RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Sharing Events

Can I get a witness?

Here is that new edit screen from the last preview, and I’ve unblurred the new magic button.

“Share”.  This feature (sometimes called “witnesses”) lets you share a person’s fact or event with other people in your database.  Click the Share button for a fact and RootsMagic 4 lets you select any group of people in your database who will share that fact.  You can even say what each person’s “role” in that event is.

So what happens when you look at the edit screen of one of those people sharing that fact?  Here’s what:

The fact or event will show just like it does in the event owner’s screen, except that you will see a pair of binoculars to indicate this person is sharing the event rather than owning it.  If you don’t want to see the shared events, click the Options button and tell RootsMagic to hide those shared events.

So how might you use this Share button?  Here are a couple of examples…

  1. Witnesses to an event – You’ve entered a marriage event for a couple, but would like to link other family members who were in attendance.  Just click the Share button for the marriage event and you can select those family members and even enter any specific roles they may have played (“best man”, “maid of honor”, “witness”, or anything else).
  2. People sharing a fact – One great example of this is a census fact.  Let’s say you find a family in the census.  Just add that census fact to the head of the household, then click the Share button for the census fact and add the other family members found in the census.  Not only can you add the people to that fact, but you can also enter a role (like “Spouse”, “Child”, “Boarder”, etc) of the person in that census record.  You can also use Shared facts for family members in a residence fact also.

Pretty cool, eh?  Still a few more to go, then we’ll start making some announcements.

Oh, and for those anonymous comments that I shouldn’t be wasting your time with blog tags or tributes to friends, just select “RootsMagic” from the Category over there in the right column and you won’t see those other articles.  As for whether it is wasting *my* time, I’m spending 16+ hours a day (including Saturdays) working on RM4, so I think I’m entitled to a little freedom as to what I post.  Just remember, I could start working a standard 40 hour week like most people 😉

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – The New Edit Screen

Well, I’m finally caught up from the RootsMagic cruise, and ready to wrap up the last 5 or 6 new features coming in RootsMagic 4.

Welcome to the new edit screen.  Now, before you say “It’s different so I hate it”, let’s talk a little bit.

One big problem in most genealogy programs is all the screens required to enter information.  Currently in RootsMagic (versions 1-3), there are 3 different edit screens… 1) Edit Person, 2) Edit Fact, and 3) Edit Family.  I bet there are some RootsMagic users who didn’t even know about the Edit Family screen (found by doing Edit > Family from the main menu).  And most other programs split a person’s information among even more screens.

Let’s take a look at RootsMagic 4’s new edit screen.  The left half of the edit screen is a list of every piece of information about the person: their name(s), spouses, parents, facts, events, and even DNA tests.  The right half of the screen is a “live edit” panel for the currently highlighted row.

Select the “Person” row, and the live edit panel lets you edit the person’s name and sex.  Select a different row (like the “Emigration” fact in the screen below), and the live edit panel lets you edit the details for that piece of information.

In addition to the live edit fields, RootsMagic 4 also shows whether there are any notes, sources, media, or XXXXX for that piece of information (looks like Bruce got ahold of the blurring tool again).

And if you select one of the family rows (like the parents in the screen below), you can edit details about that family (like the relationship to each parent).  And don’t worry about losing those shortcuts you have gotten used to… you can still click the little green checkmarks to directly edit notes, sources, and media.

So there you have it.  The ultimate edit screen.  The one-stop place for a person’s names (primary and alternate), families, events, facts, DNA tests, and more.  And we’ll have more fun next time when I break out the un-blurring tool.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Named Groups

If you have ever selected a group of people for a report or search and wished you could save that group of people to use again later, then your wish has been granted.  The fifth (and final) tab of the side list is the Groups tab.

Click the Groups button to add, edit, or delete groups of people.  You can select any group of people from the selection screen, and then give that group of people a name (like “People born in England” or “Ancestors of John Smith”).  You can then select from these names in the side list to show the people in that group.

You can create new groups, edit groups (change which people are in the group), or delete groups.  You can also change the name of a group.

Once you have some named groups created, the fun begins.  Any time you are asked whether you want to include all or some people (such as when printing a custom report), RootsMagic will also let you select any of the named groups as well.

Of course there is no limit to the number of groups you create, and since you can name them anything you want there is no need to remember cryptic tag or flag numbers.  Using named groups is fun and easy.

In case you are wondering how I wrote this article during the middle of the RootsMagic cruise, the secret is I didn’t.  I am sitting here Saturday night before the cruise writing this and will have the blog magically publish it during mid-week.  And then it is back to live blogging and unwrapping!

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – All in the Genes

DNA anyone?  By popular demand RootsMagic 4 now lets you track all those DNA tests you are spending so much money on.  And unlike some programs, RootsMagic 4 will let you track both Y-Chromosome (paternal-line) and Mitochondrial (maternal-line) tests.  Just choose to add a DNA test to a person and RootsMagic will ask you to select the test type.

Y-Chromosome DNA Tests

Y-Chromosomes are passed from father to son so they are useful for testing relationships and ancestry along paternal lines.  Just pick a testing laboratory from the list and RootsMagic 4 will display the markers used by that lab.  You can then easily record and retrieve the results.  Combine this with our searching capabilities, and RootsMagic 4 is the perfect software for your surname project.

Mitochondrial DNA Tests

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child so they are useful for testing relationships and ancestry along maternal lines.  Just pick the testing company and enter the results.

RootsMagic 4 supports more testing laboratories and testing markers than any other software currently available… so if you’re ready to dive into the world of genetic genealogy, we’ve got you covered.

Well, I’m off to sail the seven seas (or at least one of them) on the RootsMagic cruise.  If I have a chance to get a post up during the week I will do so, if not it may be a week before the next major feature is unveiled (and it’s a good one).  I have my laptop with me, and promise that the team and I will continue to work on getting RM4 ready.  My wife Laurie has already warned me not to have any fun until RM4 is released, so she continues to look out for you.  See you next week.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Custom Reports

RootsMagic has always been heads and shoulders above the competition when it comes to custom reports, but we have found ways to make them even better in RootsMagic 4.

Easier Design Screen

Anyone who has designed a custom report in RootsMagic knows that it takes special concentration and good hand-eye coordination to get fields to line up the way you want.  RootsMagic 4’s new custom report designer makes it easy for anyone to create professional looking custom reports.

For simple custom lists, just add the number of columns you want, and enter the header text and fields into the cells.  The report will automatically size to fit the width of whatever page you print to, so just size the columns proportionally.  If you want multiple rows, just add them and tell RootsMagic 4 what to print in them.

Including multiple facts of the same kind

Have you ever included a field like “Occupation” in a custom report and discovered that your report only included the first occurrence of that fact type?  That’s because RootsMagic custom reports limited a field to only a single line on the page.  We have zapped that limitation and now your custom reports will include all instances of a fact type in the report.

Including notes

Zapping that single line limitation also let us add support for one of the most commonly requested custom report features… including notes in a custom report.

More layout options

What if you wanted to mix and match simple fields with notes in a custom report?  RootsMagic 4 lets you join fields in your custom report to get the layout you actually want.  For example, you can join a row of fields into a single field to allow your note to print under multiple rows of simple fields, like this:

This is the report which created the note entry above.  You can see that I merged the two cells which hold the note so it could span both the date and place columns.  The 3 columns in row 1 have also been merged so that the name can span the full width of the report if necessary.  You can also merge a column of fields in case you want the note to print to the side of several rows of fields.

So that’s a quick overview of some of the new custom report capabilities.  The layout of your new RootsMagic 4 custom reports is limited only by your imagination.

And we’re still not finished with the sneak previews.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – New FamilySearch

And while we’re on the subject of web searches, it’s time to unwrap one of the features we get the most questions about… New FamilySearch support.  First, go read about New FamilySearch on Wikipedia (you have to scroll down the Wikipedia article a bit to find out about “New” FamilySearch) and then come back and we’ll continue.  I’ll wait…

Back already?  So FamilySearch is a huge online project, part of which is a collaborative family tree where you can add and edit people and information, as well as dispute information you don’t agree with.  Think of it as a giant online family tree where you and others can work together on your common ancestors / relatives. In the future it will also include access to millions of digitized records.

Currently New FamilySearch is being released in phases to members of the LDS Church, but eventually free access will also be available to the general public.  RootsMagic is a FamilySearch Affiliate, and RootsMagic 4 will be a FamilySearch Certified application when it is released later this year.

RootsMagic 4 will let you easily match up individuals in your database with the matching person out on New FamilySearch.  This way RootsMagic can notify you when someone else changes information on that person out on New FamilySearch.  It also makes it easy to copy information back and forth between RootsMagic and New FamilySearch.

It’s simple to start linking your people to New FamilySearch.  Just turn on the option and RootsMagic will display a light gray FamilySearch icon next to each person’s name on any of the main views.

Just click on a person’s FamilySearch icon and RootsMagic will display any matches from New FamilySearch.  Possible matches will be color coded to make it easy to decide how close of a match they are to your person.  Check any matches and click the link button and RootsMagic will automatically combine any duplicates and match your RootsMagic person to the person on FamilySearch.

Once you find a match on FamilySearch, the icon next to the person’s name will turn blue, and clicking it will also let you see your RootsMagic person and the matched person side by side.

It’s easy to copy data back and forth between RootsMagic and New FamilySearch.  Just click the checkbox next to any information you want to copy.  RootsMagic will display all the available options, including copying the information as a new event, replacing an existing event, or disputing the event.  You can also choose which notes and sources you want to copy as well.

If you prefer to link from a list rather than from the main screens, RootsMagic 4 provides a batch FamilySearch screen.  You can find matches and copy information all from a single screen.

FamilySearch Button

Several sharp-eyed readers spotted the New FamilySearch button on the toobar back in one of our earlier entries.  That button brings up FamilySearch Central, a dashboard which provides a detailed summary of how your RootsMagic data relates to FamilySearch.  FamilySearch Central will also display any ordinance information for LDS users.  All LDS information can be hidden or displayed depending on the user’s preference.

FamilySearch Central
FamilySearch Central

Whew.  This article barely touches the capabilities of RootsMagic 4’s New FamilySearch support, but writing this did remind me of something else I meant to mention.  When we release RootsMagic 4 we will be posting a set of video tutorials on our website.  We realize that with this many new features there will be a lot of questions that simple screen shots just can’t address.  I will also be doing follow up blog entries on some of these new features as well.

So that’s another big feature coming in RootsMagic 4, and there’s still a lot more to come.  Stay tuned.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – And the 5th tab is…


And why is it that every time a tab is disclosed another blurred one (2) appears?

RootsMagic 4 makes it easier than ever to search online for information about your family.  Just switch to the WebSearch tab and RootsMagic will do an online search for the currently selected person.  And if you want to find someone else just click their name in the side list and RootsMagic will automatically search for them on the selected site.


Of course nobody wants to search just one site, so RootsMagic lets you select which site you want it to use.  Click the little drop arrow to the right of the search button and choose the site you want to search. If you want to add additional sites that we don’t include (or if you want to hide some of the built-in sites), choose “Manage Search Providers…”.

WebSearch Menu
WebSearch Menu

Here you can uncheck any sites you are boycotting or just don’t want appearing in the list.  Or you can select the “Custom Search Providers” tab to add new search engines.  I won’t go into gory details about adding a new search engine here, but it really is quite easy to do, even for a non-programmer.

WebSearch Providers
WebSearch Providers

Well, that’s one more new feature, with at least 10 more to go.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure that last new blurred tab above is the last one (for now).  I think we figured out what keeps causing them to appear and got it taken care of <g>.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Mapping

RootsMagic has long had the ability to display an online map for places in your database (it was even a recent “tip of the month” in the RootsMagic newsletter).  We have expanded that capability in RootsMagic 4.

When you open the mapping feature in RootsMagic 4, you will have a list of (1) all the places in your database.  Click on a place in the list and RootsMagic will display a map of the place for you.  You can use all the Virtual Earth tools (zoom, aerial, birds-eye, etc).  You can even print your map or copy it to the clipboard to paste into other programs.

Map Place

If you select the Aerial option, you can view the satellite image of your map.  You can view the satellite image either with or without the labels for towns, streets, etc.

Map Aerial

The new RootsMagic 4 mapping makes it easy to see where the events in a person’s life happened.  Just switch (1) from “Places” to “People” and RootsMagic will display a list of the people in your database.  Click on anyone in the list and RootsMagic will display a map showing that person’s events.

Map People

You can move your mouse over any marker to see what events in that person’s life occurred there.  And of course you can see these markers on either the map or aerial view.

Stay tuned as we continue to map out the new features in RootsMagic 4 (my wife told me that was a dumb line, but I decided to run with it anyways).

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Places and Geocoding

Have you ever been entering a place and wished you knew what county, province, state or country the place was in?  RootsMagic 4 now provides a worldwide place database with 3.5 million places in it.  Just pop up the place search and enter what you know about the place and RootsMagic will display matching places.  Select a place and click OK and RootsMagic will paste the fully standardized place into the place field for you.

Place Search

But what if you don’t want a full “standardized” place (like if you have an historical place name)?  When you edit a place from the master place list, you can enter the place 1) the way you want it normally displayed, 2) as a standardized place, and 3) as an abbreviated version of the place.  Of course the standardized and abbreviated places are both optional.

Edit Place

I’m guessing a lot of you noticed the “GeoCode” button on the Edit Place screen above.  Clicking that button in RootsMagic 4 will geocode your place for you.  Geocode just means that RootsMagic will check its 3.5 million place name database to find a match for your place, and insert the latitude, longitude, and standardized place name for you.  Now of course we won’t make you geocode your database one place at a time.  RootsMagic 4 can also geocode your entire database, and let you hand pick the places that are ambiguous.

And finally, RootsMagic 4 offers a gazetteer on the tools menu to look up any place in the world.


We know how much current RootsMagic users like the free PlaceFinder program we’ve included all these years.  Think of the Gazetteer as a world-wide PlaceFinder on steroids.  Like the Place Search above, just type in as much of the place as you know and click Search.  The Gazetteer will show you all matches, and will even let you view an online map of any of those matching places (you need to be online to view the online map of course).

Think we’re done with places?  You’ll need to check out my next blog entry to find out.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Sentences

Have you ever wanted to tweak the sentence for a single fact without having to change the global sentence template for that fact type?  RootsMagic 4 now lets you customize the sentence for any fact in your database.  If you are happy with the default sentence for your fact, you don’t have to do anything.  Otherwise click “Customize sentence” and do your own thing.


Here’s the screen where you will customize your sentence.

Customize sentence

Just modify the sentence template for this one instance, or just type a sentence directly.  It doesn’t matter whether you change the sentence to:

[person] was buried with full military honors [date] [place].


John Doe was buried with full military honors on January 15, 1943 in Avon, Iowa.

Using the fields like [person], [date], and [place] means that the sentence for that fact will still update if the person’s info changes.

And speaking of fields (this is where readers who don’t bother changing sentence templates might want to bail out <g>)…

We have completely rewritten the sentence template language.  While there isn’t nearly enough time or room in this blog to go into detail about all the enhancements available when creating sentence templates, let me just say you can now create sentences which contain:

  1. conditional parts which can change based on various criteria (like sex, whether the data exists, etc)
  2. modifiers for fields (like [date:year] or [place:reverse]
  3. and something else I’ll talk about in a future entry (tease)

I just looked at the remaining sneak previews, and I guarantee you won’t want to miss any of them.  I’ve been having fun showing all these features so far, but like I said early on, I’ve been saving the best for last.  There are still at least a dozen major features coming (we weren’t kidding about this being the biggest upgrade in our 22 year history).  Keep sharing this blog with your family and friends, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.