Monday, March 19, 2012

How I Use in My Genealogy Database

Last week, Susan Clark of Nolichucky Roots started a discussion about genealogy database software in her post Getting Down to the Basics by asking "What is it you use the program for? Specifics, I beg of you." I made a couple of comments to Susan's post but I think a little more detailed answer to that question might be a good starting point for helping me figure out my genealogy workflow. That is something I've been thinking about since I attended "A Report Card for the Genealogy Software Industry" last month at RootsTech. 

My genealogy database software is Legacy Family Tree  and I'm using the latest version of the Deluxe Edition. The number one thing I use Legacy for is to organize and track my data. I function best when everything is in one place. Of course, I have a structure of folders that hold specific records, documents and photos but I link almost everything to my database in some way. If you ask me what I have on someone, I go straight to my database.  

Legacy has the usual date and place fields for birth, marriage, death and burial information. I use "Events" to document most everything else. I rarely use the "General Notes" or the Birth, Death and Burial notes because I like Events better for several reasons but mainly because it's easier for me to see at a glance what I have (and what I don't have). Each event has its own notes section so using them does not limit the ability to write a narrative. Events allow me to add photos and records to individual pages on my website. I create Events for things many people would say are not really events - like headstone photos. Events can be private so all those little (and big) things that I do not want to share with the world can still be included in my database which means I don't lose track of them.

I use "Research Notes" sorta like a junk drawer in the kitchen. They are messy and you never know what might be in there. If I see something online that I need to look into, get information in an e-mail from someone researching a common line or am working on a theory about some relationship, it is all thrown into "Research Notes." Sometimes I add explanations for why I believe something is right or wrong but I'm getting away from that habit in favor of having analyses/conclusions in their own Event. 

I use the SourceWriter templates and attach images, PDFs and Word documents to my sources. I know my digital filing system well enough to find anything quickly but if I'm already in Legacy and looking at a source, viewing that source document is only a couple of clicks away. 

"Search" and "Tagging" are tools that I use often. I can't begin to cover all the ways I've used these tools but an easy example of Search would be if I'm going to visit a cemetery and need to know who to look for, I run a search and create a report. I have four tags that I consider permanent. I don't put living people on my website so I start with my four grandparents generation and go back. I have a tag for people who go to the website, for people in more recent generations (mostly living people) who do not go to the website and for people in "research trees" who also do not go to my website. The fourth permanent tag is for "End of Direct Line" which tells me I don't know one or both parents for that ancestor. There are nine tags so that leaves me five to use as needed.  

Did I just say "Research Trees?" I do not set-up separate Legacy databases. Everything goes into the same one but people whose relationship I haven't yet proven are not attached to the main tree in my database. (By "everything" I mean research I am doing, I don't download online trees and add them to my database.) When I was working on identifying the parents of my 2nd great-grandfather, John R Petty I had a good candidate for his father (John Petty) so I added him to my database as an unlinked person. As I researched him and his known children, I added their data just as I would for people I know belong in my tree. Eventually, I had enough indirect evidence to make the case that the older John Petty was John R.'s father and I linked them together in my database. Since I had added the data for this whole branch of the family as I went through the research process, everything was there. If I can't make a connection to someone I'm researching, I leave them in my database with all of their data so that I know I've already been down that road or in case something comes along later that proves the relationship.     

One more major function I want to cover is the "To Do List" but that needs to be a separate post. (Hopefully coming soon.)

Keep in mind that these are some of the ways I use Legacy because that is what works for me. To get the most out of any software, you have to learn what it can and cannot do and then determine what features, functions and procedures best fit your style. The bottom line is you bought the software to help you so use it in a way that does that. 

Disclaimer: I have no connection to Legacy Family Tree software. Everything here is based on my personal experience and my opinions. I bought version 6 of Legacy and received a free upgrade to version 7 when it was released several months later because that was the offer to everyone at the time I made the purchase. 


  1. Well written, I understand exactly what you are doing. Great descriptions.

  2. Love the junk drawer analogy. And love the information on tagging. I have much to learn there. Thanks for sharing this! I'll add this to the list of blogs.

    1. Linda , your site is so nice . You really did a great job manipulating the Legacy to create a lovely web family tree section on blogger . If I ever give up on Drupal,I will move over to blogger too. I rather research than do web design (-:

      I downloaded Legacy last year,put my old PAF gedcoms into it on a separate computer and so far, so good .Other than my google research spreadsheets & forms, I put a lot of " conjectural" family in the database unlinked too.It's so much easier, esp. when dealing with common names . Thanks. Magda

  3. Thanks, Magda, Just to be clear, the Family Tree tab goes to a separate website. That is not a part of Blogger. Legacy created webpages (or any other HTML pages) cannot be loaded to Blogger.

  4. Great entry Linda, you've inspired me to add my documents to the events/sources in my copy of Legacy. Thanks!