After two years spent studying Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, our group needed a break. We decided that there is no better way to discover all that The Master Genealogist (TMG) can do than to explore its powerful custom report writer. If you would like to participate in the Tri-Valley TMG User Group's adventures as we examine the best ways to input data to make full use of TMG's wide range of reporting possibilities, please feel free to comment and share your ideas.

The Tri-Valley TMG User Group is associated with the Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society (L-AGS), and we meet in Pleasanton, California. Information on our meetings - location, date, time, and topic - is always available on the home page of the L-AGS web site. Our three-hour meetings are actually hands-on workshops in which up to fifteen computers are connected to a digital projector allowing customized personal assistance to attendees. In the past, the group has systematically studied Lee Hoffman's Getting the Most out of The Master Genealogist, Terry Reigel's A Primer for The Master Genealogist, and Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained.

For further details on the reports we create, please visit our website. The section dealing with TMG reports begins at the page, "Exploring TMG's Report Menu."

Start following our new blog, "The Continuing Adventures of the TV-TMG User Group." This will detail our 2014 project.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Creating Holiday Calendars: Part Three

The third method makes heavy use of Excel and Word and the calendar is not created automatically. I was able to create the basic calendar pages, start to finish, in less than an hour. Adding pictures, however, took me forever! I scanned some new pictures and went through all my files picking and choosing large pictures for each month and for the individual blank days. Regardless of the method used to create a calendar, choosing and editing pictures will always take a lot of time. Here are the example pages. I have not included the large picture pages with these examples.
The first phase in this creating this calendar is creating a list of all the events you want to include. Although this example includes only births and marriages, one could include any TMG event; for example, imagine a calendar for your military historian that includes dates of enlistment for all the military servicemen and women in your TMG database. The names could even be color-coded to indicate the war in which each one served.
  • Select the people to include by running a "List of People" report and changing the Temporary flag in the Secondary Output tab.
  • Run a "List of Events" report that includes all the events you want in your calendar. The filter is shown here:

  • This list is saved to an Excel file. The file will be sorted first by month and then by day to allow easy data copy-and-paste to a calendar. Columns will include the individual's name, tag label, and year of the event. Optionally, include flag values to allow easy color-coding; for example, enter maternal ancestors in one color and paternal ancestors in another. Here are the Output Columns used in my calendar.
  • Now comes the fun part. Warning: If you are not familiar with Excel or other spreadsheet programs, you may want to skip this method entirely and opt for calendar creating methods one or two.
    • Once you have your Excel file, delete any events that don't include months. If you choose, you could add these to a page at the end of the calendar, but if you don't know the month, you don't want to include these events in the calendar pages.
    • Add an additional sort value to your file. Sort first by month in ascending order, then by day in ascending order, and then by year in descending order. This lists events first by month, then by day within month, and finally by event within day, most recent one first.
    • Concatenate your column values to create event statements. You will need to create separate statements for each Tag Label, but this is easily done. First, filter the Tag Label column for one event type. Next, create your concatenation formula in the next available column. Finally, copy the formula down to the last row. Repeat for each event type included in the report.
    • The concatenation formulas used in the example calendar are shown here. Remember that the ampersand (&) connects cell values to other cell values and to text. All text, letters, spaces, symbols, are surrounded by quotes.

    • Although it looks like these statements could be copied and pasted to a calendar, this column actually contains formulas, not values. Highlight this formula column and copy it (Ctrl-C). Next, highlight the adjacent blank column, and follow this menu: Edit > Paste Special > Values > Okay. Voila! This column contains statements that can be pasted to your calendar.
  • Microsoft Word 2000 and 2003 come with a Calendar Wizard. If you have Word 2007 or 2010, you can download the Calendar Wizard from the Microsoft website. There are three templates to choose from, and all would work for an ancestor event calendar. My example calendar uses the "Boxes & borders" template, but I reformatted several aspects. Word templates are very easy to reformat. You can change font styles, sizes and colors; change line colors, change backgrounds.
  • Once you have your calendar template, return to your Excel file. You're going to format the text in that final column. Set the font you like in a size between 8 and 10 points, preferably the larger. Choose a color you like. Set the column width to fit the calendar box width. My calendar used a column width of 17.71, Monotype Corsiva font, 10 point, red. Now format the cells alignment to allow text wrapping.
  • Highlight each day's events, copy (Ctrl-C), and then paste into the appropriate day block on your calendar (Ctrl-V). Repeat to the end of the year. Note that the blocks resize to include all the events.
  • Events with a known month but an unknown day can be added to a blank block in the month.
  • Add a small picture to one blank block in each month.
  • Add symbols for holidays, if you choose.
This method is definitely not the easiest, but it does allow the most options. If you want to spend some money, the program WinCalendar supposedly allows importing of events from Excel and CSV files. The version that does that, though, costs $99, and I'm too cheap to spend that much just to test a program. This would be the ideal combination, though: TMG's flexible "List of Events" report to an Excel file that can be imported into a powerful calendar creator program.

I've now created calendars for my nephew and for my daughter. Next on my list is a tombstone-themed calendar for my son, who shares my fondness for cemeteries.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Creating Holiday Calendars: Part Two

I love TMG, so it really bothers me when I discover that another genealogy software program might be able to do something just a little bit better. Although I've never found anything TMG couldn't do, creating a calendar is not something it does easily. At least two programs, Legacy and RootsMagic, contain a calendar creator, available only in the paid version of each program. Since I have the deluxe edition of Legacy, I used it to create the example calendar. The download version of Legacy 7.5 Deluxe is currently available for only $19.95. Although there's a lot about this program I don't like, $19.95 is not a bad price for a genealogy calendar creator.
  • Step One: Export a GEDCOM file of your TMG data (File > Export ... > follow instructions for creating a GEDCOM). If you have a large database, I recommend you export only the basic vital events: birth, marriage, and death. Legacy's calendar only includes births and marriages.
  • Step Two: Import your TMG GEDCOM into Legacy.
  • Step Three: Select the people to include in your calendar by tagging records (Edit > Tag Records...) and select the people you want. Example: Ancestors for 10 generations. I have not worked with this feature - actually, I haven't worked much with Legacy - so I'm not sure if one could create the complex combinations so easily created in TMG.
  • Step Four: Go to the Calendar Creator (Reports > All Reports > Calendar Creator).
  • Step Five: Select your options.
    • "Include" your Tagged Individuals, or any other listed combination.
    • Select the appearance of individual names and birth and marriage information.
    • Choose fonts and some formatting options.
    • You can include a picture on the cover and on each month's pages!!
    • Select months to print.
  • Step Six: Preview your calendar and print, preferably to a PDF file.
This example calendar includes January and February and a photograph for each month.

In sum, this procedure is relatively easy and the calendar is attractive. What isn't apparent from this example, though, is the fact that the day blocks don't change in size to accommodate extra events. The overflow is listed separately on subsequent pages. Formatting options are adequate, but uninspiring, and the data is limited to births and marriages only. Despite the fact that one needs to buy another program - and a genealogy one, at that - this is a good option for most people.

Now, for the final method we devised.

Creating Holiday Calendars: Part One

Most TMG users recognize the name of John Cardinal, the creator of several TMG companion programs: the TMG Utility, Second Site, and a little program called On This Day. The latter program reads a TMG database and displays anniversaries that occurred on the same date as the current date. It was designed as a reminder program, but it can also be used to create calendars. It is very easy to use. Read about it and find the download link on John Cardinal's page, "On This Day."
  • Step One: Control the individuals appearing on the calendar.
    • Run a "List of People" report. The filter can be designed to include any group you wish. Example: "Is an Ancestor" combined with "ID number."
    • If you want only deceased individuals, combine this filter with "Living" flag equals N.
    • If you want to add descendants, check that box at the bottom of the Report Filter screen and enter the number of generations. Example: to include siblings only, the number of generations is one.
  • Step Two: On the Report Options screen, go to the "Secondary Output" tab.
    • Hopefully, you have created a Temporary flag in your database. Check the "Change flag" box and change the Temporary flag to a designated value. Now run the report. (If you don't know how to create a new flag, instructions can be found in, "Creating and Customizing a New Flag.")
  • Step Three: Close TMG and open On This Day.
    • Select your TMG database under the File menu.
    • The Filter menu allows you to select primary events only; select the vital events you want to include: Birth, Marriage, Divorce, Death, and/or Burial; and select the flag label and value you created when you ran your "List of People" report.
  • Step Four: Set the output under the Options menu. Calendars can be output to an HTML file (web page) or to Microsoft Outlook. Since I'm not quite an Outlook novice, I send mine to an HTML file. If you're an experienced Outlook user, experiment with creating an Outlook calendar.
  • Step Five: On This Day can create month-by-month calendars. Select the month and year under the Date menu, "Choose Date" or Ctrl-D and click OK. Assuming you've chosen the HTML output, the file will be created in the directory you designated.
  • Step Six: Print the resulting web page. If you have a PDF program that allows you to edit PDF files, print the page to a PDF file and edit the result, inserting photographs, changing fonts, etc. If you're familiar with HTML, you can change the appearance by editing the HTML file before printing the web page.
Unedited PDF examples of the months of January and February 2013 can be seen by following these links.
In sum, this method is quick and easy. You can include or exclude any combination of people you desire, and you can include any combination of birth, marriage, divorce, death, and burial events you choose. The resulting calendars are severely limited in formatting options, however. Improving the calendar's appearance requires some knowledge of HTML or a good PDF editing program.

Let's investigate the second method.

Creating Holiday Calendars

I am very far behind on my reporting blogs, but I'm skipping several months' reports to follow up on our December meeting on creating calendars with TMG data - just in case you might want a nice Christmas present idea.

What should we look for in an ancestral event calendar?
  1. We want to be able to specify a subset of our TMG database. The focus is likely to be the person to whom we're giving the calendar, but who do we want included in the calendar? Ancestors only? Ancestors and their siblings? All spouses? All descendants? Deceased individuals only?
  2. What events do we want to include? Just births? Births and marriages? All vital records?
  3. Do we want to include ages, if the people were still living? Or do we want to include the year the event occurred? What about relationship to the focus person?
  4. What about pictures? Do we want one large picture per month? Or do we want to insert small photographs in empty spaces in each month? Or do we want both?
  5. What about the cover? Just a title? A photograph of the focus person? An ancestral box chart?
  6. How about formatting the calendar? Will we need lots of formatting options like font size and color?
  7. Of course, creating the calendar should be as easy as possible!
We came up with three possible methods, none of them ideal. As one would expect, the simplest method offered the fewest options. The method providing the greatest number of options was also the most complicated - and it took the most time. Each method will be covered in an individual blog and will include a two-month sample example. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. Happy gifting!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Reporting Find-A-Grave Records

"Most of my cemetery information comes from Find-A-Grave. Does that make a difference in how I create my cemetery reports?" Yes, there are differences in how you should treat this online information.
  • Your citation should make it clear that you did not view this gravestone yourself.
If you would like to see an example of a Find-A-Grave source citation, take a look at this one from our TMG citations blog. The focus of the citation is the website, not the cemetery, and your name does not appear anywhere.
  • Although you will probably download the gravestone photograph and link it to your TMG database, you do not own the copyright to the photo.
What does this mean?  It means that you can't publish a report that includes any copyrighted photographs without the explicit permission of the person who took those photos. It is not enough to cite the photographer in your citation. You must obtain permission from that person before publishing anything that includes that photograph. What does "publish" include?
  1. A book for your family.
  2. A report sent to another researcher.
  3. A report posted online.
  4. An e-mail message.
  5. A GEDCOM file that includes exhibits.
  6. A family tree on Ancestry or other online site.
  7. Any physical appearance of that photograph whose subsequent reappearance you can't control.
If you link a copyrighted photograph to your TMG database, there is a risk that it might be published inadvertently. It's so nice having that picture handy, though, so is there a way to minimize the risk?

Gravestone photographs I take myself are linked to the corresponding burial event tag.  Cemetery reports that include photographs are designed to print exhibits linked to this event tag.  Therefore, I cannot link photographs to which I don't own the copyright to the burial event tag. There are two other possibilities.  Link the photograph to its citation or link the photograph to the source.  Pros and cons:
  • Linking the photograph to the citation makes it easy to review the individual's gravestone, but exhibits linked to citations do not appear in an individual's Exhibit Log.  This is my choice, but this also means that I don't create reports that print citation exhibits - and it's not easy to view all the photographs I've downloaded from a website.
  • Linking the photograph to the source makes it easy to see all the gravestone photographs you've downloaded from a website, but it's more difficult to review an individual's gravestone.  Exhibits linked to sources don't appear in an individual's Exhibit Log, either.  Using this option also means you must be careful creating reports that print source exhibits - and I do have a few of those.
A picture is worth a thousand words.  Compare these two TMG screenshots.

Burial tag: Cemetery viewed and photographed
Burial tag: Find-A-Grave record
  1. The first Citation screen shows that the record came from the cemetery itself. The date is the date the cemetery was viewed. The second screen shows that the record came from Find-A-Grave, the date is the date the site was accessed, and credit is given to the photographer - who photographed this stone at my request. Thank you, Garczar!
  2. The green camera icon in each screen shows that an exhibit has been linked to each record. In the first example, the event icon is lit, and this exhibit will print in my cemetery reports. In the second example, the citation icon is lit, and this exhibit will not print in a report.
  3. Memo and location information is similar in both records. Both memos contain gravestone transcriptions in the Memo2 field. The first burial event is from a small cemetery, and the photograph number in the Memo1 field is used as the locator. The second burial event references a large cemetery, and the section, lot and grave numbers are found in the Addressee field.
How you choose to treat Find A Grave records is really up to you, but TMG does provide methods that allow you to responsibly differentiate between those gravestones you've actually visited and photographed and those stones some nice Find A Grave volunteer photographed for you.  Of course, if that volunteer gives you permission to publish his or her photograph, you can then link it to burial event - but don't forget to state on the photograph that you have permission to publish it from the copyright holder.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

People Aren't Buried in Alphabetical Order

Like so many genealogical sources, cemeteries contain information inherent in their structure. People are not buried in alphabetical order. They are usually buried with, or near, family members. Creating a list of burials in alphabetical order is easy in TMG. Creating a list in chronological order by date of death is easy. Neither of these reports captures the information inherent in a cemetery's pattern of burials, however - and that's information essential in analyzing family structure. Remember! You can't get information out of TMG, if you don't enter it in the first place.

In my opinion, TMG's greatest reporting strength is the ability to create Excel reports. If you want to examine information for patterns, create a spreadsheet report and play with the data sort order. You will be amazed by what you see. A report designed to show burial patterns should be sent to Excel, or another spreadsheet program, and all those reports in TMG are found in the List of ... reports. The two most obvious choices would be a List of People report listing people buried in a given cemetery or a List of Events report listing burial events in a given cemetery. Both reports allow burial information in output columns. Now, all you need to do is determine how to input a cemetery's burial pattern.
  • Large cemeteries are usually divided into some combination of sections, lots and grave numbers. This information is easily obtained from the cemetery office, or it may be found in online databases like Find A Grave. Including this information in a burial event field in TMG allows you to create a list of burials ordered by section, lot, and grave numbers. It's very easy to see who is buried next to whom.
In the illustrated report, burials are listed first by section, then by lot, then by grave number. Note that Section 2 follows Section 17. This problem could be avoided if the numerical information were entered as Section 017, Section 002, etc., but I haven't worried about that. People buried in the same section are listed together, and people in the same lot are listed together. I treat these section numbers as if they were street addresses, inputting them in the Addressee field in the burial event tag. The name of the cemetery is placed in the Detail field.
  • Small cemeteries seldom have easily found lots and grave numbers. You can create burial associations yourself in several ways. Here are a few ideas.
  1. Assign one person's name to a burial grouping and number all the graves in that group; e.g. Laird01, Laird02, ParkerOW01, ParkerOW02.
  2. Assign a letter to a row and number all the markers in that row; e.g. A001, A002, etc.
  3. If photographing a cemetery, walk the cemetery in a stated order and use the digital photograph number as the burial order indicator; e.g. 006735, 006736, etc. (This allows the easy creation of a cemetery photograph catalogue, also.)
  4. Draw a burial plat of the cemetery, numbering each grave. Use these numbers for the burial order indicator.
Because these burial indicators are "unofficial" indicators, I don't put them in the Addressee field. Instead, I put mine in the event Memo area. I use Memo1, but that's a holdover from the TMG days before split memos existed. You can assign any Memo area you choose, but be consistent. As you can see from the burial list, my report is designed to accommodate large or small cemeteries. It's sorted first by the Addressee field and then by Memo1, the location I use for my own burial grouping numbers.

Burial tag: Screenshot
This screenshot shows a burial tag. This burial is in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, one of the largest cemeteries in North America. Note the section, lot, and grave numbers in the Addressee field. These should always be entered from largest unit to smallest. The name as entered on the tombstone appears in the drop-down box. I enter the transcription of the stone in the Memo field in the Memo2 area.

Remember that in TMG, there is no one right way to do anything. If it works for you, it's the right way. Here are some principles to keep in mind.

  • If you're trying to identify patterns, a List of ... report usually works best.
  • If you want to use the information in a report, you must input it first.
  • Always be consistent in how and where you enter your information.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Entering Information from Monuments

How would you enter information from this tombstone in TMG?  This is the back face of the monument, and memorializes four people: Charles Varney and his wife, Huldah Lawrence, their daughter Josie, and her husband, Wesley Hoffman.  The front face has only the family name.  The right face memorializes Charles' brother, George Varney.  The brothers were in the same company in the Civil War, and two G.A.R. flags are posted next to the monument.  Entering information from grave markers that mark only one person's burial is simple; but what is the best way to enter information from grave markers like this?  I have absolutely no idea!

If you know me at all, you know I always have ideas.  In this case, though, I have yet to discover an idea that I think is best practice.  My TMG database is full of my experiments, and here are a few.

  1. Add burial tags for each person named on the stone.  Transcribe the relevant face of the marker, noting which face it is, and put this in the memo area you like for your reports.  Link the photograph of the relevant face to the burial tag as an event exhibit.  Note in the citation memo the names of others found on the marker.  (This is what I'm doing at the moment.)
  2. Add burial tags for each person named on the stone.  Transcribe the relevant lines from the marker and note in square brackets the names of others found on the stone.  Link the photograph of the relevant face to the burial tag as an event exhibit.
  3. Create a custom tag called Tombstone or Gravestone.  Use it for markers memorializing multiple people.  Transcribe each face and link all photographs to the tag as exhibits.  Link each person to the tag as witnesses.
There are pros and cons to all three methods.  If you don't have a method that works for you, experiment with these and see if one of them meets your needs.  If you do have a method you love, please let us know.  I would love to find a better idea!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gravestone Inscriptions, or Thoughts about Memos

Do you, or do you not, transcribe gravestone inscriptions?  For most people, data analysis doesn't begin with a photograph; it begins with the physical act of copying a record.  Transcribing a record nudges the conscious mind into awareness of anomalies, contradictions, and missing information.  It also helps us remember possible connections.  In other words, thoughtful researchers transcribe records.  As wonderful as TMG is, it still can't search digital images for information.  To get the most out of our cemetery data, we transcribe gravestone inscriptions and attach those transcriptions, as well as any digital images, to our burial event tag.  Now, where should you enter this transcription in TMG?

Where you enter your data is determined by how you plan to use it.

  • You want your transcription to appear in a footnote or endnote.  If so, there are two options.  Enter the transcription as the first, or only, entry in the event memo; or enter it in the citation memo (CM).  Make sure that your source citation template is defined to print the CM, of course.
    • The first option will print the gravestone transcription in its own note, preceding the source citation note.
    • The second option will print the gravestone transcription as part of the source citation note.
  • You want your transcription to appear in the body of your narrative.  If so, enter the transcription in the event memo field.  You're free to use any memo segment, MEMO1-MEMO9.  Just define your burial sentence appropriately and BE CONSISTENT!
  • You decide you don't want your transcription printed in any narrative report or family group sheet, but you want to preserve your options.
    • Don't enter the transcription in the citation memo.  This opens the door to lack of consistency in defining your source citations and its printing options are the most limited.
    • Don't enter the transcription in the event memo as MEMO1.  It's simpler to reserve that for footnote material when a sentence is not defined. 
    • Enter it in MEMO2 or higher, reserving that memo part in the burial tag for gravestone transcriptions only.  List reports can be defined to print it, and if you ever change your mind, you can define a new language using this memo part in the burial tag sentence.
Would you like to see these memo rules in action?  I've provided a page of examples on our TV-TMG web pages.

Any other ideas?  Feel free to comment.  The more, the merrier!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cemetery Report -- with Pictures!

TMG allows the user to add exhibits - photographs, text documents, OLE objects, etc. - in a wide variety of locations.  What you add and where you add it depends upon how you want to use the exhibit.  Are you like me?  Do you love walking through cemeteries photographing tombstones, whether they belong to your family or not?  Do you have thousands of digital tombstone photographs scattered on your hard drive?  They're just waiting for you to figure out what to do with them, aren't they?
  • Photographs can be linked in TMG to: People, to Events, to Citations, to Sources, to Repositories, and to Places.
  • Linked photographs will appear in reports only if they are linked to  People, to Events, to Citations, or to Sources.
  • Therefore, if you want tombstone pictures to appear in a report, do not link them to Repositories or Places.  Of course, you can link them to more than one person and more than one entity.
Not every report type allows the user to print exhibits (photographs).  To help me figure out what report types allow what options, I created this simple chart (PDF file). This chart shows that:
  • The Descendant Indented Narrative, the Individual Narrative, and the Journal reports are the only reports that provide all photograph options.
  • The Ahnentafel report prints photographs linked to People and Events.  This report is limited in the people it includes, so I seldom use it.
  • The Family Group Sheet and Individual Detail reports print only the Primary Person exhibit.  Therefore, unless you link your tombstone photograph to a person and make it the primary image, these two reports won't serve the purpose.
It looks like our cemetery report with tombstone photographs must be one of the three narrative-style reports.  Practice with each one to see what works best for your purposes.  Examples and instructions can be found on our instruction pages, specifically "Cemetery Reports: Including Tombstone Photographs."

Here are some ideas, comments and questions that came up in our discussion.
  • How do you enter a tombstone transcription?  Or is a transcription even necessary?
  • What about a tombstone that memorializes more than one person?  How should that be handled?
  • How do you create a report that shows who is buried next to whom?
  • My only cemetery records came from Find-A-Grave.  How should I report them?
Before these questions are discussed more fully, it would be a good idea to practice with a few cemetery reports on your own.  You may come up with some of the answers on your own.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Introducing Our New Blog

  • There is one crucial thing to remember when considering a custom TMG report.  If the information is not in your TMG database, then it won't appear in a report.  The report you want may determine the manner in which you enter your information.
How do you enter burial information?  The first idea that came up was the creation of a cemetery person.  As far as I know, Diana Begeman was the first TMG user to come up with the idea of creating an artificial person to make it easier to see people related simply by association with that artificial person.  She created a "Census Person" and linked people enumerated in a census to the corresponding census person.  I think this was a truly brilliant idea.  Although I didn't have a need for a census person, I did start playing with other artificial people.  One of them was a cemetery person.  Here is the screenshot showing the cemetery person, "Leroy Cemetery."

  • Pros: It's very helpful to see all the people buried in a cemetery listed together, and seeing them on the detail screen is very convenient.  The people are listed in burial date order (or sort date order when no official burial date could be found).  TMG's accent feature is turned on, and red background indicates descendants of Reuben Case (1766-1847).  This is also a nice touch.
  • Cons: Do you really need to see your cemetery listings in burial order?  Wouldn't it be more useful to see who was buried next to whom?  Does this method of data entry give you something you couldn't get from a report?
TMG allows almost infinite customization.  Do you like the idea of a cemetery person?  Will it help you visualize a solution to a problem?  Try it, and see what you think.  I did, but decided it really didn't add anything I couldn't get from a TMG report.  The next comment to come up: "I want pictures in my cemetery reports."  Tune in to the next blog post for ideas on cemetery reports that include tombstone pictures.