The Toolkit: The Magic Continues

By Rick Crume Premium

The successor to the venerable Family Origins, RootsMagic wowed genealogists everywhere when it hit the market in early 2003. The program combined remarkable ease of use with a wealth of organizational features and outstanding reports. But it lagged in one area: creating graphical wall charts (read our review in the June 2003 Family Tree Magazine). In version 2, RootsMagic’s creators have conjured up a capable charting program, improved book publishing and added many more enchanting features.

Hitting the charts

RootsMagic Chart, a program included with RootsMagic 2, lets you create ancestor, descendant and hourglass wall charts with your choice of colors and fonts. Each person’s box can include a photograph, life dates and places, and other facts. You easily can move and resize boxes, add freeform text and shapes, and insert a background image.

Although it gets the job done, RootsMagic Chart could use some polishing. Photographs look distorted on screen unless you zoom in. (But they look good on printed charts.) Conversely, text might fit in a box when viewed on screen, but not necessarily when you print the chart. You may have to edit and reprint your charts to get them just right.

When it comes to creating wall charts, RootsMagic doesn’t compare with Family Tree Maker <>, whose chart templates combine well-coordinated graphics, borders and fonts. RootsMagic Chart doesn’t come with background images or border graphics, and it’s up to you to select fonts and colors that work well together. Still, the program gives you plenty of power to create an attractive wall chart for your next family reunion. And as a tool for organizing your family history, RootsMagic beats Family Tree Maker hands down.

Writing the book

RootsMagic’s made creating family history books with multiple reports and charts easy, too. Now you can include photos, sources and notes, plus cover, title and copyright pages. The program automatically creates a table of contents and names index for the book, too. When you’re finished, you can print your book or save it in PDF format for burning onto a CD or e-mailing to relatives.

When generating narrative reports, the program automatically converts facts into sentences. So if you’ve entered John French’s date and place of birth, the sentence might read, “John French was born on 13 Jan 1753 in Braintree, Norfolk, Massachusetts.” To specify the wording for a type of fact, select “Fact type list” from the Lists menu. If you’ve entered details about one of John French’s land records, RootsMagic might convert the fact to a sentence such as “He was a party to a land transaction in Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts on 20 May 1786.”

RootsMagic handles marriages differently from most genealogy software. If you haven’t entered a date or place of marriage for a couple with children, the software doesn’t assume they were married, and narrative reports won’t mention their marriage. RootsMagic doesn’t take anything for granted. That means even if you don’t know the date or place, you still should enter a marriage fact if you know the wedding occurred.

Spelling success

In addition to wall charts, RootsMagic has added ancestor and descendant “box charts” and timeline charts that you can print on standard-sized paper. You can create reports with New England Historical and Genealogical Register numbering now, too.

Other new features include a problem list, which searches for mistakes in data, and enhanced merge capabilities. You also can color-code all of a person’s ancestors or descendants or any other names you select.

We’d already hailed RootsMagic for its ease of use and well-designed reports. Although the new wall charts didn’t dazzle us, the latest improvements have made an excellent program even better. RootsMagic remains one of the most well-rounded genealogy programs and earns our highest recommendation.

The software requires Windows 95 or higher and 32MB RAM. It costs $29.95 from RootsMagic, Inc. <>. You can download a free trial version from the Web site, as well.

From the October 2004 Family Tree Magazine.