Tuesday, November 8, 2011

RootsMagic Webinar - Sources, Citations and Documentation

One of my major concerns about changing genealogy programs was whether the new one would transfer and accept all my old source documentation from PAF (Personal Ancestral File).  I know I have many fewer people in my program than many of you but I certainly did not want to retype and transcribe all the information.   People I knew who used RootsMagic assured me that all the information would transfer.  And it did!   I was thrilled.

A few days ago I found another document for a family member and decided to add it to RootsMagic instead of PAF.   But when I began entering the information, I wasn't sure how to do it.  I decided to watch "Sources, Citations and Documentation with RootsMagic."   I went to the list of RootsMagic webinars and clicked on the "watch" tab.   When nothing happened I downloaded it and watched it without problem.

Bruce Buzbee, the founder of RootsMagic, gave the presentation.  He began with the basics by explaining the difference between a source and a citation.  This is an important difference that every family historian and genealogist needs to know, not just those who use RootsMagic.  (A source is the physical document; a citation is the reference to the source and tells someone else how to find the same source.)

He explained how to use the Master Source and the Source Details (much better than I will do here).  The Master Source could be a book, a census report, a birth certificate, an obituary, etc.   It is that part of a citation that is reusable such as title, author, publisher, etc.  The Source Details are the part of the citation that's different for each time it's used, such as for several different people.  All of the Master Sources can be used for different people and events without having to retype all the citation information. PAF offered this option but in a slightly different format.

One function of RootsMagic that I think is excellent is the option to claim the value of each source used for an individual as original or derivative; to claim the information as primary or secondary; and to claim the evidence as direct, indirect, or negative; or don't know for any of those.  The strength of this option is that the person entering the data has to carefully analyze and evaluate the data she's entering.  Doing that will build a stronger case for each person in the program.

My first reaction to this option was negative:  I envisioned all the work necessary to go back through all my sources to note every one of them (for every individual) in each category.  Then I realized that it doesn't all have to be done immediately or in one sitting.  I can add the quality information over time.

Another great thing about RootsMagic is that when one enters the source data, one can use a template to fill in the blanks and a citation is created that follows the criteria in Elizabeth Shown Mills's Evidence Explained.  It's like magic!  It's wonderful.   From that citation, a footnote is created as well as a bibliographic entry.  There is also the option to make your own "free form" citation in whatever format you choose.

Now, to the negative:   At the beginning of this post I said that it was important to me that my sources moved from PAF to RootsMagic.  They did.  But alas, the sources that are transferred from PAF do not automatically transfer into the perfect source citation format.  One either can either change them by hand, leave them, or wait until a program that's in the works behind the scenes at RootsMagic is finished and made available to the public.  Since I'm not intending to publish my information anytime soon, I'll wait.   Unless something pressing comes us.

The webinar was chock full of information and worth my time to watch it.   One of the great things about RootsMagic's webinars is that they are free, whether or not you own and/or use the program.  If you're considering purchasing the program, I'd encourage you to watch one or several webinars.  It may help you decide whether to buy it or not.  If you're new to family history and are uncertain about documenting your finds; about the difference between sources and citations; or want to know why they're important the introductory information in this webinar will be worth your time.

Maybe I can like RootsMagic.


Copyright ©2011-2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Not just an interesting post, but an informative one as well. Thanks.


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