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.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Improving a Register Report: Microsoft Word Tips

Do you use Microsoft Word? If so, have you experimented with Word templates and Word styles? Templates and styles are not unique to Word, so if you use another word processor, the principles in this blog will be applicable, but the details will probably not be.

Take another look at the NGSQ-NEHGR-TMG styles comparison chart. Do you see all those references, "Apply styles," in the Suggestions column?
  • Both the Register and the NGSQ have specific methods of formatting the first appearance of certain names in a subject's biography and in the genealogy's child lists. Although one can specify some name formatting in TMG's Report Options screen in the Names tab, one can't specify the different formatting required throughout the report. By creating styles that reproduce the required formatting, it's a fairly simple matter to apply those styles to TMG's Journal report after it's been sent to a Word file.
  • Although TMG does allow one to define the fonts used in a report (Report Options > Fonts and Colors), one can't differentiate between fonts used in the report's biography section (12 point) and the report's child list section (11 point). One also can't differentiate between the font size of Memo fields used in sentences in the text (12 point), Memos that appear in footnotes or endnotes (10 point), or footnotes/endnotes themselves (10 point). Applying Word styles specifically designed to reproduce the proper formatting for the various sections of each Journal report allows the user to convert those sections to true Register (or NGSQ) style quickly and easily.
  • One can also create a style for the report's title, for the author's name, for all the headings and subheadings, and even for page headings. Group all these styles together and create a Word template, with margins and everything, and save it under the appropriate name. The next time you want a professional-looking Register report, copy your TMG report into this template, and apply the appropriate styles. Voila!

Helen Schatvet Ullman was my inspiration for creating Word templates for my TMG reports. Her updated Register style template is available on, and it can be downloaded here. My template starts with Ullman's, then adds additional styles for all parts of the TMG report. It also includes this example report and detailed instructions on converting a TMG-formatted report to one that matches Register style. I've also created a Word template that converts TMG's NGSQ-style Journal output to something that comes much closer to the formatting used by the NGSQ. If you would like a copy of either template, please feel free to contact me. My e-mail address is available in my Blogger profile.

Manual editing was still required to get this report to this final stage. The final blog on this topic gives a quick overview of some of the editing that should be done on each report and a few tricks to make that editing go a little faster.

Improving a Register Report: Important TMG Features

There are three modifications that can be made to your TMG database that will bring your TMG Register style report closer to the format of an actual New England Historical and Genealogical Register article.

The first modification is simple and can be done when creating your report. TMG's default method of indicating a missing name in a Journal report is: (--?--). Unknown names in a Register article are indicated by an underscore, _______. (I haven't been able to determine the exact length of this underscore.)
  • This modification is easily made. When defining your Register style Journal report, in the Report Options screen in the Names tab, enter an underscore in the "Empty name text" box.
The Register's standard presentation of event information is place followed by date. This sequence will vary depending on whether or not all the information is known. For example, "John Smith was born in Danville, Vermont, 11 February 1866," is unambiguous. On the other hand, the statement, "John Smith was probably born in Danville, Vermont, 11 February 1866," is ambiguous. Was John Smith probably born in Danville? Was he probably born in Danville on 11 February 1866? Is there a John Smith who was born in Danville on 11 February 1866, and you think this is the correct person? When uncertainty exists, this order of information might vary to make the situation perfectly clear. "John Smith was born 11 February 1866, probably in Danville, Vermont." "John Smith is probably the John Smith who was born in Danville, Vermont, 11 February 1866." TMG's default sentence structure for most events presents information in the sequence: date followed by place. This is also the sequence used by the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. How can one cater to both sequences without editing every sentence in a Register report?
  • One of the coolest features in TMG is its Language feature. In TMG, languages are not just English, French, German, etc. Languages also includes sentence structure and formatting. If you have a report that requires an unusual sentence structure, you can customize a new language for use in that report. By creating a Register Language, you can define default sentence structures in which the place precedes the date of any event. A report's output language is specified in the General tab in the Report Options screen.

When reporting an event that took place in a New England town, Register articles drop mention of the county. Of course, one can fix this with manual editing - and manual editing will be necessary, no matter how many TMG tricks one knows - but is there any way to do this in TMG?
  • The user can define a "Short place template" in TMG's Preferences, under the "Current Project Options > Other" option. When defining a report, in the Report Options screen in the Places tab, one can choose "Use Short Place field." Of course, if you define your "Short place template" as City, State only, your report will be accurate and complete for events that occurred in New England towns only. This TMG option is not your best choice for this report!
  • Did you know that you can edit the "Short place" field for any place listed in the Master Place List? If your report is designed to "Use Short Place field," TMG will use the "Short place template" you defined in Preferences - unless you edited a location's "Short place" field in the Master Place List. The former is the global definition of a short place; the latter is the local definition of that place, and local definitions override global definitions. By editing the "Short place" field in the Master Place List for all New England town locations, you can tell TMG to "Use Short Place field" in your Register style Journal report, secure in the knowledge that any Ohio or Pennsylvania town reference will include the county, as well. Warning! If you do this, you'll need to be aware that a New England town's county name will be omitted in all reports defined to "Use Short Place field."

Given the fact that you will still want to edit your report to minimize redundancy, editing the "Short place" field in the Master Place List may be something you decide isn't worth the effort or the potential confusion. Still, this is a very nice TMG feature, and many users are not aware that it exists.

Our Register style report still doesn't match the actual journal articles, but one of TMG's most powerful reporting features is its ability to export reports to several word processor programs. That way, one can make use of that word processor's features. The next post will demonstrate the final steps in converting our TMG Journal report from so-so Register style to something that almost matches the real thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

TMG's NGSQ and NEHGR Reports

Have you ever printed a Journal report using TMG's default settings for Register (NEHGR) or Record (NGSQ) style? If so, you might have said to yourself, "This doesn't look much like an article from one of those journals." Face it. No matter how sophisticated and powerful your genealogy software is, it's designed to help you think. It cannot do your thinking for you. If you want to create a professional genealogy, you need to engage your brain in the process. TMG and a word processor, though, can help. We investigated both the NEHGR and NGSQ styles in our January 2013 meeting. Because it requires a few more interesting tricks, this blog will report only our NEHGR findings.

We first created a two-generation genealogy Journal report using TMG's default Register (NEHGR) style options. This style choice restricts some of the available report options. These are the unrestricted options we chose.
  1. In the Sources tab, we checked "Footnotes" and "Combine consecutive footnotes/endnotes."
  2. In the Memos tab, we checked "Footnotes."
  3. In the Tags tab, we checked "Selected" and checked only "Birth," "Burial," "Divorce," "JournalConclusion," "JournalIntro," "Marriage," and "NarrativeChildren."
  4. In the Dates tab, we checked "Months spelled out."
  5. In the Places tab, we checked "Use place styles."
  6. In the Names tab, we checked "None" under Identifiers.
  7. In the Fonts and Colors tab, we changed all fonts to 12-point Times New Roman, with the exception of the Title, which was changed to 14-point, bold, Times New Roman.
Comparing that output to articles in the October 2012 issue of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register led to some quick changes in these default options. To change these options, it's necessary to change the style from Register (NEHGR) to Custom.
  1. In the Names tab in the Report Options screen, we checked "Include surname" under Child names.
  2. In the Miscellaneous tab in the Report Options screen, we checked "Include spouse events" under Format.
Here's a PDF of the resulting report. Although the generation numbers and the generation line in this report are (almost) correctly formatted, it still doesn't really look like an article from the NEHGR. The differences are really too numerous to list in this blog, but most of them are enumerated in this comparison chart. Note that this is not an official comparison chart; it's one I compiled after studying the references listed at the end of the chart and comparing them to TMG's NGSQ and NEHGR reports.

Although creating a professional genealogy report in an approved style will always require manual writing, or rewriting, combining some great TMG features with the styles feature in Word (or your own favorite word processor) will allow us to come much closer to that approved style. Here's our final computer-driven report. Doesn't it look a lot more like an article in the NEHGR? Check out the next post to see how this report was created.