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!