29 May 2012

Before Converting to a New Genealogy Program - RootsMagic Conversion Notes

This is a continuation of my series on converting to RootsMagic version 5 (RM5) genealogy software. Earlier articles can be found at:
1. Software Conversion - Moving to RootsMagic


I assume you have your own reasons for wanting to convert to RM5 or a different genealogy program than the one you use now. I gave mine in part one of this series where I discussed my old program, The Master Genealogist (TMG). As part of my decision and testing process I watched all of the free RootsMagic webinars. I played with data I entered directly and data I transferred into RM5. At some point I decided RM4, and later RM5, would meet most of my needs—enough to make me go through the agony of a software conversion process.

As part of my decision-making process, I read (almost) every blog post, mail list message, forum message, and FAQ I could find on converting in general and converting specifically from my old program. Search terms included GEDCOM, import, and similar words, as well as the name of my old program and RootsMagic. In addition to general searches using Google, I did searches on RootsMagic lists and forums.

According to the RootsMagic Features list, RM5 does direct imports from specific versions of some software programs. TMG isn't on the list; the move requires transfer of my data via GEDCOM. This almost always means some data does not transfer properly and requires a lot of cleanup work after the transfer. This is not the fault of any particular software company. Those custom features we all demand were mostly conceived after the GEDCOM spec was written. Each vendor has to interpret how to include data that isn't part of the GEDCOM spec. Each vendor has to decide how to interpret that data when it is imported. All vendors don't agree on the how. See the "Better GEDCOM Wiki, Shortcomings of GEDCOM" for more information.

A typical GEDCOM transfer process would be:
  1. Create a GEDCOM file from TMG. Look at all the export options offered and try to choose what looks like it will provide the cleanest import to RM5.

  2. Import the GEDCOM file to RM5.

  3. Review the data on the screen and in printed reports and use RM5 to change everything that didn't import cleanly.

If you aren't familiar with GEDCOM specs and editing plain text files, you are better off making changes inside of the RootsMagic program. Because I am comfortable changing raw GEDCOM files, I decided to make some changes and redo my import. (Details on this will be in a future post.)

For those who understand the GEDCOM specs and prefer making the changes in the GEDCOM file then reimporting it, the process might be:
  1. Create a GEDCOM file from TMG. Look at all the export options offered and try to choose what looks like it will provide the cleanest import to RM5.

  2. Import the GEDCOM file to RM5.

  3. Review the data on the screen and in printed reports to determine what changes will be easier to make in the GEDCOM file and which can be easily changed after the final import. Check placement of imported data in the person events, notes, and sources—every database field into which your imported data was placed. Print narrative reports with footnotes/endnotes and charts. Look at placement of citation reference numbers, wording on footnotes/endnotes, etc.

  4. If you see things that don't look right on screen or in reports, search to see if there is a way you can modify the GEDCOM file and reimport the data to correct the problem. Whether changes will be needed or not will depend on how much customization you did in TMG. If all you have in your database are basic facts with dates and places and minimal notes, your data may import properly without requiring any changes.

  5. Add a sample family to RM5 with data and source citations properly entered. Create an output GEDCOM file from RM5. (I discovered RM5 GEDCOM output is much more complete than what I got from TMG using what I thought were the best options. I am not sure how many other programs will correctly import all of this RM5 data, but at least transfers to other RM databases would be fairly complete.)

  6. Review the GEDCOM file created by RootsMagic to determine how to modify the GEDCOM file created by TMG so imported data goes into the correct fields in RootsMagic.

  7. Repeat the process from step 2 (import to RM5) until you get an import you can live with in step 3, then stop. If you try to go for a perfect import you could be stuck in this cycle forever. You have to be realistic about how much must be corrected at the import stage and what you can do later as time allows.

© 2012, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, All Rights Reserved

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