Genealogy Software Review: RootsMagic

I have decided to write software reviews of all of the leading genealogy programs available today for Windows, Macintosh, Android, Apple iOS, and cloud-based genealogy programs. I will start with RootsMagic, one of the more popular genealogy programs for Windows. I will later review genealogy programs for other operating systems as well.

RootsMagic also offers optional useful apps for both Android and Apple iOS (iPad and iPhone). I will write about the Windows version now and about the Android and Apple iOS apps separately when I start reviewing genealogy apps for mobile computers.

RootsMagic is best known as a genealogy program for Windows that features a user-friendly interface. If you are looking for an easy-to-use genealogy program for a Windows PC, RootsMagic absolutely should be on your list of programs to consider. Despite the simple user interface, the program also offers most all the features demanded by experienced genealogists: a good system of recording source citations; unlimited people in the database, facts/events, notes, sources, and more; many different types of printed reports; support for international character sets through Unicode integration (allowing for use of umlauts, accents, and other characters found in European alphabets); automatically checks for duplicates as you add people, alternate names to make it easy to find a person by their maiden or nick names; the ability to add links pointing to websites that contain information about the people, sources, places, etc. in your database; multiple relationships, such as adoptions, foster parents, etc.; DNA information; ability to add history, latitude and longitude for each place; user-defined fact types; private events that you can suppress from printing or exporting; save reports to PDF format; save reports to your favorite word processor in RTF format; print color coding in pedigree charts, group sheets, box charts, narrative reports, wall charts, ahnentafel, descendant list, and timelines; a built-in help system; a date calculator, a relationship calculator, a Soundex calculator, and much more.

RootsMagic is available in two versions: RootsMagic Essentials is a FREE genealogy program that includes all the basic functionality but omits some tools, reports, and advanced features. Those features are visible but not active in the free Essentials version; when you select such a feature, the program presents a note explaining that this is in the full version of RootsMagic and also provides purchase information. The full-featured RootsMagic program includes everything and sells for $29.95, a rather modest price for a genealogy program with all these features. You can use the free RootsMagic Essentials for as long as you like, and the program does meet the needs of many genealogists. However, should you decide to later upgrade to the full-featured version, your previously-entered data will be available immediately after upgrading. There is no need to re-enter all the information again.

Both RootsMagic and RootsMagic Essentials can import and export GEDCOM files. This is useful if you already have genealogy information stored in a different program. Almost all modern genealogy programs support GEDCOM. If your other program supports GEDCOM, you can use that program to export all your information in a GEDCOM file, exit the other program, launch RootsMagic or RootsMagic Essentials, and import all the information. As with any genealogy program that imports GEDCOM files, you may need to do some clean-up of the data after importing, but that is much easier than re-entering everything manually!

RootsMagic is not limited to GEDCOM files, however. It also will import information directly from Personal Ancestral File, Legacy Family Tree, Family Origins, Family Tree Maker (2006 and earlier), or older versions of RootsMagic. Selecting one of the direct import options avoids the use of GEDCOM and results in a more accurate data transfer, requiring little, if any, manual clean-up. You should always select the direct import, not GEDCOM, if your genealogy data currently resides in one of the listed programs.

I installed RootsMagic Essentials Version 6 on a Windows 7 virtual PC (see my Plus Edition article about virtual PCs at The installation was simple, about the same as most other modern Windows programs. I went to the web site, clicked on DOWNLOADS, and then clicked on the RootsMagic icon. I was asked for name and email address, but no credit card was required. I was then allowed to download the installation file.

After the download completed, I clicked on the newly-downloaded file, followed the instructions, and then was viewing the opening screen for RootsMagic Essentials a minute or so later. After a bit of information about the program was displayed on the screen, I was offered several options: create a new genealogy database, open an existing RootsMagic database, import a file created by a different genealogy program, or search for files on this computer.

I selected “import a file from a different program” and then specified the location of the file. If I didn’t know where the file was stored on my hard drive, RootsMagic offered an option to search the entire hard drive for the file. In my case, I knew exactly where it was stored. I selected a GEDCOM file that I had previously exported from The Master Genealogist.

Importing the GEDCOM file was fast! RootsMagic imported my 3,000+ person GEDCOM file, including source citations and other notes, in less than five seconds. When I started browsing through the database manually, it appears that all the data was imported and placed in the appropriate fields within RootsMagic. However, my GEDCOM file did not include any multimedia “scrapbook” items, such as pictures, videos, sounds or other such items. I will add those manually at a later date.

One item will be important to anyone who uses FamilySearch’s online Family Tree: RootsMagic will read information directly from FamilySearch and also will export information back to FamilySearch. The FamilySearch Family Tree is an online system that allows users to search for ancestors, contribute new persons and information, and retrieve missing information from a single, central database. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch Family Tree is also the system through which temple ordinances are checked and reserved. More information and video tutorials on using RootsMagic with FamilySearch Family Tree are available online at and you can read a lot more about FamilySearch support at

I really like the user interface of RootsMagic. It is simple, easy to read, and easy to understand. I am including some screen captures below as examples, courtesy of the RootsMagic web site. Click on any image to view a larger version:

RootsMagic Main screen

 RootsMagic Family Screen


RootsMagic Descendants View

 RootsMagic People View lists every person in your file

 WebSearch automatically searches popular Internet databases for your family

Editable Timeline View puts a person’s life in context

The Edit Screen puts all a person’s information at your fingertips

 Source Citation Edit screen


Create and customize wall charts

I am an experienced genealogist and found that I never had to resort to reading help files or to reading the user’s manual. (The user’s manual is available as an extra cost item, either as an electronic file on CD or as a printed book.) Newcomers to genealogy may occasionally need to look at the help files or at the user’s manual, however, and while not a necessity to use the program effectively, I’m told it has a lot of good tips. If you are thinking about using the program, you can even read the help files now at and watch a “get started” video at

One feature available in the full version of RootsMagic was a pleasant surprise: the ability to back up files directly to Dropbox or to Google Drive. Actually, almost any genealogy can do that by simply specifying that backups are to be stored in the Dropbox or Google Drive folder on the computer. However, non-computer experts will appreciate the simplicity of having the feature built into the menus, avoiding the complexity of figuring out where everything is located on the local hard drive. RootsMagic will also back up to any other directory of choice or directly to a CD burner.

Selecting “Print a Report” produces a long list of possible reports to create, including all sorts of charts, family group sheets, family calendars, individual summaries, scrapbooks, gummed labels for things to be mailed to relatives, all sorts of lists (ancestor lists, descendant lists, missing information lists, and much more), research reports (correspondence, repositories visited, research log files, lists of sources, a to-do list, and more), and various wall charts. The program also will print a number of “fill in the blanks” reports that you can give to relatives and ask them to write in the information and return the form(s) to you.

A number of these reports are available only in the full version of RootsMagic, not in the free RootsMagic Essentials.

One of my favorite reports is a to-do list. I am often mystified why a few other genealogy programs do not offer the same. I often use to-do lists to record things I need to check on a future visit to a specific library or repository. I might not visit that repository for months, possibly years. However, when preparing for a visit, I open the to-do list and find all the tasks I have previously recorded for that location and then then either print the list (although I rarely print anything on paper) or copy the tasks to a to-do list that I keep in my cell phone that is always with me. Luckily, the full version of RootsMagic includes a very effective to-do list.

Quoting from the RootsMagic help files:

The to-do list helps you track what needs to be done for an individual (a Person To-Do task) or a couple (a Family To-Do task) in your database, as well as general tasks that need to be done, but are not associated with a particular person or family (a General To-Do task).

General To-Do tasks can only be added through the To-Do list that is opened from the Lists, To-Do List menu, or from the To-Do list menu on To-Do button on the Toolbar. Person or Family To-Do tasks can only be added from the respective To-Do list buttons in “Edit Person” window, or from the Person or Family menu items on the To-Do button on the Toolbar.

All To-Do tasks for everyone in the database appear in the “master” to-do list accessed through Lists, To-Do list menu or the To-Do List on the To-Do button on the Toolbar. Person To-Do lists only show the Person or Family tasks associated with the particular person.

A full to-do list is offered in the full version of RootsMagic but not in the free RootsMagic Essentials.

There is one feature in RootsMagic and most of the other good quality programs that is often missing in lesser programs: a Problem Search. Some programs will call it a “sanity check.” It is a method of searching your genealogy database looking for obvious problems, including mothers giving birth at thirteen years of age or younger, birth after a mother’s death, people who lived to be more than 110 years old, people entered without being listed as male or female, fathers aged 70 or above when a child is born, and similar problems. I have found such problems in my own database that were caused by typo errors when entering the data as well as one or two times when I selected the wrong person as a parent or child. The Problem Search won’t find all possible problems, but it certainly identifies the more flagrant errors.

RootsMagic also offers a unique program with capabilities I have not seen elsewhere: RootsMagic-To-Go. It allows you to copy the RootsMagic program and your data onto any USB flash drive or removable drive. Take the drive to another computer, plug it in, and run RootsMagic directly from it. RootsMagic-To-Go is not only an excellent method of carrying your data with you but it also allows you to give copies to relatives. As long as your relative has a Windows computer, he or she can read the information you have provided.

Another nice feature in RootsMagic is the ability to open multiple databases at once or even multiple views of the same database. This is handy when a distant relative sends you a GEDCOM file where you want to copy-and-paste information about a few individuals but do not want to import the entire file. Another use is when you want to split off part of your database to create a new database, either for your own use or to email to someone else. Simply create a new database, then drag and drop people from your first database into the new empty one.

A source citation in RootsMagic shows where you found the information that you entered into a person’s record. Unlike many lesser genealogy programs, RootsMagic allows for using a single source citation to cite several pieces of information. For example, you may have a family Bible that gives you birth dates and wedding dates of several ancestors. You would enter the Bible itself only once, and then cite the page numbers where the detailed information is found in the individual records. That simplifies both data entry and also keeps the source citation database smaller and easier to manage.

Another time-saving feature is the ability to “memorize” a citation for a source that contains several facts and then “paste” that citation into each fact as you record it. If you just think of a census record for a family with four children, you would enter the full citation just once, memorize it, and then paste it to cite each birth date and place as well as the residence for the census year and any occupations. That’s a lot of time saved!

RootsMagic also (optionally) offers LDS support and will record the extra information that is of importance to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons).

I could go on for many more pages writing about all the features available in RootsMagic. However, a long list of features already exists at If you are thinking about trying either the free or paid versions of RootsMagic, you might want to read that list carefully.

Here’s a hint: I suggest you first download and install the free version, then use it for a while. It is a no-cost method of becoming familiar with the program. You may find the free version meets all your needs and you can use it forever. If the free version is insufficient for you, however, it is a simple process to upgrade to the full version at any time.

RootsMagic works with Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8. It also works well on a Macintosh if the Mac has a virtualization program installed, such as Parallels, VMware Fusion, or VirtualBox. I suspect it will also run on Macintosh’s Boot Camp as long as a full copy of Windows is also installed. However, I haven’t tried Boot Camp myself. All of those programs allow Windows programs to run on a Macintosh although they also require a full copy of Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 in order to run Windows programs.

Several years ago, I wrote a review of a much earlier version of RootsMagic. At that time, I wrote, “All in all, RootsMagic is a winner. It is a very powerful genealogy program with all the features found in most competitive programs, plus it is very easy to use and has a modest price. I suspect that I will be recommending it to many people.”

Nothing has changed since my earlier review, except for the addition of many, many more features in RootsMagic. Today, I feel even more strongly that RootsMagic is an excellent genealogy program for use on Windows, and that it is available at a modest price. Indeed, my summation remains the same: “All in all, RootsMagic is a winner. It is a very powerful genealogy program with all the features found in most competitive programs, plus it is very easy to use and has a modest price. I suspect that I will be recommending it to many people.”


I couldn’t agree more, Dick. I switched from Family Tree Maker years ago and never looked back. Two of my very favorite RootsMagic features are the ability to color code each grandparent’s ancestral line and the To-Do list. Their free, downloadable webinars are a nice bonus.


A very thorough, comprehensive review! I’ve been happy with RootsMagic for years now. One of the helpful features is the ability to get a real person on the phone to help with procedures I’ve forgotten how to do, or to help me understand why something electronic isn’t working the way it always did before. All in all, I highly recommend the software even to members of the LDS Church so they can maintain a personal database, and because it’s much easier to understand and use than FamilySearch Family Tree (although I access that all the time as well). Also one’s relationship to others in the family tree is so readily available for viewing through a Relationship Setup and color coding of various ancestral lines. The LDS researchers will need to purchase the full version to be able to sync back and forth between RootsMagic and FamilySearch Family Tree. The free version doesn’t do that.


This should be a very useful series of articles. Over the years I spent a bundle trying different software that became shelfware and finally ended up in the trash. I think RootsMagic is here to stay. It is everything Dick said it is.


I couldn’t agree more with the review. RootMagic can be as simple or more powerful as the user wants. The thing I like the most is the ability to create your own Source Templates from the extensive list. For example I now only use one template for all US Census with citing ability for up to 3 sources as not all transcriptions are necessarily the same. The programming language is very much like HTML. So if you can program in HTML and use the Help file explanations, with a little bit of experimenting, you can expand your data capture. Unfortunately the Fact Type Templates don’t offer this sort of flexibility.


One thing that struck me was that the date sequence is the same as we use in the UK, namesly day, month, year. I find a real pain with My Heritage as it changs all the daytes round.
Does any program though allow you to delete someone you’ve mistakenly added to th wrong line without having to delete everyone from the base up? I haven’t found one yet so I now find myelf doing a small tree for every line instead of one large tree.


    In RootsMagic, if you add someone to the wrong line, you simply use Edit: Unlink and choose to unlink that person from their parents or their spouse. Since they’re still in your database, you can then display the family they belong to and choose Add to place them in that family. If they don’t belong to anyone, you can skip all that and choose Delete, then either Person or Family to remove them from the database completely. I’ve loved RootsMagic from Day 1!!


Alain Van Wayenberge August 11, 2014 at 6:01 am

As a professional genealogist I work for French-, Dutch- Italian- and English-speaking people. I am currently using TMG. Does RootsMagic offer the choice of language ?


    You can enter data in almost any language because it supports Unicode but the user interface and built in sentence templates for citations and facts are all in English only. You could customise the fact sentence templates but not the built in source templates. The latter could be copied and then edited into another language. Multi language support was promised years ago but has yet to see the light of day.

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I had entered information into Ultimate Family Tree many years ago. Several years ago I was looking to move the data via GEDCOM into a new program and narrowed it down to either the Master Genealogist or Roots Magic. I decided on Roots Magic since the Master Genealogist was based on Foxpro which was no longer supported. Although the Master Genealogist was a great program, I am really glad I chose Roots Magic. It meets my needs fully.
The following is a very important feature in the paid version of Roots Magic. It will produce html files that can then be uploaded to your own website. This is searchable by Google. Roots Magic also provides up to 50 GB of free space to upload your Roots Magic files on their site. This information can then be only viewed by others that you provide with your Roots Magic web address. This is not searchable by Google.


Susanna Pollock Hough August 11, 2014 at 7:45 am

Thank you for reinforcing all the points I tell my friends. I switched to RootsMagic several years ago and was particularly delighted with the color coding (using different colors for paternal ancestors, for maternal ancestors, & for descendants). This certainly eliminates confusion when you have 10 or more generations and when the same names appear on both sides of the family.
Also, the helpful videos are detailed and presented at a good pace for anyone trying to understand a specific area of RootsMagic. You can return to certain sections easily by jotting down the minutes at the bottom of the screen.
Finally, the RootsMagic-to-Go has made my traveling much easier and productive.


My concern is the long term stability of a privately held company whose address is a private home in Mapleton, UT. What are the financials of this company and what happens if Bruce Buzbee, President, founder, developer, designer, tester, implementer, etc. gets hit by a bagel truck?


    Jesper Beenfeldt Nielsen August 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    As a user of The Master Genealogist, which is now discontinued, I agree. We need information to be able to consider the longevity of the producer of the software.


    There probably aren’t a whole lot of bagel trucks in Utah, but on the serious side …
    You have valid concerns (I’m a user of Roots Magic) but don’t forget that at any time, any company can decide to eliminate one of their software products. Take a look at the ones eliminated by Ancestry.
    My suggestion is to pick the best piece of software for your needs and use it. If you pick the one published by the biggest company, you probably won’t get the features you need, nor the support.


    I avoid bagel trucks. But keep in mind that we have multiple programmers in the company. We have been providing genealogy software as a company longer than any other company out there (24 years). Family Tree Maker has been around longer, but it is with a different company than originally created it. We actually had our original software discontinued (Family Origins) and wrote a new program to replace it. I would put our track record for maintaining and supporting a software program up against any company in the world… Lotus 1-2-3, dBase, WordStar, Netscape, PAF, Roots, Ultimate Family Tree, Generations, etc. Users who thought those programs would be around just because of the size of their publisher have had to look elsewhere when the company size didn’t keep the program from disappearing.

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I downloaded the trial version and imported data set from TMG using GEDCOM method (only one available for import from TMG). At first look it seemed like this might be the answer to a potential replacement, especially since there is a narrative report that reads like a narrative. However, it didn’t take long to discover that the import completely hosed sources. We have spent many hours getting sources in TMG to match Mills. In most cases this program seems to have imported sources in some mix of free form and attempts to put data in where it thought it belonged. The result for most is that Full Footnote, Short Footnote, and Bibliography are the same. In many cases it hosed data and mixed parts together resulting in gibberish. Totally unacceptable considering each of us have nearly 5000 sources each.
I downloaded Legacy and Family Tree Maker also (paid versions) and am equally unhappy with both – neither provides a reasonable narrative report and, although source import seems better in both, it still isn’t great and the result will require hundreds to perhaps thousands of hours of work to get close to matching Mills. Customized sentence structure also doesn’t come over very well in any of the three programs. Fundamentally it looks like the only solution in any of these three programs will be to print each of the three forms of sources from TMG and once imported into the new program go in and literally edit and retype each and every one of the 5000 plus sources. From a quick look it appears unlikely that any of them came through unchanged – certainly true for Roots Magic.
Looks like the bottom line for anyone that has been using TMG for an appreciable period of time is going to be very dissatisfied with any alternative tried by me so far and, if they have very much data the process of fixing it in a new program to even come close to being as recommended for adequate documentation is nearly an insurmountable task. PLEASE someone out there approach TMG about purchasing and continuing their product. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!


    In some additional investigation it seems sources don’t import much better in other two programs either. I suspect the issue lies in how TMG puts source information into GEDCOM. Anyone else investigating have any ideas.


    Exactly the reason I did not switch from Roots Magic to TMG several years ago. All of my Mills formatted sources from Roots Magic imported into TMG as books! Learning that citations do not export well from TMG supports my thinking that the challenge lies with how TMG handles source citations.


    TMG supports only standard GEDCOM which cannot support many special features. That is why you lose so much. RootsMagic is reportedly working on a direct import from a TMG database but delivery schedule is unknown. That has the potential to be a superior migration path because the two programs have much in common, but not all, so it cannot be perfect.


    Roots Magic now has a direct import from TMG. I have used it. The import is very quick. I am now polishing fact/event entries to edit the sentence output. I’m pleased with Roots Magic.


Dick, Thanks for this review! It helps with some of those questions that have been running around in my mind…esp. that I made the right choice a while back.


As an about-to-be unsupported TMG user, this series of reviews is sure timely! I was amazed that upon importing TMG data “it appears that all the data was imported and placed in the appropriate fields within RootsMagic” (with the exception of exhibits).
Do you remember it you had any events with witnesses or multiple roles for an event?
Do you ever use TMG’s split memo fields for events or citations?
I’m not in any hurry to migrate off of TMG, even if unsupported, but if these features work it looks like I can relax a bit.


    —> Do you remember it you had any events with witnesses or multiple roles for an event?

    —> Do you ever use TMG’s split memo fields for events or citations?

    I never used those features in TMG very much. In fact, TMG has not been my primary genealogy program for several years so I never spent that much time with it. (I use a Macintosh most of the time.) I don’t know of any other genealogy program that uses those features that are unique to TMG so I suspect those items will never import in exactly the method you want into any other program.


    GEDCOM does not support any of these TMG features. Maybe the direct import from TMG to RootsMagic process under development will.


I’ve used RM as an alternate to FTM for some reports. Your review heightens my desire to use RM full time. Looking forward to reading future reviews especially since Legacy is another program I’ve dabbled with. Thanks a million, Dick.


I do not like Roots program. It isn’t for the Mac at this time, I’m told. Can’t add data at a later date. Freezes every 1/2 hour when in use.


    Many Mac users are very happy with the way RootsMagic performs in a Windows Virtual Machine. There is a native Mac version in development; delivery unknown.


Recently I drafted a simple family tree for a friend of my wife. She entered it into her Windows 7 laptop, using Roots Magic Essentials. She later bought an iPad and discovered that the family tree written in Roots Magic on a Windows 7 laptop had somehow transferred itself to the iPad. She had no hand in this transfer. How come?


    If she didn’t install RM on the iPAD, how was she able to see it. If she did install RM on the iPAD, maybe she did transfer it? Or did she save it in DropBox?
    Things just don’t pop up on an iPAD for no reason


Thank you for the Roots Magic review. I’m looking forward to all your reviews! I used TMG for years until a couple of years ago when a bad virus wiped out my entire computer. (I had backups but not the monthly ones you suggested. I’ve since switched to the MAC but no genealogy thus far. I’m especially looking forward to your Mac reviews. I want one that will replicate TMG’s narrative report that includes everything entered, including sources.


    Dick, Your Roots Magic review was great! I’m especially looking forward to your Mac reviews. What program have you used on your Mac? I want one that will replicate TMG’s narrative report that includes everything entered, including sources.


    —> What program have you used on your Mac?

    Heredis, Mac Family Tree, Reunion, Family Tree Maker for Macintosh, GRAMPS, and Personal Ancestry Writer.


I have used RootsMagic for many years and the WebSearch aspect is so great, that I gave a demonstration a couple of times for our genealogy society. By clicking the WebSearch tab, I can select from a variety of websites, and RootsMagic will search those sites for me. I do not have to type a thing, all parameters are automatically entered. All I do is click on a website and RootsMagic starts searching. Also, I can add any website I want. I subscribe to Ancestry and Fold3 and still will use WebSearch for quick looks. I use WebSearch to routinely search Findagrave, FamilySearch, Fold3, etc., for each person I am researching and I am amazed how many time I find information on a person with just a few clicks. It sure beats going to all those websites and typing in names and dates. And with just a few clicks, why not search Google, Bing, Yahoo, or whatever for everyone you are researching? It takes just seconds.

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Does it support Eastern European languages such as Polish?


    Yes. Quoting from the above article: “support for international character sets through Unicode integration (allowing for use of umlauts, accents, and other characters found in European alphabets)”


I’ve used RootsMagic before it became RootsMagic and have never changed.
Facts can be shared ie entered for the first person and shared with others eg Census data. This is really helpful when you have large families. While sharing you can choose the relationship to the original person and even add a new relationship if it is not in the standard list which varies depending on type of fact. If adding a new relationship you will have to add the sentence structure for the new relationship.
Sentences can be customized. After entering the description for a fact, choose customizing the sentence and make your alterations. This will require some knowledge of sentence parameters but Help is great.
Relationship can be set up by choosing Set Relationship which then shows the relationship in the bottom left corner to the chosen person.
Color coding is invaluable in a larger database. Recently I learned the wife of a fellow genealogist and I related in numerous ways (he was already related to my sons). So, in addition to color coding the various grandparent lines of my sons, I now color code in a different color the portions of the wife’s tree that I have in my database.


I found TMG’s seach facility fantastic…eg: list all men born after 1903, born in Ukraine, naturalized before 1930 and died in New York………does roots magic enable these boolean type searches ??


    Yes it does with one reservation; it is a Boolean on the entire set of the Person’s facts and cannot be restricted to just one fact. For example, a search for persons having a Census fact for Date 1911 and in a Place containing Toronto will also return people who were in a different place in 1911 and in Toronto in 1891. So the ones you may really want are accompanied by others you don’t. Some day, I hope this will be resolved.


I enjoyed reading your review of RM, especially since I have been considering upgrading from FTM 2006 Ver 16. I know the program well, but think it is time to upgrade and purchased FTM 2014, but have not used it yet because of bad reviews I have read and also the worry that my 2006 data, extensive notes, sources, & photos will not transfer without a lot of cleanup work. I believe the photos now (on 2014) are not stored in the FTM program, but are only linked to photos stored elsewhere on the computer. I (probably foolishly) only stored most in FTM & only recently have copies in a file on the computer. (I cannot figure out how to copy them from FTM to a new file.)
I am looking forward to your other reviews before I do anything in the way of upgrading.
One other thing I would appreciate reading are the short comings of the programs too.
Thanks for all the great info in your Newsletter.


Great review! I especially appreciate the mention of interaction with FamiySearch and support of LDS info. Lack of either of these features will be an automatic deal breaker for nearly all LDS members considering a different program..


To paraphrase Bob Livingstone, “As an about-to-be unsupported FTM user, this series of reviews is sure timely! As FTM gradually chops off features of the older “unimproved” intuitive version (and the improved version suffers from a torrent of abuse from users) I have been planning a move. What I really like about this article is the responses from users, so encouraging. And it seems like any adopter will not have to devote years of study to learning a new system, important for those of us who do not have a programer’s memory.


Thanks you, Dick, for taking this on. Couldn’t be more timely considering the escalating problems with FTM – constant freezing especially when trying to merge which, in turn, shuts down the program. Repeated calls, emails for support and I get the runaround and outdated ‘fix-it’ suggestions which don’t work. Yesterday, they finally admitted un resolved issues with FTM 2014 but hardly reassuring that they released an update too soon. I agree with the previous comment, cons along with the pros would be helpful. Thanks again!


    Given that RootsMagic and its ancestors (Family Origins et al) have been in development over 20 years, I find it’s pretty stable and robust. Features requested by users, anticipated with technology advances, and incorporated in competitive programs have been added all along, so you’d have to look long and hard to find something lacking or buggy. In fact, something I might consider a negative could be unimportant to you, and vice versa,The best way for any such “cons” to surface is probably for long-time users to post comments based on their experiences. If your needs are the same, take heed. If not, you might skip that comment and read on. I know Dick Eastman has the pulse of the genealogy community, but unless he’s got some clairvoyant powers, even he can’t tell you which program is “THE best” for you.


    I have for some years, been very much attached to my FTM version 11. On another computer I have been using version 2006. Now that I have moved to a new computer running Windows 7, I find this version is not compatible. I did some time ago, purchase v.2012, but found it not at all to my liking so deleted it and actually on sold it and do not wish to proceed with any other of the later versions, but will stick with v.11 and v.2006 which I like very much and can continue to use them on my older computer and now after Dick’s very interesting review, I shall download a trial version of RootsMagic for my Windows 7 machine. Seems like I shall then be on a roll thanks to Dick.


Also – could you include size limitations, if any, with each review? In other words, how many ancestors can one have? Thanks.


Of all the genealogy programs I’ve tried – and believe me, I’ve tried several, RootsMagic is the only one that will accept unusually formatted dates such as the Quaker date (i.e. 15da 7mo 1543) and leave them as entered. It is always recommended to record dates in their original format to maintain the integrity of the information in the future and assure future users of the information that it is calculated and recorded accurately in the original format. When entering these unusual dates, though, a sort date must also be entered for proper sorting of data for reports, timelines, etc.


I found this review very helpful! I’ve been using an ancient version of FTM but downloaded Roots Magic Essentials based on this review … So far, I like what I see. Even this Essentials version has features missing from my FTM software. I might be tempted to upgrade to the pay version. Dick, much appreciated!


I am considering downloading the free version of Roots Magic. I need to have something cleared up for me first. I’m not real techy, so I will try to ask this question and hope it makes sense. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I have heard horror stories that it is possible that someone on a different computer could enter data in an LDS program, then somehow, be automatically changing MY personal entries on MY computer for which I know are correct. How could this be possible? Is there a way not to allow this from happening on my program should I decide to download it?



    Someone can enter data on Family Tree in and that data in the online database could be changed. However, that does not change anything in your personal database in your computer UNLESS you later decide to download information from Family Tree in and save it in your computer. That is possible but is not automatic; you have to manually do that.

    As always, your data remains under your control at all times. Exchanging data with other people and other databases is optional, you decide whether or not you wish to do so. I believe that is true of all genealogy programs that store information in a Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Android, or Apple iOS (iPad or iPhone) computer.


You write; “However, my GEDCOM file did not include any multimedia “scrapbook” items, such as pictures, videos, sounds or other such items. I will add those manually at a later date.”
I am also testing GEDCOM from TMG (waiting for the direct import that is coming any day/week now). One TMG project has many pictures and all of them were imported fine in RootsMagic


Yesterday’s RootsMagic gedcom to RootsWeb WorldConnect looks awful. The gedcom to Ancestry two months ago looks fine including sources etc.


Thanks Dick for a thorough review of what I believe is the BEST all around Windows based Genealogy program. While I have only been using Bruce’s Genealogy software for 21 years I still find it overflowing with useful features.


Does RM have software for doing genograms of medical histories? I want to be able to include these with my family histories I do. I’m a novice so any suggestions will help if written plainly.


Thanks for the review, Dick. Have been a RM user for best part of a decade and it’s not bad at all. I have recently reviewed my own situation and looked at the options, and have decided to run with Family Historian 5: a clean UI, easy to use, and plenty of grunt when needed.


Thanks so much for your review, Dick. You have no idea how timely it is. I have been having major problems getting FTM 2014 to work properly on my system and made the decision today to search for another program after using FTM for 20 years. As a result of your review, I looking forward to trying RootsMagic.


How can I add info via my IPAD?


Thank you so much for this very detailed information! I am a visual learner, so the way you’ve laid this info out (complete with photo’s) is exactly what I need. Thank you for spending so much time to create this for others.


I’m hoping to persuade a family member to try Rootsmagic, and remembered your review from last summer. Found it quickly on your site. You answer the many questions my cousin has posed to me. Thanks so much for this! Am sending her this link now. Appreciate you, Dick.


I downloaded the free Rootsmagic and imported my information from PAF 5.2. In PAF I had several trees separated by family names, plus my husband’s branch and my branch. When I imported all the information was lumped together to make one huge tree. How can I separate these back out or do I need to delete the base and try again? Any ideas would be gratefully received.


    Your question is best put to one of RootsMagic Forums, the Facebook RootsMagic Group, or the ROOTSMAGIC-USERS-L Rootsweb mailing list.


    Thank you for that advice, I appreciate it.


    Jane, it sounds like you imported all your data into a single database but wanted separate databases. If so, I suggest you use File…New and then import the GEDCOM of ONE branch that you want to keep separate and save it. Then repeat File…New and import another branch. If you don’t want one big file, you need to create a sparate file for each branch. Hope this helps.


    Thank you for excellent suggestion. Should I delete the lumped-together information before I make my files? It seems like otherwise I’ll have a lot of duplicate names.


    Jane, I see no reason to keep the lump as long as you have the GEDCOMs to work from. BUT I can’t see what you’ve done either, and I’d hate to have you accidentally blow away something you need. Therefore, I’ll suggest you simply save the “lump” file as “Lump” or some such, then follow the instructions I gave earlier, saving each NEW database with a unique name (such as “Jones Branch”). Once you’re satisfied that you’ve got all your branches and all your people, you can delete the “lump.”


Has anyone tried RootsMagic for MAC? Interesting if RootsMagic will import correctly from Family Tree Maker.

Thank you for your time.


I find the entering of details in boxes so so so tedious
Many of my typed documents already have fields like titles,relationships, dates etc My kingdom for a program that has character recognition so they can be scanned in instantly!


I would rate it as decent but seriously lacking.

It is relatively easy to use – if you can use it at all. It works well on Windows. It works well on Ubuntu if you either jump through a bunch of hoops not for the tech faint of heart using variously Wine or Playonlinux (which one works varies), or spend $49 on Crossover for Linux. These deficiencies make it pretty much useless for a great many people. People have complained about these deficiences for years, and Rootsmagic has absolutely NO interest in fixing the deficiencies.

Where did you get the idea that Rootsmagic is handy on tablets and phones? On tablets and phones it lets you view but not create nor edit databases. ??? I put the app on my large tablet, and went to spend an afternoon at my sister’s house, all excited that I could do some genealogical work, and I couldn’t do anything at all! Since even serious genealogical researchers increasingly work on tablets, this seriously limits who can use this software.

The reason why it is hard to get it to work in Mac and Linux, and some people can’t even get it to work correctly in Windows, is that the program relies on other Windows software for much of its functionality. For starters it will not run if Internet Explorer and Flash are not installed. ???!!!!!! It needs external gif support (GDI support), even if not using gif images. It needs external XML support (Microsoft XML parsers) – which is ludicrous. Rootsmagic’s database is structured around XML. It won’t run if you don’t have certain Windows fonts installed.

There are people running Windows 10 who can’t run Rootsmagic, most likely because no Internet Explorer. It HAS to be Internet Explorer, even though any HTML pages actually open in Chrome or Firefox on your computer.

Then there are the low key nuisances. For example:

You can’t open notes without opening the individual first.

When entering data, you have to first open a form with the name, birth, death and burial information, then REOPEN the form to enter any other information, including notes and sources.

You can get a fact to stay open and apply it to multiple family members if you put a period at the beginning of the first line, or something? It was as clear as mud – and certainly not intuitive.

There are quite a number of little bugs like that.

The program has really deteriorated since I selected it a version or two ago, when you could enter what you wanted in the date fields and it would be on your reports as you entered it, and you could include multiple spouses and their children on ancestor reports.

And, last but not least, on the Rootsmagic support list, when I mention that Rootsmagic is hoaky when replying to people, the moderator won’t post it, because noone is allowed to say anything negative about Rootsmagic. I don’t think so!


    Your cup is definitely the one half empty. While you have some legit beefs, it is hardly what one could call a balanced view. And what support forum is it that your posts are blocked by the moderator? I belong to three and none of them hold posts for moderator approval. The two that are administered by RootsMagic Inc are even less interventionist than the one which is independent.

    You can still enter what you want in a date field – nothing has changed in that regard since I started with RM4. Invalid dates are flagged in yellow but are reported verbatim – they just don’t work for age calculations and chronological sorting (how could they?).

    Yes, there is an issue for those who upgraded to Windows 10 while their RM version was prior to something. The fix was a registry edit which RM provided for free or the installation of the current free RootsMagic Essentials which contained the same adjustment and would allow the older version to work fully or an upgrade to the current full version for $20.

    I don’t use Mac or Linux but I am aware that there are many cup half full Mac users who are pretty satisfied with what does work and look forward to the multi-platform version for fulfillment.

    All I can say about your disappointing afternoon at your sister’s house with the free iPad app is that it is not evidence of any blame attached to RootsMagic.

    How can you say RootsMagic has no interest in fixing what you call deficiencies having to do with running on Linux and Mac? First of all, they are not deficiencies – the product was designed for Windows – they are incompatibilities. And secondly, RootsMagic development seems to be largely focussed on multi-platform compatibility for the next upgrade – that’s an indication of no interest?


Hello. I have read all the posts with great interest. I used Legacy then Rootsmagic in the past, then switched back to Legacy when RM’s interface speed with New.FamilySearch slowed some years ago. I am now coming back to RM because I increasingly find the visual look of Legacy confusing to my eyes (but now in my mid 70″s much is confusing). I do like the visual simplicity of RM much better. Having used many gen. database programs over the last 20 years, I feel none is perfect. I find some too simplistic without sufficient research power, others powerful but too complex visually and menu-wise. RM seems to me to strike a realistic balance between visual clarity and power, with most features that people actually use.

That was an aside. I actually have a question. My wife has been using Ancestry extensively because it’s research linkage is so quick for document searches, etc. We would like to import her data into Rootsmagic. Will the documents attached to each person import directly into RM. Or the documents simply just weblinks in Ancestry. If so, do the weblink addresses transfer?

I appreciate any help you can provide. Thanks.


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