Sunday, November 15, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over ~ Cycle 4 ~ Week 7

This week in our Genealogy Do-Over are topics are (1) reviewing genealogy database software and (2) digitizing photos and documents. When I first signed up for the original Genealogy Do-Over almost immediately after our fearless leader, Thomas MacEntee announced his plan, I started reviewing and sampling other genealogy software because I have used nothing but Family Tree Maker (aka FTM) since 1998. However, I did purchase Legacy 8 in 2013 when I got so frustrated with FTM, I am still not very proficient with it but I am learning. 

I am not, nor have ever been a technology wizard, in fact if my computer could talk it would run screaming off my desk, just kidding! I do better when I can have one on one training and a manual that offers step by step instructions. These days, YouTube has instruction videos for nearly everything and they definitely help but sometimes they just confuse me more.

Genealogy Software Review

Family Tree Maker (FTM) - 

Considering I have been using FTM software since 1998 and I felt that I experience with FTM put me some where between intermediate and advanced in my understanding and use of FTM. Then I upgraded to FTM 2012 and my nightmares began! From the beginning I had major problems. It took me 2 days and I don't know how many attempts to just get the software loaded onto my computer. Then there were the long and extreme hangups in "la-la land" and I had a made a list of the other issues I had as well. 

When I attempted to get help from Ancestry and FTM Help Desk, I was repeatedly told in polite yet condescending tones that the issue was "operator error", I took that to mean that I was the one with issues and not the company. Calling the help desk was even worse! All they wanted to do was send me "help sheets" which was of no help because it was an abbreviated version of the information given to me over the phone. I can't begin to explain how frustrating that was especially for someone like me who spent my entire adult life in the customer service industry.

Fast forward two years to 2014. Once again, I upgraded to the newest and latest version of FTM 2014. I got so frustrated with constant freezing and hung up in "la-la land" that I decided I wanted purchase Legacy 8. Of course my impatience at learning something new got the better of me and I I went back to FTM. I had hoped that it would not be a repeat of FTM 2012. There were indeed some improvements and the synch factor between and FTM was definitely an improvement. 

Recently, I had an issue with family members not showing up in the new "family view" format. I called the help desk and immediately told the help desk person, "please look at my family view for this family?" After giving her the information required she looked at what I was seeing and seeing exactly what I saw. That is the first time I have very good service from the help desk in a very long time. 

Here are my pros and cons for Family Tree Maker:

  • Pros
    • Importing/Exporting of documents, photos & videos in multiple formats
    • Love the sync feature between & FTM
    • Fairly easy to use
    • Love being able merge duplicate people
    • Smart Story feature 
    • Import/Export of Gedcoms
    • Import/Export of Reports in PDF 
  • Cons
    • Technical support for FTM is not great but they are improving!
    • No color coding availability
    • No mobile app for FTM per se but app is available but not great - constantly freezes on my new Android phone & tablet
    • There are still databases on Ancestry that you cannot add to profiles but have to manually enter all of the information.
Legacy 8 - Legacy Family Tree

After a frustrating day with FTM in 2013 I decided to purchase Legacy 8 Deluxe rather than go for the standard free version. I am a bells and whistles kind of gal even if it takes me a while to figure them all out! The reviews were great and I thought it would be a welcome change. I am still struggling with Legacy 8 but I am definitely improving and I consider it a huge improvement. I still don't really have a "con", just one or two items and I am not entirely sure that it is actually their problem but simply me.

  • Pros
    • Importing/Exporting of documents, photos
    • Color coding features
    • Standard version is Free
    • Import/Export of Gedcoms
    • You can now add/save records directly from into Legacy 8
    • View different families simultaneously in multiple windows (up to 6 I believe)
    • Additional programs that can be purchased as add on's such as Legacy Charting Companion and Genelines
    • Calendar features
    • Record DNA test results
    • Import/Export of Reports in PDF format
    • Mobile version available for Android, i-Phone, i-Pad, i-Touch & Windows
  • Cons
    • Like with Ancestry, the Legacy 8 mobile version for Android does not work well with my tablet or cell phone. It could be the number of people in my tree or just operator error. 
    • I can't work in the program and still have access to Ancestry's database.
    • So how come I am still opening FTM first?
 Genealogy Database Programs - Are You Being Served?

I have tried My Heritage, Find Your Past and of course, FamilySearch and Ancestry. I am not professional genealogist (yet!) so I have to find the best value to suit my needs. I choose to use Ancestry with what is now called an All Access subscription and is the subscription I use.

Then earlier this year, Ancestry comes out with a new and improved website, new databases every day but they are also removing old databases as well. 

The All Access subscription gives me access to the following:,, Ancestry Academy and Here is the breakdown for Ancestry subscriptions and their current price as of 14 November 2015.

  • Ancestry, offers you several plans to choose from. 
    • If you only want to be able to access U.S. records ONLY, on Ancestry, then their U.S. Discovery plan is the one for you. The rates for this package are $19.99 per month or $99.00 every six (6) months.
    • If you want to be able to access U.S. records AND Internal records available on Ancestry, then their World Explorer plan is the one for you. The rates for this package are $34.99 per month or $149.00 for every six (6) months.
    • If you want to be able to access U.S. & International records, historic newspapers, military records and instructional videos then the All Access plan is the one for you. The rates for this package are $44.95 per month or $199.00 every six (6) months.
  •, you can choose to pay for a subscription to the yearly subscription rate is $79.95 per year or $7.95 per month if you are not a member of However, if you are an Ancestry subscriber, you can get a one year subscription for $39.95 per year.
  • Ancestry Academy,  you can purchase a subscription for $11.99 per month or $99.00 per year. 
  • Fold 3, If you want a subscription to you can purchase a monthly subscription of $7.95 per month or $79.95 per year if you do not have the Ancestry All Access subscription. However, if you are an Ancestry subscriber, you can get a one year subscription for $39.95 per year.
Find My, is one of my favorite sites for the accessing records for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. I can access B/M/D, military, census, parish, immigration and newspapers. However, you can also find U.S. records here too. You don't have to have a subscription to their site if you choose their "Pay As You Go" plan which offers three (3) options. I like this plan!
  • Option # 1: you can purchase 60 credits for $10.95 and it is valid for 90 days
  • Option # 2: you can purchase 90 credits for $37.95 and it is valid for 90 days.
  • Option # 3: you can purchase 900 credits for $82.95 and it is valid for 90 days. 
The catch here is that if you don't use all of your credits after 90 days you lose them. I always start with the first option, then if I need to continue after that 90 day period, I will by another round credits. I have found some really great records recently. You can use the credits to purchase a copy of the transcript (usually just one or two credits) and you can choose to view the actual document (usually five credits or more) with the ability to download the document.

My, when I began adding my information to online communities in 2009, I also included my tree to My Heritage. However, at that time I did not have a subscription to the site I was just using their Family Tree Builder program. I don't like that I can not find a listing of the records held by My Heritage which is frustrating! Their only billing option is a yearly subscription. Currently, My Heritage is running a subscription special of 25% off of their annual rate. The current special is $9.95 per month, billed annually.

FamilySearch, is one of the first places I go to check for records for all of my ancestors, especially for my ancestor, Charles Coulson Rich (1809-1883) and his family. I have found numerous pictures of him and descendants at FamilySearch. I am also anxious to see how FamilySearch works now with Ancestry.
 What I Have Been Doing Since the Original Cycle

I have learned that it is much easier to use smaller trees in my genealogy software. In 2009 when I first started adding my tree to I made one working tree for my entire family which includes paternal/maternal lines for my parents, siblings & their spouses, my aunts/uncles including their children, grandchildren & great grandchildren, my children's paternal lines and my daughter in law's paternal/maternal lines. Oh and let's not forget all the extended families and multiple marriages that are in there too!

As of today, this is how my working tree in FTM/Ancestry stacks up: I have 96,472 people; I have 15,118 photos (note: there are many duplicate photos and I currently spend 2-3 hours a week weeding out these duplicates), I have 4, 275 stories (note: I currently spend 1-2 hours a week adding my blog posts to everyone I have written about thus far)  . I estimate that about 90% have source citations that need to be corrected but at least I documented the source! Currently there are 102,550 records attached to my tree. 

Now is my tree 100% perfect? Absolutely not and I know there are mistakes which is why I jumped at the chance to do the Genealogy Do-Over! Do I read, inspect and make notes for each record before I decide yest or no this is my ancestor? Absolutely! I will tell you that about 65% of my stories are either records located at or are obituaries I have typed up for as many individuals as I can find them for. I estimate that 96% of my duplicate persons/families has been either merged or deleted by me.

All of this is very time consuming but it is my passion and a labor of love for me to record my family's history. Will it ever be perfect? No, because by the time my descendants have decided they want to follow in my footsteps things will have changed yet again! Now as I clean up my working tree in FTM/Ancestry, I am building new ones in both FTM and Legacy. Eventually I will pull my massive tree off of altogether and replace it with the smaller trees I am building. Hopefully, by the time my descendants choose to follow in my foot steps I will have hopefully left them a wonderful, accurate, beautiful and wonderful documentation of our family history with "flawless" source citations!

Digitizing Photographs and Documents

In the original cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over I learned that I was saving my photos and documents in the proper format. The points that Thomas made about the digitizing are spot on so I am going to just list his steps.

  • Thomas MacEntee's Photo Digitization Best Practice's  
    • Set your scanner to a high resolution, such as 300 or 600 dpi.
    • Use the TIFF format and then copy TIFF files to create JPG or PNG files. 
    • Clean the scanner with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Remove dust, lint and fingerprints so you can achieve the clearest possible scans.
    • Make sure the photo is in contact with the scanning surface or as close as possible to the surface; however, often you can get a good scan right through a plastic sleeve, matt, or glass. Don't remove the photo while scanning. 
    • Keep the photo lined up with the edges of the scanner to reduce editing later on.
    • When transferring digital images to your computer, always save an original scan of the photo and then make copies of the file to be used for editing. Also export to multiple file types.
    • Use Photoshop Elements or your favorite graphic editing software to resize digital images for use with your favorite project.
    • Remember to periodically backup your scans of photos and documents.
In an effort to scan all of my numerous photos I decided to add a weekly column photo to my blog, Family Photo Friday. Every three months I sit down and look at the calendar to see if there are any holidays or special occasions for the next 90 days. Then I start pulling the photos that apply and scan them into my computer. As they are scanned, I use photo editing software to "brand" the photo, crop it if necessary and put it in a frame. Then I upload the finished product to my blog, write a brief description, I schedule the post in Blogger and in my calendar. As a matter of fact all of my Family Photo Friday posts through the end of the year are done and I have started on January where we have birthdays!

Photos DIY or Use A Professional Service?

Other than having film developed I have never had used a professional service. However, I do know that I have a few audio and video recordings that I need to get transferred over to something more adaptable and in a format that can be handed down. I have been asking friends if they can recommend anyone but none of them have really needed the service either. So I am going to look in my hometown and have my sisters check to see if they can find someone for me.

That concludes this week's post for me. If you would like to read my post from the original cycle you will find it here.
Next week we will be discuss conducting collateral research (my favorite) and reviewing online education options.

Sources:, database and images, Ancestry ( : 14 November 2015).
Ancestry Academy, database with images and videos, Ancestry ( : 14 November 2015)
Find My, database with images, FIndMyPast ( : 14 November 2015).
Fold, database and images, Fold3 ( : 14 November 2015). 
MacEntee, Thomas, group pdf file, "Genealogy DO-Over, Week 7, Original Cycle", ( : 13 November 2015)
My, database and images, My Heritage ( : 14 November 2015)., database and images, Newspapers ( : 14 November 2015).

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