ThinkGenealogy Innovator Award #4

Saturday, 4 Jul 2009 | by Mark Tucker

Writing about this next innovation has been on my backlog for many months (at least 3). In a previous innovator award, I spotlighted one of the first genealogy software packages to support source citation templates following those found in Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  These templates help the beginning and professional genealogist to accurately cite sources as part of their effort to do professional-quality work.

As early as the 1997 book, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, Elizabeth Shown Mills has covered the topics of citation and analysis.  It is this second item, analysis, that is the focus of this innovator award. In Evidence! we start to see the formation of the current classification for sources (as original or derivative) and evidence (as direct or indirect).  The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual published in 2000 supports the classification of sources (as original or derivative), adds a classification for information (as primary or secondary), and continues the classification of evidence (as direct or indirect).  These classifications remained unchanged in Professional Genealogy which was published in 2001.  By 2006 as seen on quick sheet, Evidence Analysis: A Research Process Map by Elizabeth Shown Mills we see the formation of a new evidence classification so in addition to direct or indirect we can classify evidence as negative evidence.  When Evidence Explained was published in 2007 it restated these same classifications for sources (original or derivative), information (primary or secondary), and evidence (direct, indirect, or negative).

The winner of the next innovator award not only supports Evidence Explained citation templates but has coded these professional analysis practices into their software in a way that is approachable to all.  So a big congratulations goes out to Bruce Buzbee and his RootsMagic team!

Innovator Award - Thinker's PickRootsMagic logo

Let’s look at the implementation in more detail.

In RootsMagic 3, we had a way to specify the quality of a source but the feature in RootsMagic 4 is dramatically improved.

Here is the citation quality dropdown list from the Edit Citation Details screen in RootsMagic 3:

RootsMagic 3 Citation Quality

The list contains primary, secondary, questionable, and unreliable.

Compare that to the citation quality screen from RootsMagic 4:

RootsMagic 4 Citation Quality

As you can see, RootsMagic 4 supports separate classifications for source, information, and evidence and fully supports these classification following Evidence Explained.

You get to this screen by clicking the Quality button on the Edit Source screen:

RootsMagic 4 Edit Source screen

The next closest competitor of this feature is Family Tree Maker 2009, but the software fails to acknowledge the existence of negative evidence:

Family Tree Maker 2009 Citation Quality

I am not sure when each product officially released this feature. The best I can estimate is that Family Tree Maker 2009 was released the first of February 2009 and RootsMagic 4 the end of March 2009.  I was aware of this feature in RootsMagic 4 all the way back in July 2008.  Since RootsMagic 4 handles negative evidence, it gets the award.

I feel that this is a transformational innovation because as more genealogists and family historians at all skill levels use this common terminology, analysis will become more consistent and communication will become more clear.  Look for other genealogy software (desktop as well as online) to support citation quality following the genealogical standards in Evidence Explained in the near future.

There are some changes and additonal improvements that I would to see in the area of citation quality that I would like to address in future posts. This is truly an exciting time.  Genealogy software is moving more towards helping with reserach analysis and not just the recording of research results.  Thanks RootsMagic for being a leader in this area.

To see other ThinkGenealogy Innovator award winners, visit the winners page.


  1. Thanks for showing us what the other software publishers are doing, Mark.

    I use TMG and my expectations for the improvements that will be introduced into the long-awaited TMG V8 have now been raised.

    I assume that these source ratings are for each citation, and not just for the source as a whole?

    Comment by Carole Riley — 4 Jul 2009 @ 5:57 pm

  2. Yes, they are for each citation.

    Comment by Bruce Buzbee — 4 Jul 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  3. Hmmm….kind of easy to be an innovator of a feature when you’re not the one to get it done first – see FTM 2009 and Legacy 7 – both “innovated” Elizabeth Mills’ templates first.

    Comment by Jonathan Riser — 5 Jul 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  4. Jonathan,

    I tried to e-mail you in private, but your e-mail address is not valid.

    Your recent comment seemed like you thought I was awarding RootsMagic the innovator award for source templates following Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained when in fact Legacy 7 and Family Tree Maker 2009 had that “innovation” first. If you look at the winner of the 2nd Innovator award, you will see that I awarded it to Legacy 7 since they released the feature in June 2008. Family Tree Maker 2009 was released in August 2008 but didn’t include EE templates until the update in February 2009. RootsMagic 4 was released in March 2009.

    I awarded RootsMagic 4 an innovator award for the citation quality feature that allows sources to be classified as original or derivative, information to be classified as primary or secondary, and evidence to be classified as direct, indirect, or negative.

    Here is a link to all innovator award winners:

    I hope that clarifies things. Thank you for your comments.


    Comment by Mark Tucker — 5 Jul 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  5. Hi Mark:
    RootsMagic4 is a feature rich program. Bruce’s enthusiasm about the project and his communications with users throughout the development of 4 was impressive. I can’t imagine any RootsMagic user felt left out of the process. On the other hand, most of the time when I am fortunate enough to try a new software release, I find the developers have included something exciting and innovative—worthy of the kind of award you bestow. Indeed, if I don’t find those new features, it’s probably true that I didn’t understand the software well enough to evaluate the new release.
    I’d like to see an Emeril approach to genealogical software awards and evaluations–let’s “kick it up” a notch. As far as sources are concerned, if my zillions of sources have been well developed in one genealogical software program, shouldn’t there be some way of importing all to another genealogical software program? Shouldn’t it also be much easier, within a given program, to modify or update our sources and citations
    I tested a variety of genealogical software programs over the past year. While I generally didn’t find the source templates and “categorization” approaches so very beneficial, I was mostly able to create the sources and citations I wanted. Now I’d like to see powerful “must have” third party software developed to support the management of my sources _and_ the export-import process.
    I dream of the day when I can easily call up different compilations of sources and citations AND edit same within that same compilation. Ditto, that to avail myself of the features of one developer’s program, I don’t have to re-enter my 5000 sources and 40000 citations. Likewise, if I do have to re-organize that information, someone has considered the techniques and features that would make that re-organization not only possible but feasible . –GJ

    Comment by GeneJ — 6 Jul 2009 @ 7:35 am

  6. [...] that they (and others) are doing is truly innovative. Just the other day, I awarded RootsMagic 4 an Innovator award for the implementation of research analysis around their citation quality [...]

    Pingback by RootsMagic 4 Citation Quality Gotcha #1 | ThinkGenealogy — 7 Jul 2009 @ 6:39 am

  7. [...] ThinkGenealogy Innovator Award July 2009 [...]

    Pingback by RootsMagic Blog » Year in Review — 31 Dec 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  8. Have you heard if there is an update of Professional Genealogy in the works?

    Comment by Laura — 24 Jun 2011 @ 8:19 am

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