet records and websites. But collecting and organizing that information can be challenging. RootsMagic genealogy and family tree software can be your “home base” for accessing all these different resources. Join us and learn how to use the RootsMagic to spot holes and problems in your family tree. See how to easily search online sites such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast, MyHeritage, and more. You’ll also learn how to easily share your findings with others.”

Time: Friday, February 10, 2017, 1:30-2:30 pm
Place: Room 255E, Salt Palace Convention Center
Note: This class requires a RootsTech registration to attend.

RootsMagic in the Demo Theater

After you’ve walked the halls of RootsTech, nothing sounds better than a soft, comfortable couch. And the Expo Hall Demo Theater is full of them! Join us for a quick demonstration of RootsMagic in the theater where you’ll get a chance to relax, learn something new about your favorite software, and maybe even take a little nap.

Time: Saturday, February 11, 2017, 10:20-10:35 am
Place: Expo Hall Demo Theater, Salt Palace Convention Center

Other Classes and Keynotes

2017-RootsTech-Speakers

RootsTech also has some amazing speakers lined up including actor Levar Burton, “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, leadership expert Liz Wiseman, the “Property Brothers” Jonathan and Drew Scott, President Russell M. and Sister Wendy Nelson, and genetic genealogist CeCe More. There are also over 200 breakout sessions taught by industry experts for beginners and experts alike.

Games and Giveaways

There’s a lot to do and see at RootsTech, and we like to keep things a little more interesting and exciting for those that join us there. Stay tuned for news about not one, but two exciting games and giveaways.

An Open Letter on RootsMagic’s Sync with Ancestry

December 8th, 2016

Years ago (back in the Family Origins days) I got burned giving a date for a feature we were adding, and I promised myself I would never do that again.  But users dislike uncertainty and like to press us for an estimated release date.  Usually, I just say something like “it will be done when it is ready” and leave it at that.  When Ancestry and RootsMagic announced our agreement to create a version of RootsMagic which would be able to sync with Ancestry trees and display WebHints from Ancestry, we were bombarded with the question of “when?”  We usually don’t pre-announce upcoming features, but with this being a joint public announcement, the questions just kept coming.

So, apparently not having learned my lesson, we picked the end of the year as a safe guess, even though we had no idea what the brand new API (the system that lets RootsMagic and Ancestry talk with each other) would be like, what problems we might encounter along the way, or what other non-related issues might temporarily take us away.  We’ve worked with API’s before, and have gotten pretty dang good at it.  We’ve even written code to sync with online trees (FamilySearch), so we’re experienced there as well.  And up until very recently, it still looked like we could meet that deadline.

But to be honest, I underestimated the amount of time necessary to finish and properly test this awesome new feature.

  • I did take into account that we needed to wait for the new API, and we were able to use that time to work on some underlying code needed for syncing and hints.
  • I didn’t take into account that is was a brand new API, one that no other company had ever worked with before.  It’s easy to work with an existing API… there’s tons of documentation, and other programmers write about the pitfalls they encountered working with it.  With a new API, there is limited documentation, and you get to spend a lot of time doing trial and error to find out what the API expects.
  • I didn’t take into account that the API might be missing functions which we needed.  When this happened, Ancestry has been great about providing those missing functions, but it still takes time.
  • I didn’t take into account how often programmers would need to be pulled-off to put out fires in other areas of the program or with other APIs.
  • I didn’t take into account the fact that we would tear out and rewrite large amounts of code several times when we found a faster or better way to do something.

So the bad news is that the Ancestry sync features won’t be released by the end of the year. But the good news is that it is close, it looks amazing, and we aren’t talking about a huge 6-month delay or anything like that.  We know many of you are excited to share your data between RootsMagic and your Ancestry tree, and we are excited to be working to offer it.  We just want to make sure that when we release these new features, you can depend on them working right, and keeping your data safe.

So where are we now?  We have early testers working with it and still have some more code to write .  Since even a small bug in sync code can cause tremendous damage to a data file or online tree, we want to make sure it is stable before turning more testers loose on it.  Once we’re confident it is stable, we will turn it over to even more testers.

If you are interested in being one of those beta testers, please fill out this application.

And for everyone wanting to know the new exact release date… it will be done when it is ready.  I’ve learned my lesson (again).

Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic! Part 10: The New Partnership

December 5th, 2016

NOTE: This is Part 10 of our ongoing series documenting the history of our company. If you’re just joining us, be sure to read Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

After Jamboree, Michael Booth and I began to work together on new graphics for the RootsMagic 3 I was finishing up.  Although it was just a small thing, it made a big difference in the look of the screens.  The more we worked together the more I realized how talented Mike was and how much I enjoyed working with him.  I told my wife that I would love to have Mike join RootsMagic, but that it was also kind of scary.  Up until now, RootsMagic was simply a family business that only had to support our family.  Our only official employee was my daughter Kristy who handled all the shipping.  I did all the programming, tech support, and marketing (if you could really call it that).

Bruce and Mike

In late May 2005 I finally got up the courage to call Mike and ask if he and his wife would meet with me and my wife for lunch.  I didn’t really tell him what it was about because I wanted to ask him personally.  I still remember the butterflies in my stomach, and thinking I wasn’t much of a business person if I was this nervous about bringing up this subject with Mike.  I hemmed and hawed and finally asked if he would ever consider joining RootsMagic as our Vice President and bring his Personal Historian software along for the ride.

I didn’t expect Mike to make a decision right there (and he didn’t).  But over the course of the next month we discussed and negotiated all kinds of things.  It was a very friendly negotiation, but at one point it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  It wasn’t really over anything tangible… it was mainly just a question of whether it was really right for Mike and his family.  I was in a funk, but it didn’t feel like there was anything I could do about it.  I decided to respect his decision, but I did try to subtly (or maybe not so subtly) point out what great synergy our two products and companies would have together.

Personal Historian 1

We finally set it up so that if things didn’t work out the way we planned, Mike and I could take our products (and companies) and go our own ways.  And on July 1, 2005, Michael Booth joined RootsMagic as Vice President, and we added Personal Historian to our product line.  At our first genealogy conference after joining forces (the BYU fall genealogy conference), we made less money combined than we each made individually the year before.  We joked about how well this “synergy” thing was working for us, and at that point I knew we were going to make this work.

The first thing Mike did was help me bring RootsMagic into the 21st century.  Up until then, RootsMagic had only been available on CD, and Mike decided we needed to make it available as a download also.  While I finished up version 3, Mike wrote the code that allowed us to make it downloadable for the first time.

Once we released RootsMagic 3, Mike began work on our next project.  It was a mapping program designed to read genealogy data and plot it on a world based map.  Back when I was working with Parsons Technology, I had helped them develop a genealogy mapping program called Family Atlas (I wrote the code for reading GEDCOM files into it).  That program was long gone, and I had been wanting to create a new program that took genealogy mapping to the next level.  The first thing I did was check if the “Family Atlas” name was available again.  Luckily it was, although we had to pay a pretty good price to get the domain name.

Family Atlas

As we got closer to releasing Family Atlas we began doing some demonstration classes at conferences, and discovered that what we were offering was only half of what users really wanted.  We had the ability to import and manipulate genealogy data geographically, but users also wanted to be able to publish maps with those results.  We went back to the drawing board, added a publishing feature, and in October 2006 we released Family Atlas.

And then we began the longest and most difficult programming project in our company history.

Next: A total rewrite

Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic! Part 9: The Collector’s Item

November 28th, 2016

RM-30th-Anniversary

NOTE: This is Part 9 of our ongoing series documenting the history of our company. If you’re just joining us, be sure to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8.

When we finally released RootsMagic 1.0, the book I had written for it was still a month or so away from coming back from the printer.  I had wanted to have it ready at the same time as the program, but there was still some editing to do, and I hadn’t designed a cover for the book yet.  I finally took the artwork for my Family Origins cover to help with the layout and modified the graphics and text.

The books arrived from the printer the day before I left for the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree at the end of February 2003.  This was the last Jamboree held at the Pasadena Convention Center.  I just loaded the books and software into the car without even really taking a look at them.  The first day of Jamboree, a customer brought the book they just bought back and asked me to take a look at it.

2014-10-02 13.13.55

When I didn’t find any damage to the book, I asked what the problem was.  They pointed to the spine… “Getting the Most Out of Family Origins.”  My heart sank.  I knew we had 5000 books exactly like that sitting in my garage, and couldn’t possibly afford to reprint all of them.  The customer wasn’t upset, and even made a comment about it being a collector’s item.  I made sure to make a note of that comment.

I called my wife to tell her about the book spine, and she said she already knew about it.  She just didn’t tell me because she didn’t want me to be upset.  When I got online that evening, I saw a big discussion about the incorrectly printed book spine.  I mentioned that when we reprinted the book, we would be correcting it and that this book was now a collector’s item.  After saying that, sales of the book picked up drastically.  We even had customers say they never needed or bought the book for Family Origins, but they were buying this one specifically because of the incorrect spine.  I still have users come up to me at conferences and tell me they have a copy of that particular book.

As sales grew, we realized how few people actually knew our company’s name.  Family Origins was known as a Parsons Technology product.  Very few people ever noticed that it said FormalSoft owned and developed the program, and that it was licensed to Parsons.  When we would answer the phones with “Thank you for calling FormalSoft, how may I help you?”, We would be greeted almost every time with “Is this RootsMagic?”.  Finally, we made one of the hardest decisions a company ever has to make.  On March 1, 2004, we issued this press release:

FormalSoft, Inc. Changes Name to RootsMagic, Inc.

SPRINGVILLE, Utah, March 1, 2004 – FormalSoft, Inc. announced today that, effective immediately, the company is changing its name to RootsMagic, Inc. 

“The name change to RootsMagic, Inc. reflects our commitment to the RootsMagic product line and to the family history market” said Bruce Buzbee, founder and president of RootsMagic, Inc.

“In addition, the overwhelming success of our RootsMagic genealogy software in just its first year has overshadowed the company name recognition built during all the years we licensed Family Origins to other publishers.”

Coinciding with the name change is the switch to www.rootsmagic.com as the official company website.

I guess I really did say that quote above, but the reality is that nobody knew us as FormalSoft, and it was just going to keep getting worse.

RM2

To get RootsMagic released in a timely manner, we had to leave out one important feature… wall charts.  I had already been working on them but knew it would delay the release another 6-8 months if we tried to include them in version 1.  In May 2004, we released RootsMagic 2, and with it the new wall chart functionality.  Around this same time, we started selling software from other companies, programs like Passage Express, AniMap, GenSmarts, and a relatively new program called Personal Historian.  We would buy copies of each of the programs, and then resell them on our website along with our own RootsMagic software.  I got to know and become friends with the developers of each of these products.

In May 2005, the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree moved to its new location at the Marriott convention center in Burbank, California, and we were there to exhibit as usual.  Unfortunately for the Jamboree, the move took its toll on attendance that year, and most of our time was spent talking to the other vendors rather than with users or customers.  But what was a negative for the Jamboree led to the most important development in our company’s history.

With nothing better to do that talk with other vendors, I spent a lot of time visiting with Michael Booth, the developer of the Personal Historian software we had been reselling.  I really liked the appearance of his screens, especially compared to the bland screens and graphics in RootsMagic 2.  I found that Mike created most of his own graphics and toolbar buttons, so I asked him if he would be interested in designing new graphics and toolbar buttons for the RootsMagic 3 I was working on.  I offered to pay him, but he still claims to this day that he offered to do it because he was sick of looking at RootsMagic’s ugly screens.

While Mike made good on his offer to do some new graphics, this was only the beginning of the biggest (and best) decision I ever made for the company.

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