Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Using the Correspondence List in RootsMagic

I have pondered the best way to save the paper and email correspondence that I receive in bunches every week - at least the emails of genealogical value to me.  Last week, a reader asked me how I keep track of my genealogy email, how do I file it, etc.

Up until now, I have put them in File Folders in my Thunderbird email program.  Before I had this computer, I put them in File Folders in Outlook Express.  Same with the three computers before that.  Every time the computer failed, I lost all of my email files (no matter that I tried to copy it to the new computer...).  Then I decided to create Microsoft word documents for each correspondent - and I did that hit and miss for a year or so, and then forgot to do it on a regular basis.  Then I decided to save the email as an email file in a Correspondence file folder, and I did that for awhile.

I've decided to try to use the Correspondence List in RootsMagic 6.  I can access it in the Lists > Correspondence List:

After clicking on the "Correspondence List" link, the list of items already in my Correspondence List opened:

The items are listed in alphabetical order by the "Description of Correspondence" item.  Highlighting one of the items shows the description title, the type (mail or email), the date, the correspondent, the filename, and the details of the correspondence.

There are four buttons at the top of the screen above, for "Add," "Edit," "Delete" and "Print."

I wanted to add another email to the list, so I clicked on "add" and filled in the fields in the "Edit Correspondence" screen:

 I used the Subject of the email as the "Description," selected "Email" from the "Type" dropdown list, selected "Received" from the "Sent or Received" dropdown list, and copied and pasted the text from the email into the "Detail" field.

Since the email was from a new correspondent to the list, I clicked on "Select Address..." button and added the person, and his email address, to the Address list.

When I was done, the "Correspondence List" had added the item:

While this Correspondence List is fairly easy to use, and enables a user to capture pretty much everything from an email (except attachments - perhaps a link to them in the computer file folder could be added?), I have some problems with it.

*  The list is presented as alphabetical by the Description.  Since I'm using the email subject as the description, I lose the continuity of one email thread.  I could put the correspondents name first, I guess, and that would group a thread together.  I could make all emails in a thread one item in the Correspondents list also.

*  My preference would be to have another field for a Group (one or more surname, or a locality, or a methodology) so that I could put all of the Seaver emails into a Seaver group, all of the DNA emails in a DNA group, etc.  They could mirror the folders in my email program.

The beauty of the Correspondence List is that a user can capture and keep all of their correspondence in their genealogy program, as long as they have a method to consistently title the description and add to the Correspondence List diligently.  I don't know if the Correspondence List is exported to a GEDCOM file or if other programs can Import the correspondents list - i'll have to check that out!

To my thinking, this is a fairly good way to keep correspondence, but discipline to keep it current.  It could be better if the user could add Groups to separate different topics.

How do you keep track of your genealogy correspondents and email?  Are you using something similar to the RootsMagic Correspondence List?  What suggestions do you have to improve the RootsMagic Correspondence List?

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copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Anonymous said...

I am a Legacy user but I do have RootsMagic on my computer. I have to say that is pretty darn nifty!

Shannon Thomas said...

I am a Legacy user and in the to do list you can put an item in and mark it as correspondence but I prefer to use Evernote to keep track of email from different people. I create a new note for each email and tag with surname and any other necessary tags.

Mitch Clendening said...

I had not noticed the correspondence list before. Thanks for the heads up! I entered a few emails, and found it best to enter all the emails in a thread into a single entry, separating the email bodies with a date heading.

Lisa said...

Thanks for this article Randy!
I use the correspondence list but very sparingly because it has not been developed enough for me to be useful. For instance, I would like to be able to link the correspondence to an individual, or a family (or, but this is pushing it a bit far, to a task, or even a researchplan) and then be able to look up the correspondence from there.
And, as you say, the ability to add an attachment would be the icing on the cake.
Meanwhile RootsMagic continues to be the best genealogy software ever!

SearchShack said...

Thanks so much for researching and writing about this topic (I was one person who asked!) I recently switched to RootsMagic and had created a fact called OTHER RESEARCHERS where I then added sources i.e. an e-mail sources especially ones that give me permission to post something. I think the method you just described may work much better. I greatly appreciate your insight as to alternative methods to track genealogy information and have already seen some other suggestions on the comments.

McElrea One-Name Study said...

Thanks for this topic, Randy. I am a new RM user and this is new to me. Like you, I had trouble over the years and finally started saving my emails as .txt files. They are listed under the surname, then the researcher and are read and shared easily with that format. I agree there needs to be more to this tool, especially linking to an existing subject in the file.

Laura said...

Instead of the Correspondence list, I am using the Research log to enter emails and other corespondence in RootsMagic. The Research log is much more flexible than the Correspondence list. I can link the research log to a person or have all the Correspondence in one Research log. And I like being able to sort the Research log, Research items by a column and choose which column to sort on when printing.

There are various ways to set up what to enter in the Research item fields.

I put a setup note in the Research log objective box box which explains which box to enter what information in a Research item item as a reminder.

Linda Schreiber said...

Oh, how I wish this had existed many years ago.... Defining the 'description' by surname seems like it would fit for me. If there is more than one surname involved, there could be two or more entries.
I also like Laura's idea of incorporating these into the research log, but I'm iffy about that. I think I might want to keep that more direct, unless the email is solid, rather than potential.
Need to do some thinking and exploring. I was a pretty early RM user, and the correspondence list was a "list". Like most of the program, it has *grown*, and I have paid no attention. Thanks for the post, Randy!

Linda Schreiber said...

And then it would be clouded, with the rest of RM, and not lost with the next crash.... The best part!

Unknown said...

I really like the RootsMagic correspondence list, but I hope it is developed further. Having it integrated with the research log would be wonderful! I would like to link correspondence to people or family groups.

One thing, if you look at the bottom of the window when you are entering your correspondence data there is a File path. You can use this to link to a text file of the email or an image. If you link to an image and later click the open it will open the image up in what ever view is default on your pc.
The downside is it only lets you link ONE file per correspondence entry.

Another option if your using Thunderbird email is to keep a current copy of your email folder. Both Thunderbird and FireFox use a profile to store your settings and data in. If I'm switching computers I can copy this and set it as the new profile on the other pc and all my emails and settings are there exactly how I like it. I now back up my profiles often so I don't loose my data. I've had that happen before to!