My quest for better family history has been going for 25 years. I started as a teenager in the 90’s. Computers were just becoming “a thing” (it was a big deal to have an email address) and genealogy was just beginning to make a presence on the emerging Internet. I got A TON of booklets and charts from FamilySearch and spent hours and hours filling them out by hand. Then I put them in PAF because that was the thing to do. I got SO EXCITED when, thanks to the Internet, I found out I connected to the Plantagenets and for my dad’s birthday I gave him a pedigree chart back to Adam. I’m mortified now (because I still need to prove it and it’s probably not true) but at the time I was so proud. In 1998 my dad asked me to look into getting a website for our family genealogy. I made one, but I’ve struggled to maintain it while my research continued.

Just this morning my DNA test results came back from 23andMe and they were slightly different from the results I got in 2013. Now I’m dying to figure out where the blip of North African DNA comes in. And I am reminded that part of the reason I’m so excited about working with Dallan at RootsFinder is because I’m getting what I’ve wanted since 1998: a way for me to jump on this new information, analyze and research the heck out of it, and do better family history by breaking down the evidence, citing the sources, scouring the earth for proof and yet still sharing with my family while doing what I need to do.

Here’s how RootsFinder is helping me do better family history:

1. I’m breaking down the sources for better analysis

Even before RootsFinder, I have always had great desktop software. I have no beef with my desktop program other than the fact that my family won’t touch it…which I’ll talk about in a minute.  But when I imported my GEDCOM into RootsFinder and started using the web clipper in my research I discovered that not only is the clipper faster, but also when I put the source first (instead of the person) my view of the evidence is fundamentally changed.

With my prior software, I added an event and then cited my sources. You’d think it was the same thing as extracting information from a source, right? It’s not. By doing it that way I lost important context. It also makes it really hard to compare sources to see exactly which information is contained in my different sources, which is surprisingly important.

RootsFinder’s source-centric model keeps the evidence more intact than the way I used to do it. With RootsFinder, I can gather more information in less time and that’s important because I’m busy. I don’t have all day to do data entry. And even if I did, I don’t like spending all day on data entry.


2. I’m keeping things linked (calendars, reports, documents, and data)

Since RootsFinder is cloud-based, I can access my stuff anywhere…on my tablet, my laptop, or even my phone. When I’m up at our family ranch and my dad asks me something about our genealogy, I have not only the data to answer him, but also the documents and photos to show him because everything is linked and I have my phone, so therefore I have all my stuff. And it’s all linked together. And it’s free.

I have my research calendars and half-finished reports all tagged and linked for me because life happens and I get interrupted and then suddenly it’s been months (or years) since I worked on something and in the meantime I forgot what I named that document or what I was thinking at the time.

And it’s backed up. Although I have backups on CD’s, external hard drives, OneDrive, and an FTP file storage site (I’m slightly paranoid. I actually even still have old zip drives.) it’s not linked. I have a pretty good organization system, but it’s just easier when everything is already linked.


3. I’m doing better family history research…and breaking brick walls because of it

Because I’m using a source-centric paradigm, I can now follow the sources better, which automatically means better family history. When I run an evidence analysis report now I can see how the information changed over time. Elizabeth Shown Mills teaches about the FAN Club (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) and now I have a place to put those Friends, Associates, and Neighbors and keep the context. Now as I evaluate a person’s life I can see who else was involved, where they came from and how they impacted my ancestor’s life. It’s clean; I’m not forced to try to fit non-relatives into a family model. They’re in my database linked by the evidence and/or research calendars until such time as I see if/how they fit into a family structure. This is important to me, especially when breaking brick walls for my southern branches.

Better analysis means better family history
Leaving myself research notes like this helps me analyze the evidence. I can link them to people and documents so that as my research unfolds I remember what I was thinking and it’s all linked together. This really helps me do better family history because I can analyze and document things as I go.

4.  I’m sharing with my family…for free

As I mentioned before, I like genealogy software. But my family doesn’t. They’ve seen the charts; they’re bored. They have access to FamilySearch, but they don’t know “how to work it” and they feel overwhelmed and/or forced to do genealogy and/or guilty for not wanting to do genealogy. Really they just want the stories. Who were the pioneers? What interesting things happened to people? How did we become who we, collectively and singularly, are today? When I just put that on Facebook and/or text it, or send them a link to something they can browse around at their leisure without feeling pressured to do anything, they’re MUCH more likely to enjoy that moment. And that makes me love it even more.


5. I’m keeping control of my tree, but I can collaborate

I feel like a bad person when I admit that I hated using FamilySearch. But my head just explodes when someone changes my tree to wrong information. I’m trying to do better family history! For some reason I just get this irrational, overly dramatic, disproportionately emotional wave of “DON’T TOUCH MY TREE.” And I can’t stay on top of all the changes so I just don’t use it. But now with RootsFinder I can still benefit from good contributions to FamilySearch (like photos! YES! GIVE ME ALL THE PHOTOS!) but I don’t lose my mind when someone “hijacks” my great-great-grandfather. I just switch it back and remind myself that we all make mistakes.

These are some of the ways RootsFinder is making me a better, more efficient, researcher. Over the past 25 years I’ve learned a lot, and I’m really excited to be working with Dallan to help make family history easier to research and easier to share. I expect to live another 50 years. We, 50 years ago, could not have predicted the amazing advances in technology genealogists enjoy today. So I can’t imagine what advances the next 50 years will bring, but I expect RootsFinder to help me figure it out. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of RootsFinder and to push my own genealogy forward while helping others.



Heather is part of the RootsFinder team. Her love of family history has taken her to some pretty interesting places with many adventures since about 1991, as a professional since 2000. She's also passionate about the earth, startup businesses, and the triple bottom line. Pretty pictures & occasional fun at