RootsMagic 6 and FamilySearch Central: A Review

For many years I have been a user of genealogy software to collect, collate, and analyze information on my own ancestors and the other families who early settled in the central Appalachian highlands.  My product of choice is RootsMagic, currently in version 6.  RootsMagic is the successor to a program I used back in the late ’90s called Family Origins.

The current release of RootsMagic offers some very impressive functionality that any researcher would deem valuable.  First, it is scaleable to very large databases — mine is more than 87,000 records, plus image files, etc.  Second, it can compile very attractive reports and charts for publishing, either in print or as web resources.

However, the most significant new tool in RootsMagic 6 is its integration with the totally-redesigned FamilySearch Central,

sponsored by the Latter Day Saints.  The LDS has the largest collection of genealogical records in the world,  and much of it has been digitized — including online images of records for many collections.  RootsMagic is the first software product that has been “certified” to directly link with, and exchange data with records in the FamilySearch Central files.

While I have to acknowledge that there are regular database-error messages that can crash the connection linkages, the folks at RootsMagic have aggressively dealt with bugs and posted fixes that will automatically update to the user’s system.  In reality, one can expect a few such problems due to the complexity of the interface between the two services.  And, in my opinion, it is worth the occasional error message to be able to fully integrate facts from an individual record on FamilySearch Central into a specific record on my database.

As any frequent visitor to my online database knows, I disclaim any guarantee of accuracy of the data presented therein — that is because so many records have been contributed by others whose diligence in fact-checking and documentation may be somewhat lacking.  The same can be said for many of the family trees submitted to FamilySearch Central, so a user needs a discerning eye (and suspicious nature) to filter through the wealth of “stuff” there.  However, one can quickly see many of the contradictions that are so common — such as children whose birthdates are a hundred years earlier that the birthdates of their parents — an error resulting from similarities/repetitions of names over generations and frequent intermarriages among a handful of families.

RootsMagic 6 helps the user manage these inconsistencies, using logical tests to flag “problem records”.  In the family view or tree view, a warning icon is affixed to any record that seems logically impossible or unlikely.  Therefore it is easy to visually scan through one’s most immediate ancestry tree to locate and fix problems.  And the same logic can be used to generate a problem list for the entire database that can be saved or printed out for extended troubleshooting efforts.

RootsMagic 6 also provides the capability to automatically query the full collection of public and church records (census, marriages, deaths, births, baptisms, etc.) that have been digitized in FamilySearch Central.  I have been able, for example, to access online transcriptions of the 1900 census of Letcher County, Kentucky (my home county) for any person with surname of Hall (my maternal line), and (1) quickly put each individual into context with his/her family, (2) document the census entry as a unique fact on each personal record, and (3) affix a clear citation to support the quality of the research.

RootsMagic can also automatically query a variety of other online resources — Find-a-Grave, Ancestry, RootsWeb, and more.  However, “hits” to these sites do not provide a means to “click and import” pertinent facts.  The user will have to transcribe the newly-found or verified information into the RootsMagic individual record.  That is still a small price to pay for quick access to phenomenal quantities of captured data from original sources.

As a result of these tools, I am now focusing much more energy on improvement of the quality of data in the records on my website.  Rather than simply “acquiring names” to enlarge the headcount, I can serve you — my users and research colleagues — by more fully testing and validating the connections among our shared ancestral pioneers!

Disclaimer:  I have no business connection with RootsMagic or its owners.  I am just a satisfied customer who wanted to acknowledge how helpful their integration with FamilySearch Central has been for me.

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