Friday, January 14, 2011

Creating Source Citations in Family Tree Maker 2011 - Post 5: Some Issues

I've converted quite a few "Free-form Sources" (no template) to FTM 2011 Source Template sources over the past week.  I've also added some sources to Facts that did not have a source citation previously. 

In the latter process trying to use an existing Source Group or Source Citation, I've found that I can't remember exactly who the author of a work was, or what the exact title of the work is.  FTM 2011 provides several drop-down menus to help the poor user like me with hundreds of Source Groups and thousands of Source citations.

But I still have problems easily finding specific Source Groups or specific Citations.  Here are some screens that illustrate my problems:

1)  I wanted to add a source to the christening record for Caleb Carr in 1615, so in the "People" Workspace and on Caleb Carr's "Person" page, I clicked on "New" in the Source panel on the right-hand side.  The "Add Source Citation..." box opened and I could click on the down arrow in the field:

I scrolled down and found the right Source Group (listed under Beaman, Alden G., ...):

Note that if the Source Templates have been used exactly (as in above example), the author's name, last name first, is listed as the Source Group first element, followed by the Title.  However, if the author's full name was put in the Source Template field, then the Source Group list shows the first name first.  If a free-form source was used, the title of the source is usually listed as the Source Group.

That's easy enough for a source that I know the author of, but if I had been searching for a source without an author that starts "Vital Records of..." (note: I have about 150 of those!), it would be a long scroll down or search.

2)  Alternatively, if I had typed in the "Add Source Citation..." field the name "beam" I would have been shown all of the Source Groups that start with those letters:

That works fine, as long as the user can remember what the author's surname is.

In this case, there are two of them, and the wrong one is highlighted in the field and all of them are shown in the dropdown box below the field.  However, there aren't enough characters shown in the dropdown box for me to make a rational decision if the critical information is to the right of the characters shown.  What if I had 150 Source Groups that start "Vital Records of..."? I may not be able to easily find the right Source Group.

I hope that Family Tree Maker makes this dropdown box much wider so that I don't have to guess.

3)  In this particular case, I wanted to use a previous source citation, so I clicked on the arrow to the right of the "New" button in the "Source" panel, and clicked on the "Use Existing Source Citation" link:

When I do that, the list of all of the source citations (I have over 4,000 now) opens and I have to scroll down to find the one I want:

In this list of "Find Source Citation,"  the citations are listed as the Full Reference Note is listed - with author's first name first.

If the user is entering source citations for a number of facts, then the last source citation used is highlighted on the list when the user selects the "Use Existing Source Citation" link and all you have to do is click on the "Link to Citation" box or "Create New Copy" link.  This is especially useful for Facts on the same page of a document, such as a published book or journal, a census record or a vital record book.

All of this seems much harder than it should be.  I use a work-around when I am entering a lot of data from one source for many people and/or many facts.  In the work-around, I add a keyword at the beginning of the Author's surname field.  For example, using the previous example:

"Carr - Beaman"

so that the Source Group reads "Carr - Beaman, Alden G., 'Lines of Descent from Caleb Carr of Newport"'

When I'm done with entering the information, all I have to do is go to "Sources" Workspace, find the entry in the Source Group, and edit the work-around Keyword out of the Author's field.  For Source Groups without an author, the Keyword can be put in the Author's Surname field by itself (but would still need to be edited out before publishing something).

Family Tree Maker could greatly improve the ease of adding new source citations using existing source Groups by adding a field for Keywords, so that I could add "Carr" to a field that would find all of the Source Groups with the Keyword.  The Keyword would not appear in the Source Citations. 

These comments are intended to highlight problems that I've had working with my source citations in Family Tree Maker 2011.  There is a learning curve to work with the program, especially in the Sources area, because of the complexity of the subject.

Disclosure:  I received a gratis copy of Family Tree Maker 2011 from in November 2010.  I had purchased earlier versions of Family Tree Maker myself, but also received gratis copies of some versions from (which I donated to a local genealogical society).  I try very hard to be objective in my comments about Family Tree Maker, and all genealogy software, subscription sites and websites.

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