Saturday, July 18, 2009

Using Roots Magic 4 to Create Custom Source Templates

In my post about switching from Family Tree Maker 2009 to Roots Magic 4 (RM4), I mentioned how much I liked the custom templates in RM4. Today I will go into more detail about how I use them.

The first time I tried to add a census record into RM4 I found many options for census record templates. There are 24 templates for federal census records in RM4. Since I get all of my census records (so far) from, I chose the "Census, U.S. Federal (Online Images)" template. Here is what it looks like when I go to add a new census master source:

Note: Click image for larger view.

Right away I saw something that bothered me. Even though RM4 seems to follow Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained very well, I don't like how it works for this example. The master source includes not only the year of the census, type of census, website, and credit for images (microfilm), it ALSO includes the jurisdiction (state and county). This means for every county that I have a census record in I need a separate source for it. That may not be so bad if my ancestors all lived in a few counties and never moved. But I have ancestors and relatives moving all over the country. I realized the first time I made a master source that this was not going to work for me. I don't want hundreds of master sources for each census year.

So I decided to use RM4's ability to create custom source templates. It was relatively easy once you understand how it works. In RM4, click on LISTS in the menu bar. Then click SOURCE TEMPLATES. A list of all the templates currently available will pop up. Click ADD at the top.

Now you create your own template. Click ADD FIELD to add a field to enter data into your sources. It will look like this:
Field name is what RM4 will use to make the footnotes. Display name is what you will see when creating a new source. Brief hint is what will be displayed in the box before you start typing. Long hint is available in the question mark to the right of the field to tell you more, such as examples.

You can change the order of the fields by using the arrow buttons.

Then you write up a footnote, short footnote and bibliography for your source. For this you just need to drag and drop the fields you created into the footnote boxes to the right. The FIELD NAME will be show within square brackets. Then you also add in any text that is not part of what you will enter with the source.

Here is how I created my own template for online images of U.S. census records, from 1790-1840:
  • Fields added for master source: year, website name, URL, copyright year, and NARA microfilm publication number.
  • Fields for source detail: jurisdiction (county, state), civil division (township, city), page, line, person of interest and date accessed online.
  • Here is what my Footnote Template looks like: [Year] U.S. Census, [CivilDivision], [Jurisdiction], [Page], [Line], [Person]; digital image, [Website] ([URL]: accessed [accessed]); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm [Microfilm].
  • My short footnote: [Year] U.S. census, [CivilDivision], [Jurisdiction], [Page], [Person].
  • My bibliography: [Year] U.S. Census. Digital images. [Website]. [URL]: [Copyright].
I also created a source template for the later census years that includes enumeration district, dwelling and family number instead of line number.

Here is an example of what they look like (taken from my grandfather's family in the 1930 census:

Footnote: 1930 U.S. census, Kalamazoo county, Michigan, Population schedule, Kalamazoo county, enumeration district 44, sheet 23A, dwelling 515, family 564, Household of William E Suckling; digital image, ( accessed 13 Jul 2009), citing National Archives microfilm publication T626.

Short Footnote: 1930 U.S. census, Kalamazoo county, Michigan, Population schedule, Kalamazoo county, ED 44, sheet 23A, dwelling 515, family 564, Household of William E Suckling.

Bibliography: 1930 U.S. census, Population schedule. Digital images. 2009.

Obviously, I did not follow Evidence Explained exactly. My bibliography shows each census year as one source. I think this makes sense because they are all coming from the Ancestry databases separated by year. I also got rid of the microfilm roll number because I feel that most people are not going to look up the source on microfilm and if they do, they can look up the roll number themselves. (Can you tell I love the internet for genealogy?) I did try to follow Evidence Explained for the rest of the information. I think that anyone should be able to find my citations on their own and that is the most important thing.

Hopefully I didn't confuse too many of you. I think that once you start making your own templates, you will see how easy it is. It takes a little time to get it right, but hopefully it will save you time later. Feel free to use my templates or create better ones.

What do you think of my custom source templates? Leave a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.


  1. I have RM4 too and so far I am liking it. But like you said, it is a huge pain to have so many different master sources just for the census - but that is how I am doing it. I am trying to have my sources as close to Elizabeth Shown Mills' as possible because all of my research from before lacked source citations all together and, well, I am overly sensitive to sources now.

  2. Tina,

    One shortcut you might want to use next time (if you didn't already)...

    If one of the pre-existing source types is very close, just highlight it and click Copy. That will make an exact copy of that source type which you can edit and make just the few changes you want.

    - Bruce