When Roots Magic president and founder, Bruce Buzbee was a boy, his mom was a family history librarian, and he used to watch her filling out tedious forms on the typewriter and doing everything the hard way. He thinks that kind of vision must be where some people get the idea that doing family history is repetitive, time-consuming drudgery.
If it ever was, it’s not anymore. As one of the most popular hobbies in the world, it’s a past time that the computer has made fun and easy, especially with the software program that Buzbee developed called Roots Magic.
In fact, he got an email one morning at 4:00 a.m., from somebody who just purchased Roots Magic. It said, “I want to thank you a lot for messing up the rest of my day.” Buzbee, at first thought, “Oh no, what have I done?”, but as it turned out the writer had downloaded the program and was having so much fun with it, he stayed up through the night, too excited and intrigued for sleep.
Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the world, and the standing joke among enthusiasts is that everybody else does genealogy because they love it, and Mormons do it because they have to. “That’s not always true,” Buzbee said, “but we wanted to make it fun for everybody.
I have to admit, as I have been playing with and using the new 4.0 version of Roots Magic, I kept saying aloud, “This is so cool.”
What is perhaps the best-kept secret about Roots Magic is that it is certified to work with the new FamilySearch site. That means it is actually tied to the new FamilySearch, so if you turn on the support link for it as you work on Roots Magic, an icon will show if the ancestor you are looking at is matched on the Church’s site, having automatically searched for that name. You can pull up the new Family Search as a split screen with Roots Magic, allowing you to see what temple work has been done for that person, what isn’t complete, and what needs to be done. You can actually reserve a name whose work needs to be done right inside of Roots Magic, where you are keeping and building your own ancestral files. Reserving an ordinance to be done in Roots Magic reserves it on the new Family Search.
It is like putting an interface so that when you are working with the new Family Search, you are connected to your own data. As you create a paper with a bar code, take it to the temple, and work on these ordinances, Roots Magic will automatically update your site, as the Church’s site does.
No more laboriously trying to work by hand between your own ancestral records and the new Family Search! It is done for you. Roots Magic will create a page that looks like this where your information is summarized and clear.
It is also easy and fun to put all of your information about an ancestor into the program, including adding pictures and multi-media to make their stories come alive. Each person on your pedigree sheet has his or her own file where you can add all the notes and details that give their lives the vivid color and specificity that they deserve. It used to be if you had a fun story about an ancestor, you’d add the pages that tell the story to a box, marked “family history” and store it somewhere away in the basement, where you had no access to it. Now all those things can be in one place. You learn something about an ancestor and you just add it to his or her file.
I have found it fun to google an ancestor’s name and read all the material that comes up in the search—adding the information I believe to be verified and accurate to their file in Roots Magic. You can imagine my surprise to learn, when I was googling around one day, that one of my ancestors was an owner of the Mayflower. If I hadn’t added it to my Roots Magic file, I probably would have forgotten that fascinating fact, and certainly that ancestor’s name.
Bruce Buzbee said, “We’ve worked really hard to create a program where you can see everything about a person on one screen. In addition to their basic birth, marriage and death information, you can easily see if you have notes or pictures for a person. You have the ability to add sources to document where this information came from, so that when you pass it down to your kids, they don’t have to decide whether you actually had documentation on the facts.”
These files will take scanned or digital photos. You can put sound clips and video clips into the program and create a multimedia album. Buzbee said, “My wife always heard her dad telling all of these stories from when he was in the Navy, and he wanted to have some of them preserved. The next time she visited him, she turned on a recorder and started talking to him. Once we had the wonderful stories, we transferred them to the hard drive, added it as a media item on his page.”
What’s more, these rich files that you create on your ancestors can be shared with your family in a number of ways through the software program. One way to share with your family is to create a shareable CD, which takes your database, pulls all of the information, including the pictures, and creates a read-only CD. Your family member can just pop the CD into their computer and read right off the CD without having to install anything on to their computer. In this way, Buzbee shared those Navy stories from their grandpa with his children.
They can be created on DVD as well, if your computer has that capacity.
Typically parents will do this to share family history information with their family or create a backup for their valuable information. For example, one of the grandkids, who lives three states away, is a Boy Scout and needs to print a pedigree chart. He can do this right off the CD, which will print all the basic reports. Some missionaries like to take a copy of their pedigree charts on their missions, and this can be easily printed off a shareable CD from another family member—all without having to install it on your own computer. It makes a great gift and it’s totally self-contained.
It’s also a way that parents can intrigue their adult children to become involved in family history.
Roots Magic also makes it easy to print a book, starting with a particular person and his ancestors. You can create a table of contents, put in pictures, create a name index and a place index.
You can get fancier and add cover pages, title pages, and copyright pages and pages numbers. In addition to narrative you can add pedigree charts and group sheets. Once this has been created, it can be saved as a pdf or word document and can be email to someone—and, of course, it can be printed. When you get additional information, you can regenerate the book with the updated data.
Roots Magic creates many reports, including specialized lists and large wall charts. Any report that Roots Magic creates can be emailed to a relative, so they in turn can send you back the extra information you need.
If Buzbee’s quest to make family history accessible is the natural gift of his mother who was so dedicated to the task, of family vacations spent as a child running around cemeteries looking for names as if it were a treasure hunt, it is the gift he wants to pass on. Thus, it was natural, even before PAF came out, that as a gifted software engineer, he began to write genealogy programs for himself. He wanted to write something that does things the way he wanted to have them done.
As an employee for a defense contractor, in a windowless cubicle, he found the best moments were the nights and weekends creating ways to make family history fun and easy.
Now, he feels like he’s getting paid for his passion, and Roots Magic has been awarded the winner of the FamilySearch award for “easiest to sync.” It’s software to unite families.
As for me, I identify with that writer who stayed up until 4:00 a.m. eager to do family history on Roots Magic. This is fun.
To learn more about Roots Magic, go to www.rootsmagic.com