Become a Better Researcher

Our research problems are unique and our genealogy software, to be useful, must be flexible enough to match our respective problems and our respective methods. The Master Genealogist is that software, but power and flexibility has a down side. The more options a program has, the more decisions the user must make. This year, the Tri-Valley TMG User Group will explore those options and make some of those personal decisions. Would you like to play along with us? Do each month's assignment, and if you like, e-mail it to us at: We'll post some of the completed assignments on this blog each month. Let's hear it for choices!

Friday, December 26, 2014

My NarrativeChildren Tag

There are some truly wonderful ideas in the Wholly Genes Forum post, "NarrativeChildren sentences." I am a minimalist when it comes to roles, however. I'm glad roles exist, but I seldom go out of my way to create beautifully convoluted sentences using them. I use only a few NarrativeChildren sentences, and I could easily get by with only one of the options I've created. So far, I haven't encountered any real problems with these sentences. That doesn't mean problems won't arise in the future, and if you see any problems, please let me know.

NarrativeChildren Tag Type Definition: Roles and Sentences tab

Corresponding NarrativeChildren tag
My most frequently used NarrativeChildren sentence is shown above. [M1] is the Child Intro line used if the primary father belongs to the line being followed. [M2] is the Child Intro line that appears if the primary mother belongs to the line being followed. The yellow highlighted area shows the other sentences that I use relatively often.

NarrativeChildren Tag Type Definition: Reminder
I use the Tag Type Definition's Reminder area for sentence examples, all of them taken from Joan Ferris Curran, Mailyn Coen Crane and John H. Wray, Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin (Arlington: National Genealogical Society, rev. 2008). This area also reminds me that the superscript generation indicator must be added in the report's final edit.

NarrativeChildren Tag Help Screen
Don't forget TMG's Help file! Note the two special codes defined here: [:NONE:], which suppresses the Child Intro line, and [:NoBirthPlaces:], which suppresses each child's place of birth in the child list. These can be included in the Memo field, thus eliminating the need for a couple of my defined sentences.


If it weren't for the fact that the superscript generation indicator is not generated in a report when one overrides TMG's standard Child Intro line with the ChildNarrative tag, I would probably use it all the time. It allows more clarity, precision, and variety than the standard line. If you're interested in the few sentences I do use, please feel free to contact me.

Using the NarrativeChildren Tag

"How do you make changes in the journal report's Child Intro line?" (a.k.a. the "Children of" statement) There are many situations in which TMG's basic standard Child Intro line, "The children of John2 Smith and Mary Jones were as follows:" or its standard variations, doesn't work. Among the most frequently encountered problems:
  • You want to use the preferred standard format: "The children of John2 and Mary (Jones) Smith were as follows:"
  • You want to vary things a little: "The only child of John2 and Mary (Jones) Smith was:"
  • You want to qualify the list:
    • "The children of John2 and Mary (Jones) Smith have not been determined."
    • "John2 and Mary (Jones) Smith were the parents of seven children; only the following four have been identified:"
    • "The known children of John2 Smith and Mary Jones, ordered according to John's will, were as follows:"
  • You're dealing with a single parent and the phrase, "and an unknown spouse," is actually very wrong: "The child of Mary2 Jones (father unknown) was:"
  • You're dealing with an adoption:
    • "The adopted child of John2 and Mary (Jones) Smith (said child's biological parents unknown) was:"
    • "Adopted children of John2 Smith (said children born to his wife Mary Jones by her first husband, Thomas1 Brown) were as follows:"
  • You want to include stepchildren raised in the family: "The stepchild of John2 Smith, child of his wife Mary Jones by her first husband, Thomas1 Brown, was:"
The solution is TMG's NarrativeChildren tag. Two online pages discuss the use of this tag. Study both, as each provides more information than this blog.
Begin with Terry's page. His discussion of TMG's standard "Children of" statement, with its programmed variations, is very important. If you don't understand what is built into TMG's report-writing, you won't know what customizations you need to create.
Terry's discussion of the NarrativeChildren and its possible roles is more basic than that found in the WhollyGenes Forum post. The latter has some wonderful - and complex - examples. Although the example shown below was created with different NarrativeChildren roles, my preferred customization of the NarrativeChildren tag is much simpler - and is illustrated in the next post.

Pre-edit Journal report showing improved Child Intro lines

Since the NarrativeChildren tag is so versatile, why not use it all the time? Are there any problems? Yes, there are a few. You will need to decide for yourself, whether or not, and how, to use this tag.
  1. No superscript generation indicator is generated with the NarrativeChildren tag. This means that indicator needs to be added during the final edit.
  2. There is no way to create appropriate NarrativeChildren tags when the same couple has both biological children and adopted children and/or stepchildren.
  3. Things can get very confusing if you try to create NarrativeChildren tag roles for both the biological parents and the step/adoptive parent combinations for the same child.

Including Adopted Children in a Report

This is one of the questions that came up during the December meeting. "How do you include adopted children in a report?" (or substitute "step-children" or "foster children")

The ramifications of including adopted/stepchildren in a report are very interesting, but the "how" is not difficult. From the child's person screen, make the link between the child and the adoptive/step/foster parent primary. Highlight the tag; then, click the asterisk on the toolbar, or click the asterisk on your keyboard (shift-8), or select Edit > Toggle Primary.

Although this does allow one to include children other than biological children in a report, be warned that the result does not match genealogical standards for compiled genealogies. For  a discussion of the proper arrangement and numbering of biological, adopted, and stepchildren, see Joan Ferris Curran, Mailyn Coen Crane and John H. Wray, Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin (Arlington: National Genealogical Society, rev. 2008), 17-25.

An unedited example shows a few of the problems encountered, if the user doesn't plan for them during the data entry.

This report has minor problems that one can live with, but there are two big problems that must be fixed.
  1. Arthur Gifford married Isabelle Amelia Carpenter first, but the family group containing his biological daughter is listed second. Why? Evidently, the order of families in a Journal report (and in a family group sheet report) is determined by birth dates of the children, not by the date the parents' union occurred. The proper order of families is: 1) biological children in chronological order (but don't ask me about legitimate vs. illegitimate); 2) adopted children in chronological order, or the order they entered the family - but be consistent; and 3) stepchildren. Fix: Adjust the sort order of the respective children's birth dates, if that doesn't create further problems.
  2. There is no differentiation between his biological daughter, Lorene Gifford, and his stepdaughter, Evelyn Chubbock. The database does differentiate, but that differentiation doesn't appear in the report - and that could lead to big problems when this report is disseminated. Fix: Rewrite the Child Intro line (a.k.a. "Children of" statement). This can be done by editing every report, or one can use the ChildrenNarrative tag. That is the subject of the next post. :-)

Changing the TMG 9 Desktop Shortcut Icon

The same desktop shortcut icon is used for both TMG 8 and TMG 9. For those of you who keep a copy of both versions running, this can be a little confusing. It's not a big issue, and there are several ways to avoid the confusion.
  1. Uninstall TMG 8. :-)
  2. Hover over the icon long enough for the tool tips window to appear, so you can verify to which TMG version the shortcut refers.
  3. Replace the shortcut icon with a different one. Note that this does not change any other TMG icon.
If you want to change the TMG 9 shortcut icon, you will first need a replacement icon. Here are some possibilities. Note that the file locations given here are those from my computer. Yours may be different. You may also need to change your computer's folder options to access these icons.
  1. Search your computer for files of this name: tmg*.ico. I had copies of the icons for TMG 2, TMG 5, and TMG 7. They were located in various folders, but all of them were together in this folder: C:\Program Files (x86)\The Master Genealogist v9\graphics.
  2. If you like one of these icons, note its file location and follow the step-by-step instructions below.
If you don't find an icon you like, create your own. I experimented with several designs and color combinations. For myself, I settled on this design - and I can change the color, if I feel like something different. (I'm currently using the green version.) You can download and use one or all of these icons.

Each of these links should open the icon image. Right-click on the image and save the file to a convenient location on your computer. Then, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

Step-by-step instructions for changing a shortcut icon

  1. Right-click on the shortcut icon on your desktop.
  2. Select Properties (at the bottom of the pop-up window)
  3. This should open a dialogue box with the Shortcut tab open
  4. Select Change Icon ...
  5. Browse to the folder in which you have the desired icon.
  6. Select your icon and click Open
  7. Click OK
  8. Click OK.
  9. You may need to give administrator permission.
  10. Voila! You have a new - and unique - shortcut icon to TMG 9.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My "Family Legend" Story - Finally!

It seems to have taken me forever to write what should have been a simple article: the story of our family's purported relationship to James Fenimore Cooper; but writing assignments are never easy for me. Here it is, at long last: "We're Related to James Fenimore Cooper - Or So I've Been Told."

This article differs from most of the ones I've written this year. First, some of it is written in the first person. When it comes to family legends, we're not simply researchers; we're participants. Despite the presence of source citations, it's also written more for my family than for fellow researchers. Therefore, the citations have morphed from footnotes to endnotes.

There is a genealogical summary which began with TMG's "Point to Point" journal report, a report that focuses on the direct line. Did this report come with TMG, or did I create it? I honestly don't remember. Various style considerations are a combination of NGSQ and Register styles, a style that I find a little easier to produce than something a little more strict.

Revisiting this year's goals.
  • We want to develop the habit of analyzing each record we use, and not just enter each information bit without thinking about its meaning.
  • We want to make conscious decisions on what data we want to enter into TMG, how we enter that data, and how we will use that data in our research.
  • We want to develop the habit of writing research reports and real family histories, not just printing out pedigree charts and family group sheets.
  • We want to make TMG fit our research needs and goals. We don't want to make our research practices fit TMG.
This is what we tried to do this year. I had fun with these assignments, and I hope everyone else did, too. Did you achieve your goals?

December's Agenda.
  • Wholly Genes officially closes its doors on December 31st. Before that happens, we all need to make sure that we're prepared to keep TMG running for as long as we want. Before you leave, we'll make sure that everyone has the most recent installer for their favorite TMG version, a handy copy of their registration information, a backup of their database, and a better understanding of how to restore that database and the TMG program.
  • We'll review all the tech support options open to us. There may be more help out there than you realize.
  • We'll finish the year with our annual data entry party. Bring your database, recent research reports and documents, and lots of questions. Brainstorming with the group is a great way to solve a problem or pick up some new techniques.