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Customizable input templates for "Free Form" citations.

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#1 Mike Power

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 02:02 AM

My suggestion: For the introduction of customizable input templates for "Free Form" citations.

RM source templates (RM-provided or user-created) allow for prompt data input and provide 100% consistency in expression, punctuation, etc
  • but, as has been discussed in these forums, cause considerable problems for GEDCOM export.
Free form templates, on the other hand are readily exportable but can be an utter pain for data input and for ensuring consistency in expression.

It would be great if, under the "Source Details" section of the "Edit Source" screen for a free form source, one could customise a set of fields to enable the quick input of variable information
  • rather than having to type in that and the text/punctuation each time as is the case now
Some further explanation:

With the advent of RM4 I crafted a fairly swish set of source templates. Because of the export issue, however, I decided to stick with the free-form format.

I have a set of thirty or so free-form sources which provide for around 98% of my requirements.

I guess I'm what's called a "lumper". I follow a simplified format, eg:

Footnote/short footnote: Registration certificate issued by (BDM Agency name), City, State/Province
Source details: (Format) of certificate: (event) of (Name) registered at (place), (registration number)

With my subscription to a UK-based research service ending recently, I downloaded over 150 census and Church records.

Faced with the mind-boggling task of having to enter the source for each into RM, I created a template in an Excel spreadsheet to enable me to assemble the information.

The variable data is entered in column of cells and is all assembled in a single cell which contains the set text/punctuation and formulae to pick up the variable data. It has formulae to suppress relevant text if an input cell is empty - and a macro button to clear the data entry cell when finished.

The result is simply copied across from the "formula" cell to the "Source Details" for the particular free form source in RM.

It now takes me no time at all to assemble a citation.....and the structure, punctuation, etc, is consistent.

I've gone on to create similar templates in the Excel file for church records, burials, State/Provincial BDM certificates and index entries, etc.

What I've done in effect, is to simply emulate what can be done in RM for the creation of new sources from the built-in templates: adding or editing fields, specifying parameters to create text, etc.

What occurred to me is that it would be grand if this programming capability could be extended to the free form format.

Now my understanding (and I may be wrong in this) is that the problem with exporting standard RM source citations is that the source details are exported as a series of blocks of information not recognised by other programs.
  • whereas the source details for a free form source are assembled/exported as a single string of information.
If this is so then for what I'm suggesting it would be necessary for the source detail to assemble via the template as a single string of information.

For comment....

#2 Mark Prendegast

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 02:23 AM

Great idea Mike.

Like yourself I continue to use the free form citations but I find that assembling them is an tedious chore.

I, too, like consistency.

I'm curious about the formula you use for the Excel spreadsheet. Can you post an example?

#3 Mike Power

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 02:36 AM

Hello Mark.

Thanks for your comments.
An example of the formula - the one I use for UK census returns:
Two columns - one for the heading title and the adjacent one (cell reference shown ) for the data entry;

Heading / Cell Reference
Preamble B18
Year B19
Name B20
'and Family' or 'and Household' B21
Dwelling Address B22
Census Place B23
TNA Class B24
Piece B25
Folio B26
Page B27
Schedule B28

And the formula itself which sits in cell B32

=IF(B18="","",B18)&B19&" UK census entry for "&B20&" "&B21&" recorded at "&B22&", "&B23&". "&"The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, UK: "&"TNA Class "&B24&", Piece "&B25&(IF(B26>0,", Folio ",""))&B26&(IF(B27>0,", Page ",""))&B27&(IF(B28>0,", Schedule ",""))&B28

This produces, for example, the following for the source detail:
1901 UK census entry for Peter Jenkins and household recorded at 123 Smith Street, Marylebone, London. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, UK: TNA Class 45, Piece 67, Folio 89, Page 10

The preceding footnote is: Census Returns for England and Wales

Note that pre-1911 census returns cite a Folio and Page number; those for 1911 (and possibly onwards?) cite a Schedule number.
The formula suppresses these headings if there is no data entered for them so the word "Schedule" will not appear in the text if the data entry cell for it remains empty. Ditto for "Folio" and "Page".

#4 TomH


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Posted 27 January 2013 - 09:04 AM

Mike, I, too, had proposed something along these lines - wishing for a mechanism to use the Source Templates as an entry form for Free Form. But Free Form is itself a bad compromise because it sacrifices much of the virtue of the Source Template in producing succinct Short Footnotes in RM reports. In your example, I daresay that the resulting first and successive ('short') footnotes are identical. My workaround to that was to create the !MyFreeForm3 template which is almost as transparent as Free Form for GEDCOM export while delivering succinct short footnotes within RM.

However, I also concluded that the real solution that delivers all of the benefits of Source Templates (helpful entry form, repeatability, succinct short footnotes, evidence style, and GEDCOM compatibility) is to enhance Source Templates to have editable sentence templates for the GEDCOM fields TITL, AUTH, PUBL, PAGE. Currently, RM6 has some faulty extraction algorithm that automatically parses out a sentence for TITL and one for PAGE, the latter being merely the concatenation of the Source Details fields separated by semi-colons, the former including more or less the entire sentence sans the Source Details fields - the result can be quite a mess. The current lack of support for AUTH and PUBL diminishes the support available in other software for book-like sources exported from RM. More at http://forums.rootsm...tandard-gedcom/ .

Tom user of RM7230 FTM2017 Ancestry.ca FamilySearch.org FindMyPast.com
SQLite_Tools_For_Roots_Magic_in_PR_Celti wiki, exploiting the database in special ways >>> Rmtrix_tiny.png app, a growing bundle of RootsMagic utilities.

#5 Laura


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Posted 28 January 2013 - 10:44 AM

If RM were to create a source template for Free Form sources, I sure hope he would leave the present Free Form setup or find a way to convert the Free Form sources to a new template format for me. It might prove as difficult to convert Free Form sources to Free Form template sources reliably as it is to convert Free Form sources to Source template sources.

Changing all my Sources to a Free Form template myself would be an almost impossible task. And, I would not want to have 2 of the same Master source one old Free Form and one new Free Form source template.

I created my own Free Form source templates by copying my most used Master sources types such as a Census source. And even if there was a Free Form source template, I would continue this method.

I replaced the data that changes with {Year], [County], [State], etc. Any common repository is entered.

When I wish to create a new Master source for a census, I copy the Master source template and change the data between the square brackets.

For states like Texas where I am always finding a census record in a new county, I have a separate source template with the State typed in.

In the Master source text box I entered a template for the Page number, Detail text, Research notes, and Comment boxes in the Source detail. This shows up in the right pane when I am entering Source details. I can copy and paste from the right pane into the Page number box if I wish.

Source details entries (template):
Quality: Derivative, Don't know, Indirect
Page number:
Township, P. O., ED #, page #, dwelling #, family #, person
Transcription and comments to be printed with source
Comments not to be printed in reports

This works well even when using source templates when the same changing data is being typed over and over for a same type source.