Several weeks ago, many countless genealogy customers were stunned to learn that their genealogy software would be discontinued. I posted some professional advice to my blog readers: the only truly universal and long-lasting program for recording family history data is Word. You can read that blog post here: https://genealogyexecutive.com/2015/12/09/protect-your-genealogy-when-software-discontinued/
Now a reader has written to ask me about moving their family history data to Word. What does this look like, they want to know? How do they get started?
~ Word to the Wise
Please keep in mind, taking thousands and thousands of names and records that have been entered into a databases over a period of DECADES is not something that you can just cut and paste into Word all at once. At least, I can’t. I can’t just open a blank Word doc and start entering or cutting and pasting from a genealogy program. That would take me hundreds of hours to untangle the mess!
Instead, to get started moving your family history database from family history software to Word, there are a few shortcuts that I use, instead.
**Please note: I came up with this little process after asking around for years and never being quite satisfied with other methods out there for organizing genealogy in narrative format or word processing programs, so please, if you use it, mention you got it from me, will you? Thanks! 🙂
~ What I Do
Here’s how I am transferring my relative’s LARGE database from genealogy software to Word:
1) First, I make an RTF file of the individual’s paternal and maternal ancestry (an “Ahnentafel”) that includes all notes and footnotes but excludes images, leaving out the first living relative who compiled the database, and starting with the researcher-relative’s parents, thereby cutting the two sides of their family tree in half so that I can make two separate files. (Otherwise, the computer has a meltdown when I try to make one gigantic Ahnentafel with everybody in it!) Obviously, I can skip this division if the family file is very small.
2) I import this file to Scrivener
3) I use Scrivener’s “split” feature, which divides the huge Ahnentafel file into separate generations with their own folders–thanks to Scrivener’s “Command-K” shortcut, this takes mere seconds. I simply put my cursor next to each generation and hit “command K” to start a new file, as this video shows:
4) Next, I cut and paste the former genealogy software’s endnotes into Scrivener’s footnote fields, since Scrivener makes footnoting easier than Word does. I can then export the document into Word when I am done, where the footnotes will be perfectly formatted per Word footnoting conventions.
5) I then look at what my relative has done for each ancestor and make a list of things I need to do to clean up and perfect their work before I export the data from Scrivener into Word.
I spend a LOT of time editing erroneous citations, or moving a lot of data from “notes” into an actual family history narrative–things that the relative had culled and filed away in the notes section but not realized were actually helpful evidence. I also highlight and/or re-do questionable research, and go in search of records for unanswered questions. It is slow going!
My task list usually includes research, looking up records, and fixing footnotes. As I go, I refer often to my handy dandy copy of Evidence Explained so I can cite my findings properly, because as I look up and verify evidence, records, and relationships in this narrative and then straighten out the data and its footnotes, the information in this pedigree goes from heresay to verified!
I also refer often to Numbering Your Genealogy as I go, just in case the genealogy software didn’t do its job properly when it numbered tricky relationships.
But Scrivener is my greatest bridge to porting everything from the genealogy software to Word–I would be lost without it! Here is what my screen looks like as I work in it:
Note how I organize my ancestors into Scrivener’s files and sections, numbering them according to Ahnentafel structure to keep them organized.
6) Then in the media folders below the ancestor folders (not visible here), I store the ancestors’ records so I can pull them up and look at them while I am crafting their citations, etc.
So as you can see, I basically keep the project in Scrivener for the duration I am cleaning it up and organizing it as it transitions, then I export it into Word only after I feel like it has been sufficiently scrubbed from the effects of the database it used to inhabit (for example, all the “” are gone).
This is because Scrivener makes it easier for me to see each generation at a glance, as well as each footnote at a glance, and I can also pull up each record while I am entering its data much more easily in Scrivener than I can with Word, so this is my go-to program for transferring genealogy files from genealogy software to Word. It is my go-to for many other types of projects, too, but this is one of its many uses! 🙂
Then, once everything is all cleaned up and organized, I can export this family’s file into Word–Scrivener will send it to Word as all one file, divided into chapters. A book, basically. But for now, it is a collection of separate files in Scrivener to make my editing process much easier–I love it!
I hope this helps anyone else out there who is contemplating protecting your family history data by preserving it in Word! If you have any questions about this type of project, please feel free to contact me! 🙂
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