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GEDCOM

How I Use Genealogy Software and Online Family Trees

 Roberta Estes wrote a blog post yesterday titled “Genealogy Tree Replacement – Should I Or Shouldn’t I?” on her DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy blog.  I commented on it, but want to expand on my comments a bit.

Roberta explains the situation we all face – we may have a family tree in our genealogy software programs (e.g., RootsMagic, Family Tree Maker, etc.) and on a number of websites (e.g., Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc.).  But it’s impossible to keep them all up-to-date without making a new GEDCOM file every so often and uploading it to the online trees.  If I do this, do I delete my old tree which may have many record hints and record images attached to the tree person profiles?

Here is a list of the family trees that I actively manage and what I do to try to keep them all updated:

1) I have a master tree in RootsMagic that now has about 60,000 profiles – ancestral families of mine, my wife’s and my sons-in-law; plus one name studies for Seaver/Sever/Sevier, Carringer, Auble, and Vaux; plus descendants of several other ancestral surnames; plus descendants of my 4th great-grandparents (to aid in DNA matching).

*  I do all of my data entry in RootsMagic, adding names, dates, places, events, notes, sources, and media.  I download record images that I want to save to my desktop computer files – they go into a Family file in a Surname File in a Group file – with a common file naming convention.  

*  RootsMagic permits me to “TreeShare” my person profiles with an Ancestry Member Tree, one person at a time and one event at a time, from within the program.  I can either add content to my Ancestry tree or from my Ancestry tree to RootsMagic.  I do this every week.  I rarely download anything from Ancestry into RootsMagic because Ancestry’s source citations are poorly crafted and any record image I might download goes into another file with a non-descriptive name.  
*  RootsMagic permits me to “match” my person profiles to FamilySearch Family Tree profiles from within the program.  So I can add Family Tree persons, events, notes and sources to RootsMagic, or from RootsMagic to Family Tree.  
*  RootsMagic provides WebHints with links to Record Hints on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, MyHeritage and Findmypast.  I can click right into these sites from my RootsMagic program and go to the records on the WebHints list.  I can then enter information from those WebHints right into RootsMagic,
*  RootsMagic permits me to create a GEDCOM file of all or part of my family tree, which I can then upload to another software program or to an online tree.
*  I have other family tree software programs on my desktop computer – Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker, Family Tree Builder and RootsFinder.  I use these occasionally to take advantage of program capabilities that are, IMHO, better than what is in RootsMagic.  I upload a new GEDCOM file to these programs when I need to.

2) I TreeShare my RootsMagic tree with my major Ancestry tree (connected to my AncestryDNA test)  every week to keep the Ancestry tree up-to-date.  I try to prevent Ancestry record images (poorly named) and sources (poorly crafted) from coming into RootsMagic. My Ancestry tree immediately creates Record Hints for new or changed profiles, which I can then mine and add to my RootsMagic tree.  I also do searches on Ancestry.com to catch every record for a person.

*  AncestryDNA uses my Ancestry Member Tree (which has many descendants of my 4th great-grandparents!) to find Common Ancestors of my AncestryDNA Matches using the ThruLines feature.  Common ancestors are identified from my tree information, the trees of my DNA matches, and their Big Tree.  I have over 34,000 DNA matches, but only 400 Common Ancestor matches are identified.  

3) I upload a new GEDCOM to MyHeritage every year but save the previous family tree file and delete earlier family tree files. MyHeritage provides Smart Matches and Record Matches for each person profile, and also matches by Source.  I can access the Record Matches from the WebHints in RootsMagic. When I find useful Record Matches on MyHeritage, I add them to my RootsMagic file,  I also do searches on MyHeritage to catch every record for a person.

*  MyHeritageDNA uses my MyHeritage tree to find Common Ancestors of my MyHeritage matches using the Theory of Family Relativity feature. I have almost 9,000 MyHeritageDNA matches, but only 8 Theory of Family Relativity identified matches.  

4) I upload a new GEDCOM to Findmypast every once in awhile.  Findmypast provides Record Hints for tree profiles on their website, or on the RootsMagic Web Hints feature.  I add useful information to my RootsMagic tree.  I also do searches on Findmypast to catch every record for a person.

5)  American Ancestors uses RootsFinder as their online family tree, and I uploaded a GEDCOM file there a year ago.  However, my family tree takes up 1.5 gb when I access it, and slows my desktop computer significantly.  It provides Record Hints but I rarely search for them.   I also do searches on American Ancestors to catch every record for a person.
6) I have an ancestors only tree at FamilyTreeDNA which rarely provides any useful matches.

7)  I have an ancestors only tree at GEDmatch which rarely provides any useful matches.

8) I match profiles in FamilySearch Family Tree (a collaborative tree) with profiles in my RootsMagic tree, or create new FamilySearch Family Tree profiles from RootsMagic profiles, and share information both ways, including sources and notes.


*  FamilySearch provides record matches for person profiles, which I can access from the tree profile or from the FamilySearch WebHint in RootsMagic.  When I find useful record matches on FamilySearch, I add the information to my RootsMagic tree.   I also do searches on FamilySearch to catch every record for a person.

9)  I have added information for most of my ancestral families to Geni.com (a collaborative tree) over time, but it takes time to add information there with or without a GEDCOM.  

10)  I have added information for most of my ancestral families to WikiTree (a collaborative tree) over time, but it takes time to add information with or without a GEDCOM.

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What genealogy software do you use, and why do you prefer it?

What online family tree(s) do you use, and how do you keep them up to date?

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Monday Mailbox: FamilySearch Change or User Change?

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Ancestry Insider,

Hello, I enjoy reading your emails, and wonder if I missed something important, such as:

        Did Familysearch.org change how personal family trees are managed?   

Last week I looked up my Wilmot tree there, and found someone had changed a last name of an ancestor to Wilmont, when the father and grandson were right there as Wilmot. Duh???

A friend said the family trees are now wide open and anyone can add or change information.

        Normally, all information is good, but in this case I am dealing with an idiot.  

Then someone else gave my Hessian ancestor, John Stegman, a wife who was his mother-in-law,

Does this mean that my tree can be changed by anyone going online to FamilySearch.org?

If that is the case, I will not use the program anymore.  It would be a waste of time – I am not a church member – have served/helped many years in a local Family History library.Too many people are well meaning but uneducated on proof of sources.     Ellen Thorne Morris, Monmouth Co., New Jersey

Dear Ellen,

May Day! May Day! (Yes, today is the first of May. But I digress…)

There has been no change. FamilySearch has Genealogies (personal trees) and it has Family Tree (a shared tree). What you are using is Family Tree, and yes, anyone can change anything. FamilySearch’s Genealogies feature is a GEDCOM preservation service. It is not an online tree management program like Family Tree or Ancestry Member Trees. It is merely a repository to preserve and share your life’s work.

  1. Export a GEDCOM file from your genealogy program.
  2. Go to FamilySearch.org.
  3. Select Free Account in the upper-right corner and create an account. Or if you already have an account, sign in.
  4. Select Search > Genealogies.
  5. Scroll to the bottom.
  6. Underneath “Contribute Your Research to the FamilySearch Community,” select Submit Tree.
  7. Follow the instructions to add your tree.

You will be given the opportunity to synch your tree with Family Tree. That step is unnecessary, especially since it sounds like you already have. I don’t know how long it takes to appear, but when others go to Search > Genealogies and search for a person, they will see results from your tree along with the other contributed GEDCOMs.

Ellen, let me close with a heartfelt thank you for your service in a family history center. Several times last month I had patrons express frustration at the limited hours of their local center. It is only through volunteers like yourself that FamilySearch family history centers are open at all. Thank you, thank you!

Signed,
—The Ancestry Insider