Tag Archives: Genealogy Go-Over

2017 Genealogy Do-Over/Go-Over Update

Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over, or as some of us have chosen – the Go-Over – is a great tool for anyone to use at any point in their genealogical research.

My go-over has included getting all of my paper items in digital format (which was completed in 2015) and then get my 10,000+ images renamed and attached in my software.

My goal in 2016, which I expected to extend through 2017 and perhaps even into 2018, was to get the renaming and attaching done.

Since it’s been quite a while since I looked at my progress, I decided it was time. As as retired teacher, I’d have to give myself a grade of D- for what I’ve accomplished so far. There are two reasons for this lack of progress – one my own fault and one not. The reason that is my fault alone is that renaming 10,000 images is just plain mind-numbingly boring. I have a pretty high tolerance for repetitive activity, but even I have only finished maybe 200 images.

On top of that, as I began the renaming, I was also distracted by the (at the time) supposed end of Family Tree Maker and the discovery of several other programs – Family Historian, Heredis, Ancestral Quest, Legacy and RootsMagic – and all their many features.

With the double announcements that both Family Tree Maker and RootsMagic would be adding the capability to sync (in some format) to Ancestry, I figured I needed to wait for the release of these updated programs before I made a firm commitment to RootsMagic 7. Both FTM and RM experienced delays in getting their products ready for mass release and both succeeded just a few weeks ago.

Last week, I posted a two part series about my struggle to choose one main program, which turned out to be RootsMagic 7.

I am already quite comfortable using it, it offers Evidence Explained format in its source citation templates, there is an active Facebook users group, I have access to a local users group and I like it.

Now, with my software choice finalized, I am ready to take another look at my huge collection of digital images. I made a decision about that, too. Thousands of the images I have are old family photos.

I inherited pictures from my side of the family from three sources – my parents, my cousin Charles and my grandmother.

Another thousand or two (or more) of my husband’s family, I received from my mother-in-law.

If I live to be 100 and don’t get bored to death doing it, I will rename those pictures after all the other images are finished. In the meantime, it will suffice to make notes in my own software file and in those of the few above-mentioned previous caretakers of the photos, that they were/are all family photos handed down through the years. The provenance will be preserved in that manner and I am now facing several thousand fewer images to plod through! 🙂

Okay. I think maybe – just maybe – I am ready to take another stab at my digitization Genealogy Go-Over goal.

My 2017 Genealogy Go-Over – Update

Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over has been the impetus for my own Go-Overs, as I’ve worked to pare down my archival albums, digitize all 10,000 or so items for which I am the current caretaker and to make sure my digital collection is in a format that would easily be understood by the next generation.

I am still on the fence about which software program I will choose as my main genealogical program. I began migrating away from Family Tree Maker back in June 2014 when Ancestry had its DDoS attack and began using RootsMagic, as I didn’t want my software program hung up because it was connected to a website under attack.

When Ancestry announced in December 2015 that it was unceremoniously dumping Family Tree Maker, I began taking a closer look at what each of the genealogical software programs offered. I have pared my choices down to RootsMagic 7, Legacy 8 and Family Historian 6, mainly because I like the looks of each of the programs AND there is good support available to me either locally or through users’ groups. (I have to admit, though, that I did purchase the March 2017 update to Family Tree Maker that was available at RootsTech for $29.95 because I want to see what improvements Software MacKiev has been able to make to it.)

However, I can move forward with the next stage of my Go-Over without having made that final software choice because my media can be attached to trees imported through gedcoms. They are all housed on my computer and I have never, ever directly attached media to my Ancestry tree. It has always been right click, rename and save or, if saving isn’t a choice given with the media, it’s been web clip, rename and save.

Last year, I believe in June, I wrote about renaming all of my digital images. I have renamed a few hundred of them, but I needed time for my brain to think through all the steps so that I didn’t regret the method that I chose to complete the job. I needed a well thought out total plan that was going to keep me on track with the least possible fuss and frustration.

I had already decided on the naming convention that I would follow as I renamed my images:


My images are all housed in surname folders, so I didn’t see the need to begin with a name for each image. Type refers either to the paper document or, if the image is a picture, it will either be Postcard, Image or Photo. I have quite a collection of vintage postcards representing places which were important in my ancestors’ lives. Image tells me that the picture is one that I received from someone else, while Photo is a paper original in my own collection.

Since I decided all of this last year, why haven’t I gotten farther along with the renaming and reattaching? I knew that as soon as I started renaming files, the current links to my software program would be broken. I didn’t really want to create copies for all those thousands of files so I let the project sit for a while. It’s also what I call a mind-numbingly boring job!

Recently, I read an article that motivated me to get going again. A blog that I follow, Lifehacker, has lots of tips that don’t seem to apply to me, but it has some great posts to which I immediately relate. One of those posts went up on 13 February 2017 – How to Cut Back on Digital Clutter and Regain Your Focus by Belle B. Cooper.

I can’t exactly put my finger on what touched me and got me moving, but I think it started with one of the sections of the article called Transition to Digital Minimalism. It talked about ridding ourselves of digital clutter. I decided that my digital project was “clutter,” so to speak, because I have been intending to clean it up. I know there are some – probably fewer than 25 – duplicate files (which is nothing out of a total of 10,000), but I really needed to get a handle on this renaming stuff.

A review of my plan brought me to the conclusion that I really did need to copy all of my images into new folders and rename the copies to keep the links intact in my family tree.

Next, I created a gedcom of my family tree, stripped of all the attachments, so as I renamed the images, I could attach them and (maybe) create source citations for each one using the templates found in the program. I still have to think about this step because I find that creating my own bibliographic citation in my notes seems to go a lot faster than dealing with all of those idiot templates. My only reason for using the templates would be to be able to take advantage of programs like Evidentia, which only work if data is sourced in templates.

When I have completed this process for my tree, I will back up all the new images in Dropbox and delete out the old set of images so that I am not saving a huge media collection twice. I use Backblaze and IDrive to back up everything on my computer and also have an external hard drive and flash drive with my media on them. Those will be updated as the last step.

If I haven’t bored myself to death at that point, I will repeat the same process for my husband’s tree. The 10,000 images are quite evenly split between our families and 5,000 at a time doesn’t seem quite as daunting as 10,000.

I think I have a workable plan!

My 2016 Go-Over Progress

2016 Genealogy Go-Over

In December 2014, Thomas MacEntee announced the Genealogy Do-Over project, which proved to be extremely popular with genealogists. In December 2015, he announced the expansion of the Do-Over timeline from weeks into a twelve month series and created a workbook to accompany the tasks.

I decided right at the start that I could not and would not attempt an entire Do-Over, but a “Go-Over” (a scaled down version of the actual Do-Over) was a project which I felt is important for all serious genealogy researchers.

Stuff accumulates, some of which is extremely important, but other items turn out to be not so useful. Collections need to be developed, maintained and, yes, pruned. With the digital age, it is even more important to convert one’s holdings into images in case anything happens to those irreplaceable  originals.

My 2015 Go-Over was successfully finished in November when I finished naming and attaching my 10,000+ images into my software program. The originals have been safely stored in top quality archival albums since the 1980s when I started researching.

By December 2015, the genealogy world was turned on its ear by Ancestry’s announcement to drop Family Tree Maker, which had been my program of choice for many years. However, I was already in the midst of leaving it and December opened up all kinds of possibilities in terms of a replacement software program. Even the February 2016 announcement by Software MacKiev did not make me reconsider staying with Family Tree Maker.

Thus, for 2016, I decided my Go-Over focus would be two-fold – to commit to a new program and to re-organize my 10,000 images. When I named them, I used patterns that made sense for me and I can’t say I really have much trouble finding them when I need them, say, for a blog post. However, I do realize that other family members would probably be overwhelmed trying to sort through all these images, which are quite evenly split – about 5,000 each – between my Sabo and Stufflebean family trees.

I realized that this Go-Over would likely take not one year, but two, covering 2016 and 2017 because of the number of images involved. The other reason I expected it to move along slowly was because I totally went down the rabbit hole following BSOs – namely, Ancestral Quest 14, Family Historian 6, Heredis, Legacy 8 and RootsMagic 7. Each of these programs has some terrific features.

It is now just a little more than half way through 2016 so where am I in terms of progress on this Go-Over?

I am just about where I expected to be. It has taken me six months to wander through the various genealogical software programs. I have whittled the list down to three – Family Historian 6, Legacy 8 and RootsMagic 7 – and, although I am still learning the ins and outs of Legacy 8 and Family Historian 6 – I have decided for now to use RootsMagic 7 as my primary software program.

The reason for this choice is really totally pragmatic – I purchased RootsMagic back in June 2014 when Ancestry had its DDos attack and Family Tree Maker barely worked for weeks, even when I unlinked it from Ancestry. Additionally, I belong to the Pima County Genealogy Society and ones of its SIGs is a RootsMagic users group. I have been attending those meetings for about a year now and have learned a lot.

Family Historian 6 is the program that still most intrigues me, but being UK based, I don’t know anyone else locally who is using this program. What I’ve learned, I have either taught myself or had very helpful suggestions from UK blogger friends and the tech staff of Family Historian.

Legacy is another fabulous looking program, but it seems to have a steeper learning curve than RootsMagic and, in spite of its huge popularity, I haven’t found anyone among my genealogy connections here in Tucson who uses it.

Having said all that, Family Historian and Legacy are still on the table, but I needed to commit to one and get going, so for now, it is RootsMagic.

It’s taken me five paragraphs to explain my software choice and it took me almost five months – until May – to make that choice.

Once I had made the big decision, my Go-Over progress has picked up to a fair pace. My first job was to create four new GEDCOMs and export them from Family Tree Maker. I have always saved images directly into FTM and not attached them in my Ancestry tree, so I didn’t have to waste any time manually saving anything. (I haven’t synced my tree to Ancestry since the DDos attack in 2014.)

  1. I created a Sabo and a Stufflebean GEDCOM that included all media items. However, I also created a Sabo2 and Stufflebean2 GEDCOM, stripped of all the media so I could use them to attach newly renamed image files. It only took a few minutes to create these and import them into RootsMagic 7.
  2. Nest, I ran Problem Reports for the full tree GEDCOMS. I only had about 3 pages for each of the trees, which I think is very good since they each have over 7,000 people in them. Also, about half of each list was a note that no sex was noted for someone and the huge majority of those were either stillborn children or babies who died soon after birth and family information didn’t note whether they were male or female.
  3. I dithered for quite a while about how to rename all my images. I probably spent two weeks playing with different formats and deciding on a formatted pattern so anyone could figure out what I had done. My final choice is:


“Category” is probably the only term here that needs explaining. Birth, marriage, death, probate and will are certainly easy enough to understand, but I have literally thousands of family photos so I decided to also include PHOTO as one of the terms that fit under CATEGORY. I have also decided that if some of the photos are a series taken at one time of one or more persons, I will add a number after the description to define the photos. That way, for example,  if I wanted to find all the photos of my grandmother on vacation at their cottage, one image might be named:


This works for me and I think family members would have no trouble hunting through these images trying to find a particular picture.

How much progress have I made with the images? I have finished a few hundred so I have a long way to go.

3. With many thanks to Randy Seaver, I think I finally have a handle on creating source templates for images of family records. I decided not to use source templates to cite all those family photos. The description allows me to add a comment about inheriting it, finding a cousin who shared it,etc.

Source templates take a LOT of time if a new master source needs to be created. While playing with the image naming format, I also played with the source templates and there is no short cut around it. Those templates take time to create when one is still learning. I created some and didn’t like the way they showed up in the master list, so I went back and edited them.

My timeline for this Go-Over is to complete all this by 31 December 2017. Some of it is kind of mind numbing and boring so we will see if I stick to this date or if it runs into 2018. Either way, others will be able to more easily navigate their way through my family trees.