Tag: software

Cool gadgets and gifts on every Genealogist’s wish list !

Over time, I have developed this list of my favorite and most wished for cool gadgets and gifts on every genealist’s wish list whether the occasion is Christmas, birthday, graduation, or any of life’s other milestones.

Apple – iPad with Retina Display 4th Generation 9.7″ 16 GB Wi-Fi Black Tablet – 2013 Model (iOS 6, LCD Touchscreen, 2048×1536, 10 Hours, Lightning Connector)

genealogist's wish list

Apple iPad with Retina Display 4th Generation 9.7 on the genealogist’s wish list.

Although in the past, I always used a laptop for portability, I find that I’m home all the time now and have replaced my old laptop with an all in one desktop with 23″ touch screen that I absolutely love.

Since I learned the lovely news that RootsMagic, my favorite genealogy software, has now released Mac and iOS compatible versions, I have decided that my next purchase will be the Apple iPad for portability – for those rare occasions when I do travel away from home.

Wizcom – QuickLink Pen Handheld Scanner (Infrared)

genealogist's wish list

Wizcom QuickLink Pen Handheld Scanner (Infrared) on the genealogist’s wish list.

I have an OCR conversion software for converting pdf and image files to be editable. This is an absolute must for my transcription efforts.

Although I don’t own a pen scanner, this is the next item on my list for my ‘portable pack.’

VuPoint Solutions – Magic Wand II Portable Photo + Document Scanner with Wi-Fi (Pewter) with 32GB Card + Reader + Case + Cloth

genealogist's wish list

Magic Wand II Portable Photo + Document Scanner with Wi-Fi and 32GB Card is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I did own this handheld scanner until my daughter knocked over my working table one day and broke it. I do intend to get another as it was great for scanning individual pages, open books, etc.

Couragent, Inc. – Flip-Pal mobile scanner

 on every genealogist's wish list.

Flip-Pal mobile scanner is on every genealogist’s wish list.

This is another scanner I don’t yet own, but I’m toying with purchasing this solely because of its portability and ability to ‘stitch’ images together. This is essential for scanning large documents, certificates, photos, charts, and diagrams.

WD – My Passport Slim BGMT0010BAL-NESN Portable External 1 TB Hard Drive (USB 3.0)

WD - My Passport Slim BGMT0010BAL-NESN Portable External 1 TB Hard Drive (USB 3.0)

My Passport Slim BGMT0010BAL-NESN Portable External 1 TB Hard Drive is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I swear by my portable, external hard drive. Using this in conjunction with SkyDrive, my genealogy data is always duplicated and secure. This is by far the best method I’ve found for safeguarding years of hard work and investment.

NMicro – NMicro 1TB USB 3.0 tiny mini micro Pen DRIVE Blue Series actual 28.8GB Free Space

on every genealogist's wish list

NMicro 32GB tiny mini micro Pen DRIVE Blue Series is on every genealogist’s wish list.

For those occasions when I don’t want to lug around the portable external hard drive, the micro pen drive is the answers. It is great for storing those scanner images, photos, etc. until I can get home and transfer them to my main system.

Magnabrite – 64mm Magnabrite® Light Gathering Magnifier

is on every genealogist's wish list

Magnabrite® 64mm Light Gathering Magnifier is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I haven’t been doing a lot of research in dimly lit, dusty old libraries, archives, etc., this is an amazing gift as it gathers and magnifies the ambient light to direct it at specific documents, books, etc. and making them more readable.

Nuance – Dragon NaturallySpeaking v.9.0 Preferred (Voice Recognition Mini Box – PC – English)

 is on every genealogist's wish list

Nuance – Dragon NaturallySpeaking v.9.0 Preferred is on every genealogist’s wish list.

I love my NaturallySpeaking software and use it all the time. It doesn’t work well when there are people around all the time, but for someone like me who is home alone during the weekdays, this software enables easy verbal transcription of documents, and then it’s just a matter of editing and formatting. Such a time saver!

I also swear by this because I like my blogs to have a more conversational tone, so I dictate my blog posts directly into the software for easy editing and formatting. If you’re a blogger with plenty of quiet time on your own, you really must try this.

NOTE: There is some ‘training’ required to increase accuracy, but except for a few ‘glitchy’ instances, I find it amazingly accurate.

Great Plains – WOW 4-in-1 Combo Stylus for Touchscreen Tablets

 is on every genealogist's wish list.

Great Plains 4-in-1 Stylus for Touchscreen Tablets is on every genealogist’s wish list.

Since I just purchased my very first touch screen computer – my new all in one – my next purchase will be a decent stylus for on screen actions and activities – and just for fun!

Antenna Shop – Antenna Shop Brief Bag with Stylish Carrying Case for Tablets and Gadgets (ASBBNB)

 is on every genealogist's wish list.

Antenna Shop Carrying Case for Tablets and Gadgets on every genealogist’s wish list.

I don’t think I have to say much about this one. Once I’ve purchased all of the items on my list above that I don’t already own, this would be an ideal case for carrying around the iPad and extraneous gadgets required to keep my genealogy research and blogging life simple – believe it or not!

RootsMagic 6 now automatically converts and formats old style and new style Quaker format dates.

RootsMagic 6Finally, in the newest free update to RootsMagic 6, they have fine tuned the date calculations so it can understand, reformat, convert and sort an entry in the old Quaker date format.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll have noticed that I’ve had my trials when looking for a software program that will handle, understand and convert Quaker dates (both old and new style) within the program.

For the longest time now, up until recently, RootsMagic was the only software that would accept the custom date format, but it didn’t have the capability of converting it to the modern format for the sort date. This meant that every time I entered a Quaker date, which could be written one of a number of ways, I had to manually calculate and convert the date and enter it in the background sort date cell so events would sort correctly.

RootsMagic 6 reformats and converts quaker date formats (old and new style).

The yellow circle shows the date entered as it appeared in the original source. The green circle shows the sort date entered manually.

For example, while transcribing data from a source in which the date is noted as “22 11th mo 1724″, I would type it exactly as seen in the source. Then I’d have to calculate the actual date in modern terms using a confusing and complicated formula that I won’t go into here because with RootsMagic 6 there’s no need to know it. RootsMagic 6 now magically reformats the date I’ve typed, “22 11th mo 1724″, to show as 22da 11mo 1724 in the main date field. Meanwhile a few cells lower, the sort date has automatically converted the Quaker date to the modern equivalent for accurate sorting and timelines, “22 Jan 1725.”

RootsMagic 6 reformats and can convert quaker dates.

The yellow circle shows the automatically reformatted date from that entered in the previous image. The green circle shows the automatically calculated, equivalent, modern format date.

I love this! Several times now, I’ve corresponded with the staff at both Family Tree Maker and Heredis, hoping they would update their software to at the very least, accept and show custom date formats as entered and allow the user to manually enter a sort date. My correspondence with Heredis was just a few months ago and I must say they were interested and emailed me right away, asking for a copy of my gedcom and RootsMagic file so they could take a look at how it handles custom date entries. I’ve heard nothing since. Then, a week or so ago, I received an announcement that they were releasing a new version and I was so excited, hoping it had been changed to use custom date formats.

I immediately downloaded the trial and entered a gedcom that has custom dates entered, but alas, no such date management feature had been set up.

I’m hoping this was because they heard RootsMagic 6 was improving its date handling and wanted to see it first, not that they shelved it. Since the Heredis software maker is in France, it’s been difficult to convince them just how prevalent Quaker ancestors are in American ancestries.

My Ideal Setup for Genealogy Research


Over fifteen years of genealogy research, I have added to, adjusted and tweaked my setup until I have achieved what I believe to be the ideal setup for genealogy research.

In the Beginning

When I started, I had only an early personal computer operating Windows 94 and Microsoft Office, a basic scanner, small black and white printer, and for media I used floppies and a zip drive.

There were a lot of negatives about operating in those early years. Although the internet was beginning to open doors for researchers, there was not much data transcribed for online access, even if it was free. This meant a good portion of my research had to be done the old fashioned way using ‘snail mail’, the telephone and the fax machine. The internet helped me locate the resources and organizations to whom I should correspond and what specifically was available to be accessed.

I used the original free Ancestry Family Tree software that was available prior to Ancestry.com taking over Family Tree Maker. Although I had tried Family Tree Maker, I hadn’t like it at all because it was primitive and the interface was rather unattractive and ‘clunky’. Had Ancestry.com decided to work with and improve the original Ancestry Family Tree software, I’d probably still be using it.

Learning and Adapting

During the years following until about seven years ago, I operated with the same equipment, becoming much more proficient and knowledgeable. The software, however, was another matter. I was never happy with Family Tree Maker and after doing some research, I switched to RootsMagic. I loved the smooth interface, reports, charts, source cataloging, and data entry features including the flexibility handling unorthodox formats for dates, etc.

By this time, I had become very dissatisfied with the image editing quality in Windows software. I had long been considering switching to a Mac, and soon after moving to British Columbia, my Windows computer crashed and I took the opportunity to switch. I immediately realized how much better the Mac was for working with documents and images, but there was one huge drawback – there was no Mac version of RootsMagic.

I diligently researched all Mac software available and wasted a lot of money trying several. The first one I tried was the Mac version of Family Tree Maker. I didn’t like it any better than the Windows version. In order to continue with my genealogy research and input, I tried two virtual environments, Parallels, VMWare and VirtualBox,  so I could operate RootsMagic on the Mac. Parallels caused a lot of performance issues on the computer, ranging in severity from system slowdowns to outright crashes. VMWare was only slightly better. I finally tried and liked VirtualBox and although it wasn’t as smooth and seamless as I like, I continued using it.

Stumbling Along

During the next couple of years, I tried Mac Family Tree, Reunion, MyBlood and Legacy. While using all of these, I missed RootsMagic horribly and ended up purchasing a NetBook so I could operate RootsMagic on the required Windows operating system.

Then I heard about Heredis, a new software that operated on a Mac. I purchased it because the free trial would only allow working with a small, limited quantity of individuals, leaving lots of areas in my database of 115,000+ individuals where I was unable to assess its suitability. I loved this software, but there was one huge drawback I couldn’t live with. It did not provide the flexibility and variety of date formats I needed. I’m a stickler for observing the ‘record dates exactly as they appear in the original source and only use the calculated date for the sort’ camp. My husband’s ancestry is deeply rooted in the Welsh Quaker culture and therefore I frequently find, use and interpret the Quaker date formats like ‘3d mo. 17 1682′. In Heredis, this had to be translated to a more standard date format and left a great deal of room for error.

I installed RootsMagic once again, and I still use it today. I use the Mac for the more intricate and detailed image editing and everything outside my genealogy pursuits. I would still love for RootsMagic to release a Mac version, but after years of requesting they do so, I’ve given up.

Another issue I’ve experienced through the years is ensuring the security, storage and portability of data. I tried everything up to and including CDs, DVDs, and flash/thumb drives. All of these options have notoriously short shelf lives and are vulnerable to malfunction, corruption and damage. Instead, I invested in an external hard drive a couple of years ago and it has worked out very well. I still keep my files on my computers and back up frequently to the external hard drive. This drive is easily ejected and inserted for portability and is not nearly as vulnerable as the other storage media choices.

The result is, unless RootsMagic is ever offered in a Mac version, I feel I have the best system possible for my genealogy research, data input, graphic and image editing, file storage and backup, and portability of data.

computer cubicleMy Ideal Setup

Mac computer

  • Its resident image editing software is much more intuitive and gives higher quality results, especially when trying to improve poor images.

Windows notebook computer

  • RootsMagic software requires Windows.
  • For portability when traveling or away from home.
  • Photoscape free software for backup image editing. Although not as good quality, it’s a great backup when away from the Mac or travelling.
  • Sticky Notes is great for quick saving of notes and ‘cut and paste’ of data.
  • Wordpad for working with and quick editing of longer strings of text before inputting into software.

External Storage

  • 1T external hard drive for backup and secure storage of genealogy data and files.
  • CDs for portable storage and mailing of data and files.
  • Flash/thumb drives for immediate, short term, portable storage of files and data.

High Resolution Digital Camera

  • To take high resolution digital images of publications pages and documents in libraries and archives, especially where there are restrictions on photocopying and scanning.



  • iPhoto and Preview
  • Grab


  • RootsMagic (paid)
  • Photoscape (free)
  • Sticky Notes (free with Windows)
  • Wordpad (free with Windows)
  • Snipping Tool

Mac/Windows Option: For me, this setup is ideal because I love to use the higher quality Mac graphics capability and much prefer RootsMagic genealogy software, that is only offered for Windows.

Windows Only Option: For those who are happy with using Windows only, the list above less the Mac computer would be ideal.

Mac Only Option: For those who only want to use the Mac, the list above without the Windows computer items would be great, except a Mac genealogy software would have to be used in place of Rootsmagic.

photo credit: archie4oz via photopin cc

Heredis 2014 is released, but, “Does it really do it all”?

MC900442024Today, I received the following email announcement about Heredis 2014’s new release, and I was thrilled… …for a short while.

Hi Christine,

After the Mac version, the Heredis 2014 for Windows is available today.

We are pleased to present you today the new version Heredis 2014 for Windows that is a major release of the software.

The Windows version is available on November 20,2013.

Here is a video presentation of Heredis 2014:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCMs9YA4DegHeredis 2014 is the only software program that accompanies you from A to Z with your genealogy thanks to the Search Wizard!This highly innovative feature allows you to take a look at where you are in your research and highlights known or missing items from your genealogy. It suggests different ways forward and proposed various online research tools targeted to websites such as Heredis Online, Ancestry, My Heritage, Family Search…Heredis 2014 is the complete solution for your genealogy: Heredis will do it ALL.

Please find the link to download the Heredis 2014 for Windows installation file: http://ns39758.ovh.net/~heredisd/download/InstallENHeredis2014.exe.

Your private and confidential license number (or key code): XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXXX.
Your genealogy file created with a previous version of Heredis will open immediately in Heredis 2014.
Please find enclosed the Press release with the screenshots : https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gindupagwix4z1e/tZig4NOgEVI hope this information will be of interest to you.
Do not hesitate to contact me for any further information and to spread most widely your impressions about the Heredis software.Hoping to hear from you soon,


Unlike the first time I tried the Heredis software a couple of years ago, I was an educated tester and knew exactly what to look at to see if it would suit my purposes. Two years ago, I used the demo which is limited to 50 individuals and by sheer luck of the draw, the fifty I chose to work with used standard date formats. It was only after paying for and installing the software that I discovered that this software does not accommodate custom dates.

With my present ‘go to’ genealogy software program, RootsMagic, I can enter custom date formats and the software does not need to understand it to function. In order to make sure the dated events sort and are handled properly, I enter an equivalent or near equivalent ‘sort date’ in the details window.

Heredis had not and unfortunately still does not accept these custom date formats. This is a sad circumstance for Heredis if they want to make inroads into the North American market as a large portion of us have extensive Quaker ancestries using the date format ‘2mo 23da 1724′, and due to common mistakes with conversion to the modern date format, most genealogists prefer to enter the date exactly as written in the source document.

Sadly for me since I absolutely love the interface and everything else about this software, I cannot purchase it for this very reason. If your genealogy does not need to use Quaker date formats, then by all means check this out. I think you’ll be more than pleased.

Considering I had to request a refund last time and was quite clear as to the reasons why, my disappointment is magnified this time as I truly thought this issue would be addressed if they wanted to be truly compatible and useful in the North American market.

As stated in the closing paragraph of the email, I didn’t hesitate to reply and describe the date issue yet again.

So sorry, Heredis – maybe next time!

New to genealogy? Get started with numerous free genealogy sites and tools available online.

Gerard Ronald Joseph Turmaine, c. 1938.

Using available free genealogy sites and tools to the best advantage.

I’ve been doing genealogy research for well over fifteen years now and have amassed a database of over 100,000 individuals with supporting sources, images, and documents for over 90% of the individuals, which are available for free download. Yet, I still find new information every day.

There is a certain pattern of research I highly recommend to new researchers and here it is:

  • Interview or have a questionnaire completed by as many accessible family members as possible. Everyone needs a place to start and with genealogy, depending on the location of the information sought, privacy laws vary, but information can be inaccessible for up to 100 years back. To successfully trace back further than 100 years, one must have information from a closely linked generation to provide clues for working back in the family history. From here, one can also work forward and fill out collateral lines by contacting individuals who are willing to impart information, documents and sources that are not public due to privacy laws. Here is a double-sided Family View Report sheet I designed for interviews or for others to fill out and return. The reverse side is for notes, tasks, etc.
  • Explore, download and set up free genealogy software for cataloging data, sources, images and documents. Using free software allows you to learn which functions and features are important to you if you find you wish to use paid software later on.
  • Using the Family View Reports gathered, enter the data into your genealogy software of choice and then research the individuals mentioned with the free sites, databases and tools available online. I have amassed a very large collection of links to free resources of all types in the right sidebar. It pays to explore the free resources first and obtain as much information as possible until one or more ‘brick walls’ are reached and no further information is forthcoming for free. I also highly recommend the free genealogy link directory site Cyndi’s List, which offers over 300,000 categorized and cross-referenced links.
  • Once one reaches a brick wall (sometimes called a dead end), it is advisable to explore the paid resources available online. The paid site I recommend most highly is Ancestry.com, where I find I get by far the best return for my dollar. I post weekly with a listing of all of the updates and additions to both of these databases and they can be accessed by clicking here or the Updates/Additions button on the upper horizontal menu of any of the other pages on this site.
  • If the cost of research is a concern, I have found that it’s best to purchase a short-term subscription for the paid site you prefer, work within this site as much as possible during the subscription period to try to find information to help break through any brick walls, and then once the subscription expires, once again use the free resources to continue. Working in this manner can save a considerable amount of money over time.

Family Tree Maker 2012 is not yet compatible with Windows 8.

UPDATE: May 14, 2013

According to BetaNews.com, it appears Microsoft will be issuing a free update they’ll be calling Windows 8.1 to address some of the issues that have come to light and to make some improvements.

A preview of the update Windows 8.1 will be released June 26,  2013 and I will be checking it out to see if Family Tree Maker 2012 will be more compatible.


It takes a great deal of problem solving and troubleshooting to use Ancestry Family Tree 2012 effectively.


Well, after several emails back and forth with their technical support and a great deal of investigation and trial and error on my part, it became apparent that Ancestry Family Tree 2012 DOES NOT LIKE Windows 8. Now, to be fair, Windows 8 is newer and it will be a while before updates are issued to rectify any compatibility issues with Windows 8.

So, I had to use my own ingenuity and find ‘work-around’ solutions. Be aware that I would not recommend this software to a novice user running Windows 8 – at least until an update is issued.

I outlined some issues in my previous post, ‘Family Tree Maker 2012 is winning me over’.

The newest problem I’ve discovered is FTM 2012’s inability to consistently export to gedcom files when using Windows 8. Now, this may not be very important to most, it is extremely important to me as my family genealogy database site can only be updated with a gedcom file. Therefore, I’ve been unable to update for quite a while now. Previously, I was able to export to gedcom files without issue when using Windows 7 on my old laptop.

In my frustration, I wondered if I could open the same file in Ancestry Family Tree for Mac 2 on my iMac.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I saved a backup, but the Mac software would not open it.
  2. I used the ‘File Migration Utility’ software, converted the format to the Mac version, and opened the file in AFT 2012 on my iMac.
  3. I exported to gedcom using the Mac software.

I’m sure this would have worked as well had I used another PC with Windows 7.

This was definitely not an ideal solution, but at least I will be able to export to gedcoms until a much needed update is released.

Unfortunately, those who do not have a second computer that is not running Windows 8 are out of luck for a while.