TMG Start-up Tips

(Note: This was written for TMG v4.x although the principles also apply to TMG v5.x, v6.x, and v7.x).

Because many new users of  The Master Genealogist seem to be almost overwhelmed by the fullness and flexibility of TMG and have expressed concern about how to work the program, I thought I would write up some pointers on the program.  Some users will have gone through the Tutorial in the User Guide and will be somewhat familiar with the program, yet still have qualms about what to do. The following are my recommendations for quickly learning TMG.

If you haven't worked through the Tutorial in your manual, by all means try it. It will really help you learn much of  TMG using the SAMPLE dataset. After you have finished the Tutorial, create a new dataset that you can practice with and try out some of the things that you learned in the Tutorial. This should be a dataset that will have some of your own data (say three or four generations, about 12 to 18 persons) for familiarity. The plan is that you play with this dataset and try things out. So if you somehow goof and can't figure out what you did wrong, you can just erase part or all of the dataset and you won't have really lost anything of value.  I keep a backup of the basic dataset so that I don't have to completely start from scratch if I really foul things up.  I have restored a number of times -- mostly just because I can.  However,  I don't make regular backups of this dataset as the basic dataset is all I need.

I called my practice dataset "PRACTIS" and keep it in its own sub-directory/sub-folder off the root TMGW directory/folder. Actually, I have a sub-directory/folder called "DATASETS." In this directory/folder I create a directory/folder for each of my datasets.  This puts all of my datasets together in one area.  The path then for my practice dataset is: \TMGW\DATASETS\PRACTIS\."

As you create the new dataset, TMG asks for the name and sex of the first person to be entered in the dataset. This can be anyone you wish and can be changed later.  Although you can start a dataset with anyone (my main dataset has my three-great-grandfather as person number one), put yourself in this dataset as person number one. After you click on the OK button, TMG will create the basic dataset and show the Person View for the person you entered.  The Person View will show just your name (or the name you entered) and sex indicating the ID number a 1.  

Now add the Birth tag with your birth data assuming you entered yourself a person number one(if you entered someone else then enter that person's information).  I will assume you have a copy of your birth certificate (get one if you don't as you will want it for your files sooner or later); so add a citation to the tag referring to your birth certificate. Of course, this means that you will have to add it to the Master Source List.  Until about twenty years ago, source citations for genealogy were rarely used.  Since then, it is beginning to be used much more and is required by many publications and societies.  Of course, if your source isn't a birth certificate, use and enter what you have.

After adding your birth tag, you can add other tags as you feel appropriate. One of those will likely be your spouse or parents or children. I'd recommend you add spouse(s) before adding children as it tends to be smoother that way although you can add children first if you desire.  Just click on the Add Person icon (the stick figure with the plus sign), select the relationship that you want to add and start entering the information that you have.  TMG will ask for the Mother (Father) of the child, just chose the right one or tell TMG to defer that until later.

If you enter children of a father (or mother) before first entering the father/mother's spouse, then when you add the spouse, the father (mother) will appear to have two spouses and the spouse may or may not show as the children's mother.  If this occurs, just go to the Person View of each child and enter the spouse as the in the appropriate Mother (or Father) slot (Primary parents) at the bottom of the screen.

Remember that although you may enter birth and death data for a new person, the source that you cite may or may not contain some or all of that data. So you may want to leave that data blank even if you know it, and add birth and/or death data later. While you can add many source citations to any tag, you should only cite sources for a new person (in the Add a Person screen) which give information on all entered data. For example, when entering a new person, you decide to use the Birth Certificate as the source. So if the person has also died, you will not want to use the Birth Certificate for the death data source. Thus it is best in this case to leave the Death data empty and enter a Death tag later with the data and citing the proper source. On the other hand, if you have the person's Death Certificate, you might want to use it as the sources of all data on a new person (keep in mind that birth data noted on a death certificate is often incorrect - thus the Surety for this data may be not the same as for the death data).

When entering a new person as a spouse, the source that you cite on the new person screen is automatically added to the marriage tag. So, if you want a different source, you may need to delete the automatically added source for the marriage tag and add the correct one. On the other hand, if you decide to retain that citation, be sure to review the sureties and update those as needed.

Keep adding new family members in this manner. I used myself and my family, then added my parents and  then my grandparents. With this, I had a fairly good four generation family with which I was very familiar which I could use with the Custom Report Writer.  Later, I added aunts, uncles and cousins to have a fuller dataset and to try some particular report or TMG feature.   Keep in mind that the practice dataset doesn't need full data on every person.  You want just enough to try different things in TMG.  You can always add data later as you need it for testing a particular feature or report..  I eventually added my great-grandparents.   But for their birth and death data, I just used whatever dates and places happened to pop into my mind at the time.

To get familiar with the various tags used in TMG, go to the Person View of an individual for which you have a large amount of data (I used myself). Then start adding as many tags to that individual as you have data. When I tried this about eight years ago, I was coming from a very popular but limited genealogy program and was trying to find where the limit was in TMG (there isn't any! [Well, there is, but it is dependent on your computer]). I finally gave up after adding some 70 or more tags (and I have heard of more). This may seem like a lot of work and I have to agree that it is.  I wouldn't add that many now, but I learned a great deal about the capabilities of TMG and how best to organize the data. Therefore, I think anyone could learn TMG quickly in this way although I don't recommend trying to add more than a few tags to any one person in a practice dataset. Of course, you will want enough to get a good idea of what is going on, but save the major effort for your  real dataset.

While you're doing all this, don't be afraid to try some of the different features of the program. For example, investigate the various hot keys. Hot keys are discussed on pages 56 & 57 of the Getting Started Manual and are the subject of a couple of other pages here on my website (including some downloadable "cheat sheets" and keyboard templates). Also, other hot keys are shown on TMG's drop-down menus. You won't learn all of these at once, of course. But, as you use them more and more, you'll find yourself entering data and navigating the program more quickly. You will decide for yourself which views (Person, Family, and Tree) that you wish to use. All three are useful for different things; however, I usually add or delete persons in the Tree View and then most other work in Person View.   I seldom use the Family View, but that doesn't mean that you won't find it useful.

After you finish entering a person or a family, you will want to print an Individual Narrative for that person or perhaps a Descendancy Narrative for one, two or three generations. These will give you an idea of how the tag sentences work. You can now go back and edit the sentence in any tag to make it print the way you want. Again, play with changing a sentence or two at first, and see what happens. Then maybe change some more and see how they do. As you get used to how the sentence structures work, you can change them as you add tags and this will speed up your use of TMG..

Keep in mind that TMG comes with some sample Report Definitions designed for use with the SAMPLE dataset.  Many of these will be exactly what you want.  So don't be afraid to use them.  However, follow the suggestion when you select one and make a copy, changing the Configuration Name (Report Definition name) to ensure you can find it again.  If you get it confused and want to start over, you will still have the original sample report to use again.  Also you can have many reports for the same basic report (keep the name different to help finding the right one when you want it).  For example, you may have three Reports Definitions with exactly the same options selected with only the Destination being different.  Or maybe it is for different persons or groups, or show basic data in one report and full data in another.  You may have as many as you wish

After you've done all this and hate to "waste" all that work you have just done, you can copy the dataset to a new dataset with a different name and directory (folder).  You can also merge the copy  with another dataset (your main dataset from another program?).  Merging is very easy although it may appear to present you with a large "clean-up" effort afterwards, but you'll be surprised how quickly such work will go.  Other articles on this web site discuss merging datasets.

Finally, you will want to have at least one backup of your practice data set.  So be sure to make one now.  Other backups of your practice dataset may be made as you think best.  As I noted above, I rely heavily on my basic backup with some later backups now and then dependent partly on what I might want to keep for testing purposes if I haven't completed some project.

One final comment is to recommend that you create a backup of your System Configuration.  This backup will contain the settings and options you have chosen in the System Configuration screen along with your Toolbar and your Report Definitions.  This backup comes in handy if you have to re-install or re-start TMG for any reason (computer crash, install TMG on a new computer, or the rare repair of your TMG program/dataset.  In most cases, just manually making that configuration changes from the original is trivial.  But there are often some that you might not remember and will wonder later how you got it different before.  Most importantly, your custom Report Definitions are only saved in the System Configuration backup and not with your data set.

Most new users of The Master Genealogist will import data from other programs. This may be either through the direct method from the actual files of the other program using the GenBridge feature of TMG or indirectly through a GEDCOM file. In both cases, you will want to review the data in TMG and see how closely it is to what you had in your other program. Each import of data will always create a new dataset and will overwrite a dataset of that name. Since you want the best possible import of your data, you may wish to import your data two or more times using different import settings. Remember that it is a lot easier to get the import right at first than to discover later after you have done a lot of work that something didn't import as you wished.

As with any program, data imported from another program will always require some editing with the amount varying from dataset to dataset. In most cases, you may use the imported data "as is" with very little editing.  However, you should also realize that most imported data will not take full advantage of the strengths of TMG without some editing.  Again the amount will vary from user to user.  Also each person in a dataset will vary as to how much work will be needed.

To help in the editing process, you should create a custom Flag to help keep track of what has been edited or "cleaned up." Often I may have several flags for purposes like this as I may work on a number of projects at the same time. As I finish a project, I delete its assigned flag.  When a flag is created, you may assign many possible settings to it of which one is always the default. Thus if you create an "Edited" flag, you would allow it to have a default setting of N(o) and an alternate setting of Y(es). Then as you edit or "clean up" each person in the dataset, you would change the "Edited" flag for that person to "Y."   Then as you progress through the dataset on your project, you can use the Custom Report Writer to generate a List of People (or other)  report based on a setting of the "Edited" flag.  Also as you display the Person View of an individual, you can readily see if you have edited this person.

Comments to: Lee Hoffman.

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