Software Review: RootsMagic 4

By Rick Crume Premium

The Basics

  • Price: $29.95, $19.95 upgrade
  • Manufacturer: RootsMagic, Inc., (800) 766-8762
  • System requirements: Windows 95 or newer
  • Demo/trial version
  • Biggest draws: ease of use, documenting sources, charts and reports
  • Drawbacks: nothing major
Ease of Use

Exceptionally easy to use, RootsMagic provides extensive help throughout the program. You also can get a printed manual for $14.95; refer to the online knowledge base, message board and video tutorials; or submit questions via the program’s Web site.

Interface and Navigation

As in previous versions, the Pedigree, Family and Descendants tabs make it easy to navigate around your family tree. Each screen displays a lot of information, yet remains clean and uncluttered. Family View now shows children’s birth and death places, and Descendant View also shows birth and death places. The new People tab lists everyone in your file; you can customize it to show any fields and sort the list on any column. For faster navigation, a new collapsible sidebar lets you bookmark names and return to names you recently edited.

The new edit screen consolidates the former Person, Fact and Family edit screens, so you can access all data about a person from one screen—you don’t have to open and close as many windows.
Version 4 also adds fields for DNA test results and Place Details. The latter provides a specific place to record, say, a cemetery, hospital or street address, a feature most programs lack.
Gedcom Handling

RootsMagic opens Family Origins, Family Tree Maker, Personal Ancestral File and Legacy files directly, and even imports pictures from Family Tree Maker.

File Management

With the handy new RootsMagic-to-Go feature, it’s easy to copy the program and your family files to a flash drive so you can run RootsMagic on a computer away from home—and not have to lug around a laptop. You also can create a shareable CD with a read-only version of RootsMagic to show off your work to family and friends. The program didn’t slow down on my test file with nearly 32,000 people; users have reported excellent performance with even larger files.


Documentation is simple. Just select the template for the source type and fill in the boxes. Each field has a helpful description of what should go there. The new SourceWizard supports several standard documentation formats, including those in Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence (Genealogical Publishing Co., $16.95) and Richard S. Lackey’s Cite Your Sources (University Press of Mississippi, $15). Now you can indicate whether a fact is proven, disproven or disputed; a source is original or derivative; information is primary or secondary; and evidence is direct, indirect or negative.

Charts and Reports
Report options include well-designed family group sheets and pedigree charts; highly customizable wall, timeline and box charts; photo trees and Web reports. In addition to the usual name index, reports can include a place index. (One quibble: In footnotes, quoted sources aren’t put in quotation marks.) Save a report in PDF format and page numbers in the index hyperlink to the corresponding pages in the report. A new mapping enhancement lets you display a map showing the locations of all the events in a person’s lifetime. 

Additional Features

RootsMagic 4’s WebSearch tab lets you search , FamilySearch, Google and other sites for the selected person. The software also can synchronize your family file with FamilySearch Family Tree, a huge online project featuring a collaborative family tree that’s now in the testing stage.
The Verdict
Probably the best all-around genealogy program, RootsMagic offers a winning combination of features for both casual and serious genealogists.
From the July 2009 issue of Family Tree Magazine