Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I Attach Media To Events

Back in January of this year, I wrote about my experience with RootsMagic 5 software. Several new features had been added to the new version of the product and I especially liked the media 'tagging' feature. I was asked by a reader if I thought it was necessary to attach media items (electronic files usually in JPEG format like photos or documents) to the events about which the media contains information. I think my reply at the time may not have been as helpful or fulsome as it should have been.

I was reminded of the media attaching and 'tagging' when genealogy blogger extraordinaire, Randy Seaver asked for some help with media attachments in RootsMagic 5 through his Genea-Musings blog. I saw Randy's request and link to his blog on Facebook and quickly replied with a description of the process I use to attach media. To my delight, Bruce Buzbee, the developer of the RootsMagic 5 software, read my reply, clicked the 'like' button and then he posted essentially the same process, although more succinctly stated, in a comment on Randy's blog. Timing is everything and I had provided a solution that met with the software developer's approval before he had a chance to the same!

Below is a partial screen shot of the 'edit person' page for my second great grandfather, Lewis Fitzgerald. You can see that there are numerous events about him and a column indicating whether there are sources cited for the stated event beside a column indicating whether there is media attached to that event. In this example, the birth event is highlighted showing that there is a note about the event, fifteen sources cited, and media attached that 'speaks' to the event. (You didn't really think I was going to post a screen shot showing no source citations or media, did you?)

I got me to thinking about that initial question posed to me. Why do I take the time to attach media items to the facts or 'events' that I have entered for an individual in my genealogy software database?

First, I should offer up that I think attaching media to events in the database is a best practice but it is not a requirement to meet some kind of genealogy standard. I have three primary reasons for attaching the media items.

1. Organization

Perhaps like you, I have accumulated at least hundreds, maybe thousands of electronic records about the ancestors in my database. Photographs, birth, marriage and death registrations, census pages, etc. I have also developed a workable (for me) electronic filing system where all of these electronic records are stored. As the collection of record files grow, it becomes ever more difficult and time consuming to find the one record file that I want to view. Record filing is all about finding what you want, when you want it. Although I use a 'filing' system and a personal standard file labeling system, and I admit that I hate filing, locating the right file can take time - and that's time away from something else, like research. Having the appropriate media or electronic file attached to the event saves time in the long run and I'm all for saving time.

2. Data Manipulation

My experience in using databases, gained primarily when I was working prior to my recent retirement, taught me that a good database allowed me to manipulate the data to provide me with a variety of ways of looking at the results. We see this in our genealogy research for example, when we plot out events from a list about a person or family onto a geographic timeline. It is another way to take the same data but see it in another way. Having the records attached to the events assists me to visually see additional clues for further leads in my research and there are many times when I need all the clues I can possibly find.

3. Reports

In most current genealogy software programs, and certainly in RootsMagic 5, I can generate reports that include the records or media attached to a person and the events in their life that I have attached to them. This is a great aid when sharing information with other researchers and with family members. Genealogy is a collaborative pursuit and the ability to share good, complete information can only help in that collaboration.


  1. I'm still getting to know RootsMagic. Having read this post I can see the importance of attaching media to individuals and events. Can you tell us how you organize and file your images/media? It seems like that system would have to be decided upon and firmly in place before attaching because if one changes the system, it would mess up the attachment, right?

    1. Nancy,

      As I understand it, RootsMagic 'stores' a link in the database to the media file on your computer hard drive. If you move a file on your hard, the link is broken. However, RootsMagic has a fix. When you open the media gallery under the 'Lists' tab and then click on the 'Tools' box, you can click on 'Fix broken media links' and the software will scan your hard rive to find the image/media file and establish the link to the new file location. If you have a lot of media files, this might take some time but it is a pretty good and easy solution. Ian