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The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly Facts on Moving to the New Family Tree

Last week I wrote about my wish to enable a smooth transfer of data from the genealogical software I use, The Master Genealogist, to the cloud site offered by Family Search. Here is a guest post from someone who knows a whole lot more about this complex issue than I do, my husband/tech advisor:

Many of us are looking for a place to save our research in case none of our relatives wants it. Most of us use a Genealogy program of some sort but many have already “taken the plunge” and gone to online programs.


Those of us who haven’t gone to an online program, and even some of those that have, face the issue of what’s going to happen to our hard work when we can’t do it anymore. If we don’t migrate ourselves, our research is subject to the vagaries of a family member taking it over or performing the migration plan we might have left behind. Web sites we’ve built with our research will go away when the contract is up, causing the data to be lost.


The only solutions:


· to plan on a transfer to a repository and hope the heirs will do it and will be able to do it,


· to have a family member who will take it over,


· to identify a repository and synchronize to it,


· to identify a repository and switch to using their on-line software.


I can hope that a family member will continue the work – but unlikely at this point – or that enough peripheral people are working in my areas to take my work and run with it, but the reality is that it most likely will fade away as the paid web site expires or the software it’s based on becomes unusable unless I start ensuring continuity now.


Because I don’t like making other people pay someone else to see my hard-won research, I’ve chosen the LDS New Family Tree (NFT) as my repository and would like to synchronize to it. I currently use The Master Genealogist (TMG) version 8. Oops, based on both past experience and asking questions, I don’t think synchronization is coming soon.


Basically, I’d love to stay with TMG as I like the program and know how to use it. But if there aren’t plans to start doing what all the other major Genealogy programs are doing – synchronizing to NFT. Rather than enter more data into a dead end program, I’ll have to move to a program that is keeping up with the Joneses. And I have about 300 Norwegian and Danish relatives and over 500 sources to enter – a very productive summer.


Two programs are “certified” for synchronization with NFT – RootsMagic (RM) and Ancestral Quest (AQ). However, there are different levels of certification. You can also upload GEDCOMs to NFT regularly to synchronize – but I’m giving away the plot. I guess I’ll consider moving to RM or AQ.


There are several good web blogs about the pain and anguish and advantages of moving from TMG to each. The bottom line is that both do a decent job of importing from TMG via GEDCOM. But, from what the blogs say, RM, AQ, and – it turns out – NFT do not “nicely move sources from TMG. NFT requires sources and if no sources are attached to a person, that person is not considered to be a “good” record. When a GEDCOM from TMG is uploaded to NFT, the TMG sources are treated as notes rather than sources. When other major Genealogy programs use their “direct” link, sources remain attached – but according to bloggers, I can expect problems here.


I’ve done some investigation into what Synchronization really means. Say I have grandpa, and so does NFT. NFT doesn’t have grandma or grandpa’s parents. For grandpa, I have 4 sources and NFT has 2.



· If I use TMG and GEDCOM – each record is added to FamilySearch and none are put in my NFT Tree. When I add a person to my Tree, the sources come as details. The details can’t be converted to sources. No siblings, parents, spouses, or children come along – even if they are there in the Person Record – I have to manually find and attach each one – just because they are on the Person Record doesn’t mean I can attach them from there. Basically entirely manual after a painful process to upload the GEDCOM – requires matching checking and verification and adding the record to FamilySearch one by one.


· While on GEDCOM to NFT – most FAM tags seem to be ignored after the first generation.


· If I move from TMG to RM or AQ and do a Synchronize – the only difference is that once I have the person in my Tree, source and details placed in RM or AQ will then be placed into the Person Record which is available to NFT. New siblings, parents, spouses, or children are not attached – I must Find them and attach them.


Basically, to use NFT requires me to start over and completely re-enter my tree and all my sources.


Of course when asked about this, they tell me that should only take an hour or so. [Insert here Words that can’t be printed.] I’m looking at a minimum of ½ hour for every source. 95% of my sources are not in FamilySearch. My grandfather born in 1877 in Norway and who came to the US at 14 months has two census records that FamilySearch has. I have 26 sources, of which 6 are “governmental”. There’s 12 hours of data entry. An afternoon, my left foot.


One good reason not to use Family Tree directly is that they don’t really support PDFs, and they don’t like “active” PDFs. All of my Norwegian documents from Arkivverket are active PDFs – if you click anywhere on the PDF, it takes you to the real original image location. A nice touch and one that TMG handles very nicely. Too bad Arkivverket doesn’t advertise it so other archives will start doing this..


Basically, since I’ve spent the summer getting all these source documents, I have to make a choice – hope that there will be a way to get them in Family Tree, give up on TMG and use a program that will put them in Family Tree, or just use Family Tree directly.


But I’d rather stay on TMG.




Cemetery Marker Photos Posted At Last

At the beginning of the year, I stated my goal of getting all my photos of cemetery markers under control. After a huge segue trip to Norway this summer that took me away from my original task for weeks, I am finally working on the photos again. My project had four steps:

  • Design a process for filing, digitizing, and publishing my pictures. I attended a couple of informative sessions offered by the Computer Interest Group of the Colorado Genealogical Society to learn ways to do this.
  • Scan all my photos and place them in digital folders organized by state, cemetery, and name. Put the prints into an archival album.
  • Copy all the cemetery marker images and store them as exhibits in my genealogy database, The Master Genealogist.
  • Upload my images and build memorials on

This week I began the fourth step. I uploaded all my Colorado photos and built memorials for Ruth Anna Hansen Reed Brown and Ralph Willard Odom, both buried at Boulder’s Green Mountain Cemetery. Someone else had already built memorials for my other family members in that cemetery, Dean Reed and the Towers–Hazel, Walter, and Josephine. Memorials for family members at Ft. Logan (Robert Lloyd Reed) and Fountain (Robert H. Reed) had already been created as well. I had earlier put up a memorial for Thomas and Henrietta Reed, buried in Cañon City, right after I visited that cemetery a couple of years ago.

Now I am moving ahead to my Illinois photos. My father took these many years ago at Ashmore, Enon, and Reed cemeteries in Coles County. Our family pioneered in Illinois in the 1820’s, so there are a lot of these photos, and they will take some time.

I hope to finish uploading the photos and building memorials by the end of October. It feels good to know that whenever I visit another cemetery, I have a system in place for saving the images of the cemetery markers.

What is the Outlook for Genealogists?

People used to joke about when they would be “done” with their genealogy. The historical answer was “never” because you never run out of ancestors. Recently, though, I have found myself thinking about all the changes in the genealogy and family history world in recent years. Where will this technology-driven environment take us? Could genealogy be “done” in my lifetime?

I learned to do genealogy the old way. We joined local societies to learn how to do genealogical research. We kept voluminous notebooks of family group sheets and exhorted ourselves to write at least a letter per week soliciting information from relatives and vital records offices. We ordered microfilmed records from the Family History Center and occasionally drove over to Salt Lake City to use the huge genealogy library there. I felt blessed to live in the greater Denver area with its easy access to the wonderful Denver Public Library and branches of the BLM and the National Archives. Our goal was to produce a beautifully-bound book on our lineage. It took a lifetime to gather the information.

Nowadays, I keep my genealogical records electronically, and probably I will never write that book. I rarely visit the local repositories because I can find so much information online. The same goes for genealogy meetings. Instead of gleaning tips from speakers at the monthly meeting, I learn to do genealogy by attending seminars and conferences, or using the helpful materials on the LDS website

A huge genealogy industry has sprung up in recent years. Professional speakers traverse the country and vast websites offer valuable collections online. We even have genealogy television shows. Anyone willing to pay all the fees can reap a bonanza of records, educational materials and DNA results. Instead of compiling genealogy books, thousands of people use this largesse to add family lines to the collective world family tree.

So what happens when the world family tree is more or less done? What becomes of the genealogy hobby then? Will new genealogists spend most of their time verifying the work of others or collaborating to break down the remaining brick walls? Will people do genealogy at all if it means simply plugging oneself into the world tree developed by others?

Digitization of records and sharing of family information continues at breakneck speed. Most people can look at the compiled world tree and find some of their ancestors already listed. I think I will see the day when we have a complete database, at least for Americans. Will the world still need genealogists then?

Busy As Bees on Our Genealogy

We have had a lot going on in our genealogy world over the past week:


  • On Saturday, I attended the spring seminar put on by the Colorado chapter of the Palatines to America Kory Meyerink of ProGenealogists spoke on various topics. As always, they had a good turnout for this seminar. The gentleman sitting next to me traveled all the way from Tulsa, OK. I feel so privileged to live in a city where seminars of this high quality occur regularly.
  • On Tuesday, the Germanic Genealogical Society of Colorado held its monthly meeting at the Denver Public Library. We heard a presentation by our own Joe Beine who runs the Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records website and the German Roots website These are wonderful genealogical resources.
  • All week long, my husband/tech advisor has doggedly used his lunch hours to search for my Norwegian roots. He has now learned that they lived all along the coastline of Nordland and Helgeland. But even more surprising, many of them lived in the Bergen area before that. No way can we visit every site during our trip to Norway next month. The poor man is now busy re-routing our driving trip to enable us to visit as many of these new areas as possible. Meanwhile, I have been entering his data into my software program as fast as I can.



Say No to the Shotgun Approach

I find that I make more progress with my genealogical research when I focus on one familyline at a time. Recently I am feeling almost disoriented because I have not been following my own advice. All year, I have tried to find the discipline to study only the Finns, but I keep getting distracted.

Earlier this month, I went to Salt Lake City for a research trip. After one day with Finnish records, I needed a break from that difficult task. I spent the remainder of my time at the LDS library investigating my English and Scots-Irish lines in the American Midwest.

I resumed some Finnish research once I returned home, but a week later I attended the semi-annual Palatines to America seminar in Denver. This took my attention away from the Finns again as I spent an entire day learning about German research from Dr. Michael Lacopo.

What a harried month! The Finns, the English, the Scots-Irish, the Americans, the Germans! No wonder my head spins. I need to get everything I collected this month filed and put away pronto. Perhaps then I can get back to the focused research tool that works for me, the laser, not the shotgun.

Taking the Time

Several years ago, I adopted a genealogy mantra I first heard from genealogist Pat Hatcher, “Until you look, you don’t know what you’ll find.” Her point was to look at every potential source, never casting aside something just because you do not think it likely you will find anything of interest. You may be surprised at what you find when you take the time to look.

I try to follow this guideline in all things genealogical, not just in research. This week I applied this philosophy to my decision on whether or not to attend this month’s Germanic genealogy meeting at the Denver Public Library (a 45-minute drive one way for me). My first reaction when I discovered that the speaker would be someone I had heard just a year ago speaking on the same subject was to skip this meeting and work instead on getting ready for my upcoming trip to Salt Lake City. What benefit could I get from spending a morning listening to the same old thing I had heard before?

But then I remembered my mantra, “Until you look…”, and I wondered what I would find out if I took the time to drive over for this meeting. Our programming chairman must have scheduled the same speaker again so quickly for some reason.

I found that this speaker had thoroughly updated her presentation. It was totally different and packed with new information. I came home with several useful new genealogy tools to use. Here is a one she showed us, a tutorial on how to read old German script: Not bad for a morning’s work.

Getting Ready

Soon we will travel to Salt Lake City to visit the LDS genealogy library for three days, and we want to make the most of our time there. No using the online catalog or other online resources when that can be done ahead of time from home. I have a long list of Finnish records—microfilm and books—to view when I arrive. In case I run out of Finnish research before my time is up, I also plan to take a research plan for my Reed family in colonial New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

I want my husband to be able to use his time efficiently, too. He does not have the preparation time that I do, so I decided to lend him a hand. He has expressed curiosity about his German ancestor Catharina Woermann, and I looked at our database to see what information we still need about her. I put together what I thought looked like a days’ worth of work. He looked at it, and then to my surprise, he said he had already collected most of the information I thought he needed.

Sure enough, he pulled out a large file folder stuffed full of primary sources on Catharina Woermann’s family including baptism records, marriage records, and death certificates. I have spent all week analyzing them and doing the data input. Turns out, he views Catharina as one of those “brick wall” people because he knows nothing about her origins in Hanover.

Now, how can I help him with this? I did determine that he needs a few more American documents, and he could look for those in Salt Lake. A death record for Catharina. Additional information on her daughters, Elizabeth and Anna. I am preparing a list.

Beyond that, Catharina’s St. Louis marriage record gives us the name of her father, Gerhard. My husband has no information about him or any of his other children in either the U.S. or Hanover. It seems like a vague place to start, but one of the papers in the folder did mention the name of a Hanover village. With a name and a place, he might be able to pick up this line and move ahead a bit with his research. At least he is ready now.

Managing My Genealogy Time

Every weekday I devote several hours to genealogy. I spend time researching online and in repositories, writing, attending genealogy meetings, and taking field trips. I used to do a lot of Society volunteer work, but I cut way back because I do not find it as rewarding as working on my own family tree. The logistics of volunteer work have also become prohibitive with long drives required to reach likely volunteer venues like the Denver Regional Archives or the Denver Public Library.

Even after eliminating a lot of the genealogy volunteer work that I did, I still find time management a challenge. I try to stick to a research plan and schedule, and that helps. An experienced genealogist told me long ago to focus on one line at a time, and I follow that advice. This year I have surrounded myself with all things Finnish. At the end of the year, I will prepare and give a biographical sketch of our Finnish immigrant ancestors to members of my family.

But sometimes I make an exception to the research schedule when a good opportunity arises. Last month we found ourselves with time to visit Norwegian homesteads. I put aside the Finns for a while and pulled out the Norwegian information. When I returned home, I had documents and photos to enter in the database, and I have done virtually no Finnish research in September.

Now I am planning another trip, this one to the genealogy library in Salt Lake City. Time is at a premium during a repository visit like this, and one does not want to spend it looking through the library catalog when you can do that at home. Whenever I go to Salt Lake, I comb through the catalog ahead of time and then arrive at the library with lists of films and books to view.

This preparation used to be pretty simple, but recently a new element has come into play. The LDS church is rapidly digitizing its collection and putting in online. When I go to Salt Lake, I do not want to spend time viewing films that I can look at from home. Searching the catalog now requires me to check every item to see whether it is available online. Those that are not will make it onto the list of films and books to view when I visit the library.

We will spend three days in Salt Lake. I plan to work first in the Finnish records because many of those have not yet been digitized. I just finished compiling those lists. I also keep a running list of books and films I need for other family lines, and I will certainly take that along. But what if I need more to do? And what will my husband work on while we are there? I still need to make some more lists. This all seems time-consuming, but I hope I am managing my genealogy time effectively.

A Field Trip

I am planning a field trip–literally. Our Norwegian forebears raised wheat when they homesteaded on Montana and North Dakota in the early 20th century, and the sites remain as farmed fields. The nearest towns are Plentywood, Redstone, and Homestead, Montana and Palermo, North Dakota. We are heading there soon to visit the homesteads and cemeteries, and to see the land our families knew so well.

Not many people still live in these areas. I found Palermo, with just 74 people, on a list of North Dakota ghost towns. At one time, these places thrived, but the Dust Bowl years began a long period of slow decline. Neither of us has any family left on the MonDak border, although mine still owns farmland near Redstone.

Preparation for this trip began ages ago. First I looked for the homestead files for these ancestors, and they proved difficult to find. Norwegian immigrants came to America with no surnames, and they often tried on several, with various spellings, before settling on one as the new country required. Ultimately, I collected all their land records, and I identified the cemeteries I should visit.

So we will drive and drive through farm country until we come close to the Canadian border. Then we will walk through farmland and fields of eternal rest, remembering the hardy Norwegian homesteaders who lived and died there. If we have extra time, we may drive a little further to visit Mohall, ND, too. An entrepreneur in my husband’s family, M. O. Hall, founded the town and named it after himself. As far as I know, he never farmed anything, and he did not stay in North Dakota. Like so many others, he moved on. Like us, who will leave the fields after a brief visit and return to our busy suburban lives.

Don’t Give Up On The Message Boards Just Yet

After observing recently that the genealogy message boards no longer seemed to result in many new connections, I must confess that I had not entirely given up on them. Now I am very glad that I kept on posting.

I had come to the end of the line with my Finnish great-grandmother, Ada Alina Lampinen. No one in the family knew anything about her origins except that “they all stayed in Finland.” No names, no places.

My earliest record for her was the 1904 Viipuri marriage to my great-grandfather when she was nearly 25 years old. I hypothesized that she and Alex married there because her family lived there. Still, I found nothing further about her or any connection to family members in the Viipuri records.

I chalked up my lack of success to my frustrating unfamiliarity with Finnish records, so I turned to the Finland message boards for help. Very quickly I received a GenForum reply. My Ada came from Juuka parish in then-Kuopio province just north of Viipuri province. The reply included a link to her baptismal record and the names and birthdates for her parents. What a gift!

I now have so much more information to use in my search. The message boards my be less busy these days, but they are still worth a try. Thanks to all who take time to lend a hand via these boards.