Mapping Software for Genealogy: Part Two

In a return to schedule, welcome to the second post in my series exploring different mapping softwares. In the first post, I explored Family Tree Maker and what its mapping feature had to offer. This time, I am going to get straight down to business and talk about the other two software-based programs that I have looked at. Remember that I am looking at these from a genealogist’s perspective and am particularly interested in their copyright specifications; especially on sharing their maps with clients.

Family Atlas

First up today, is Family Atlas from RootsMagic. Now, I haven’t personally used RootsMagic, but I know others who use it as their go-to tree-creating software. I was therefore interested to see how Family Atlas shapes up.

Family Atlas can easily be found on the RootsMagic website, where there is a useful information section. The program can be used on both Windows and Mac, although apparently the Catalina (10.15) Mac operating system does not support it yet. Not being a Mac user, I have no idea what that means, but I am sure it is important for Mac users to know!

Price-wise, Family Atlas comes in at $29.95. The exchange rate on the day I bought it, made this about £22. In comparison to Family Tree Maker (currently £79.95), that is not bad at all! You do have to remember though, that FTM is aiming to be a complete package and Family Atlas is only for mapping. At the time of writing, it is possible to buy both RootsMagic and Family Atlas as a package (currently $49.90), but this is not available for download only. You would need to buy this as a CD and download. Still, if you are looking for family tree software and you like the look of RootsMagic, this is not a bad option. The download was also painless and went smoothly, so I was very relieved!

Importing your data

To start using the program, you need to import either genealogical data or place data. I chose to ‘import and plot my genealogy’ and used the inbuilt wizard to help me. This was all very easy and the wizard walked me through step by step, but it did not want to read my FTM file. That was not too big a deal though, as I just exported my FTM tree to a GEDCOM file- no problem. It is also supposed to read files from RootsMagic, Legacy and PAF 5. This is something I would advise you to remember if you ever chose this particular software. I would make sure you can transfer your family tree into a GEDCOM file if necessary.

The wizard lets you select any of these file types and then browse your computer for the file you want. It then geocodes all of the place data and lets you choose whether to choose out of its suggestions for places it couldn’t find. Exactly like FTM, this includes Paul Gouly de Chaville’s birthplace, Viroflay. At this point, I began to wonder if my data wasn’t quite right, but the best match seems to use the modern place name instead: Viroflay, Isles-de-France, France. A better match than FTM, but for me, it doesn’t quite capture the historical data. Perhaps a general problem when trying to map historic names using modern software! In any case, you don’t have to accept this step, although it does affect the plotting of these locations. Basically, they aren’t plotted.

Mapping Software for Genealogy, Part Two_Shersca Genealogy_Family Atlas Person map view
The Map pane for Family Atlas, showing the vital events for Edward James GOULY. Map is copyright of RootsMagic.

Adding more information

The next step is to add ‘genealogy markers,’ which are the points you want to plot. This is also relatively straightforward. You can give them a title, change the size, colour and style of both the marker point and the accompanying text and (like FTM), you can join them all up with a line on the map. There is also a rather nifty time slider option which allows you to choose to view events in a specific time scale. A drawback is that only county names are viewed in addition to the points plotted. Even zooming in does not show any nearby cities or towns, if you wanted to orient yourself within a county. The map publishing function does not show the lines joining the various events, but you can add a title and a legend. There is also the facility to add text boxes and lines yourself. It works a little like Word and Publisher in that respect.

Printing and sharing

I will need a little more time to play with all the features, but the edited map can be printed or exported to JPG or PDF files. What I am concerned with, is any rules governing the printing and sharing of the map. Many of you may not be surprised, but after minutes of searching, I could not find any specific references to sharing rules at all! I searched the RootsMagic website and the Family Atlas Program and all I came up with is:

The Family Atlas software and documentation are Copyright © 2006 RootsMagic, Inc.

If any other users of Family Atlas are reading this, then I would be happy to know if I have missed something here. But, this is a completely non-specific statement which doesn’t help me at all. I think an email to RootsMagic is needed, as you could infer that everything you do using Family Atlas is copyright of RootsMagic. In a way, I am a little surprised that this copyright statement is not more specific, as this is a program tailored to genealogy. I might expect a company such as Bing (used in FTM) to be a bit vague and not specifically mention genealogists. They are, after all, aiming at a broader market. But for RootsMagic to exclude a clause supporting or prohibiting use for professional genealogists who may wish to pass maps on to their clients? That is more unexpected. Although, I suppose it shows that the target market would be those researching for themselves without payment changing hands. I will be interested to see what RootsMagic say.

Map My Family Tree

Onwards to Map My Family Tree then. This is a standalone program produced by Progeny Genealogy, which I found through S & N Genealogy. It is currently selling for £24.95 (download only) from S & N Genealogy or $34.95 (download) and $39.95 (CD, US only) from Progeny Genealogy’s website.

Importing your data

I had a few difficulties downloading this from S & N (although that may have had more to do with general website issues at the time). Again, I had trouble opening my FTM file and had to use a GEDCOM file instead- FTM files after 2008 are not supported. Perhaps users of other programs will have more luck. MMFT is supposed to support additional files from:

  • Ancestral Quest (version 12 or later)
  • Family Historian
  • Legacy Family Tree
  • Personal Ancestral File
  • RootsMagic (ver. 3)
  • The Master Genealogist

As with Family Atlas and FTM, there are issues with the distinction of historic and modern place names which subsequently don’t get plotted. But the importing of your files is simple and just uses the ‘open’ function as you would in other programs like Word. You then just find the file and the program does its thing and encodes the place names and information.

Like the other programs I have explored so far, MMFT gives you options to change the colour of the map, the colour and font of the text; the latter down to the town, title, person and legend. The zoom function and movement of the map is straightforward enough, but some features are a little slow in loading. There is the option to focus in on events in a particular country or view them on the world map. On the face of it, the program is simple and perhaps too much so, if all you get is a list of places and events, plotted on a map. You do have a bottom pane below the map which lists the people in the tree, but to get more out of the program you have to actually read the instructions! As I have mentioned, I am not always great at reading the instructions and I prefer a more intuitive program in which I refer to the instructions if I have a problem.

Mapping Software for Genealogy, Part Two_Shersca Genealogy_Map My Family Tree Person map view
The Map pane for Family Map My Family Tree, showing the vital events for Edward James GOULY and sister Emma. Map is copyright of Progeny Genealogy.

Adding more information

The program uses filters to show events relating to specific people and you create a filter using their specific dates, gender, number of generations or events. An advantage this has over other programs so far, is the ability to easily show more than one person at a time. I can see the events for Edward James Gouly de CHAVILLE, as well as those for his sister Emma. You do have to activate the filters though, or else you simply see the plots for all of the places in the family tree.

I haven’t yet mentioned the Gazetteer function, even though it is similar in nature to those from other programs. There is the ability to search for place names, create an ‘ignore’ list and set specific abbreviations for place names of your choosing. What it does have that the others do not, is a direct link through to Google Earth Pro. I already had Google Earth Pro for the next set of reviews, so I will talk more about that next time, but this does open up a completely different way of mapping to the rest of MMFT. It also brings up copyright issues, which I will come to in a moment. There are various other links to other similar programs (such as MapQuest or Google Maps), if you already have access to those programs.

Printing and sharing

The printing function is very simple indeed and is just that. There is no editing of the print ready map as with Family Atlas. You can however, publish the map as a PDF or JPG file, although (from the time I have spent with it) there seems to be no point. Viewing further information about the event in relation to the place seems impossible, unless you have a big long title on your map. This is at least an option when you edit the map in Family Atlas. This is more personal preference as to how ir looks though.

As with Family Atlas, I could find no specific copyright statement that would tell me whether I could share maps with clients without infringing that copyright. There was nothing either within MMFT itself or on the Progeny website. Yet again, I can see an email to Progeny in my future to ask! Google Earth Pro would be a different matter though as, like Bing, Google has its own copyright statements which I would need to explore should I use that function through MMFT. As Google Earth Pro is part of my next post, I will come to their copyright statements next time.

Some concluding thoughts

On the whole, out of the two programs in this post, I prefer Family Atlas. MMFT seems a bit too simple on the face of it and does not do what I had hoped. Although, I do think that I would need more time to really read the manual in-depth, as there is probably much more to it that at first glance. In terms of being user-friendly, it just seems a little clunky to me. Don’t just take my word for it though. I would definitely encourage you to have a look at other reviews concerning these programs so that you can make your mind up.

Next time, I will be looking at two popular online-based mapping programs and giving overall conclusions. So, I look forward to Google Earth Pro and Ordnance Survey!

© 2021 Shersca Genealogy.

RootsTechConnect 2021- A show with a difference

Apologies for the slight break in my current series of posts about mapping software. If you haven’t seen the first one yet, you can find it here. I had to publish this post next, as it is quite time sensitive- any later and I would really miss the boat!

RootsTechConnect 2021

So, as I am sure you can work out from the title, this post will be about RootsTechConnect. I attended the show and both helped out with some of the exhibitors and had a look at some of the talks.

My first thought was how weird it all was! Having been to the last RootsTech in London in 2019 (getting on for two years ago, can you believe?), it definitely was different. Needs certainly must though this year, and in the absence of RootsTech being able to take place in person, RootsTechConnect was the solution.

To chat or not to chat?

As I am sure everyone will agree, it is much more fun to be able to meet up with fellow genealogists of all ages and stages of research. Meeting people (both new and old) is one of the reasons we travel the many miles to attend conferences like this. The team behind RootsTechConnect came up with the next best thing though, as the main mode of communication between attendees was the online chat function. I have never been a great user of online chat facilities, at least there are without a doubt those that use that sort of thing more than I do.

Whilst the online chat facility worked very well (i.e. I came across no break in service or such things), I am not sure how useful people really found it. Perhaps there were those who were chatting away, but I did not find that the case. Certainly, the chat facilities for the organisations I manned were very quiet indeed! This was true for both the Direct Messaging function, as well as the Chat Room function. The difference to a real time conversation is very obvious and I wonder if there is a better way. At least from the point of view of the organisations who took part. Instead of having to constantly man a chat function with no takers, perhaps some kind of real time video chat session would work? With each organisation having its own slot? In any case, it is something that I think would need some further thought for future online conferences.

What a range of presentations…!

Of course the best case scenario would be the ability to hold an in person conference at some point in the future. But I do think that there were benefits to holding something online. Firstly, there was the potential to connect with people from all over the world. An online conference automatically does away with the need to travel halfway across the world and improves accessibility. That is unless computer and internet access is a problem.

RootsTechConnect 2021- A show with a difference_Shersca Genealogy_RootsTech London, 2019
In the absence of any photos from this year’s conference, here is one I took back at RootsTech London in 2019. A bit of a walk down memory lane! I now have a better phone too! © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

Unlike an in person conference, the keynote speeches were available at multiple times of the day (likely having been pre-recorded). So if you particularly wanted to hear the celebrity of the day talk about what family and genealogy means to them, just pick your time. This was also a benefit for all of the talks and lectures. There were those that were shown at a specific time, but there was also an almighty list of other pre-recorded talks that are accessible for a good long while yet. I use the word ‘almighty’ with good reason. The list of pre-recorded talks was 18 (yes, 18) pages long! I don’t know about you, but that was slightly intimidating!

As you might expect at the moment, the number of DNA talks was large. It is great to see so many people interested, although it is not always my thing. There was a great deal for the beginner, for specific countries and areas, for certain record types and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Summarising 18 pages worth in a few sentences is not going to happen successfully, so I will have to just say that the choice was huge. Being a worldwide conference, I could see that the organisers were trying to cater to a huge range of interests. No obvious Medieval subjects though, but that’s just me…

…but was that a problem?

There is a problem with the range of talks that were available.  As I said before, I found it intimidating and perhaps there were slightly too many. There were certainly many more than would be available at an in person conference, and choosing between ones available usually are difficult enough! I also felt the search function on the RootsTechConnect website was not as helpful as it could be. Perhaps it is just the researcher in me that would like to have seen an easier classification of the available talks. For instance, classifying by the language the talk is presented in is great, but I could see no further way of filtering. I still had to go through an endless scrolling process, making it almost essential to know the name of the talk to avoid that. However, if this is down to my lack of technical ability I will happily be corrected!

The talks I had a chance to view over the weekend were well presented and informative, although I would say that some were not automatically clear as to the country they related to. (Note to self: remember to read the description first!) There are still some that I would like to look at, so it is great that they will be around for some time to come. Having had a look (and been a part of) some of the exhibitor’s ‘stands,’ I thought the overall look was very professional and the allowance of different videos and uploads was helpful for both visitors and exhibitors. From a purely British perspective, I did feel that some of the usual suspects were absent from the Expo Hall. But then, time and cost is something that no doubt would have played a part and would have been considered within each organisation. Being the maiden voyage of RootsTechConnect, there are no doubt those who would have been unsure as to the benefit and reach. It was interesting to see exhibitors from abroad, who I might never get to see normally. Another benefit of an online conference.

In conclusion…

There are certainly pros and cons here and some issues that could be revisited. But on the whole, at a time when we are not able to do this in person, RootsTechConnect did the next best thing. Who knows, perhaps there might be space in future for both the in person RootsTech conference and some kind of online event? No doubt the intricacies of both will need to be worked out within the current state of things. We will have to wait and see, but until then I hope to eventually see you all again, hopefully in person!

© 2021 Shersca Genealogy.