What's Your Genealogy Problem? Let RootsMagic Help You Find It

Find your genealogy errors with RootsMagic

When we acquire large databases, I wonder how many times we are like the three monkeys

Hear No Problem

See No Problem
Speak No Problem

But, far too many GEDCOM files (and our own databases) are rife with errors and if we ignore them, we're like another animal. One with feathers, a long neck, and likes to stick it underground!

The first step to having reliable genealogy is to check our files for potential problems.

The most common problems in our databases are:

1. Age-Related Errors
Can a woman give birth to a child past the age of 50? With few exceptions, the answer is no.  
Can a woman give birth when she is 5? Even that's a bit too young for puberty to kick in. 
Can a man sire a child 3 years after his death in a time before artificial insemination? Nope. A child generally has to be born within 9 months after his father's death pre-AI.

2. Living After Death
Property remaining in a deceased person's name can occur, until their estate is settled and new owners scrawl their names on deeds. That's not the same as being listed as residing in a specific location after an 'apparent' death. If you have a relative appearing in a census several years after their death, you have to go and re-examine the census record and the death record to determine which one is valid.

3. Siring Children Before Birth
It's biologically impossible to create offspring before someone is alive. And yet, family trees shared online or stored in computer databases, have a plethora of these errors. Someone may become a step-parent or a guardian of someone born before them, but they are not their biological parent. As such, we want to make sure our trees do not have these obvious errors.

RootsMagic is a wonderful tool that can help us analyze our trees, or those trees shared with us by others. It does not evaluate any of your online trees, only files you have imported into RootsMagic. With that said, RootsMagic searches for the following potential problems:

  • Individuals without sex entered
  • Proper order of events
  • Birth before parent's birth
  • Birth after father's death
  • Birth after mother's death
  • Age at death should be less than xx years
  • Age at marriage should be between xx years and yy years
  • Father's age should be between xx years and yy years
  • Mother's age should be between xx years and yy years

How are you going to access this helpful tool? Follow these steps:

Finding errors in your genealogy database
Select Tools, Problem Search, then Problem List
Problem Searches in RootsMagic
Use default settings or customize
Problem List in RootsMagic
Review Your Results

RootsMagic analyzes your database based on your search parameters. If you're lucky, your problem list will be small.

Notice there are results such as "Child Webb" with Unknown sex. I know that the Webb had a stillborn child but I'm not certain of the gender. I can mark this result as "Not a Problem" and RootsMagic will remember not to show that to me again.

However, I have a lot of parents marrying after their children's birth and someone 'residing' after their death. I need to examine the details to determine what was going on. These situations might have explanations or might demonstrate someone else's (or, *cough, cough*, my) mistakes.

Few researchers want errors in their tree. Instead of being like the monkeys above and ignoring the possibility of errors, use RootsMagic's problem search feature.


  1. This is a good reminder to use that feature on Roots Magic. It’s easy to let these errors slip through.

    1. So true, and NO ONE is immune to letting errors slip in.

  2. I am just learning to use Roots Magic after I won it during your webinar.

    1. Well Patricia, I hope you're enjoying it. If you have questions, you know who to ask.

  3. I love RootsMagic! Easy to learn compared to some others. I also love that it’s a small company- somehow helps me feel more connected to the product!!

    1. So true. The owners really want to produce a top notch program that meets our needs. We just get so greedy (ha. At least I do!) They keep telling me to be more patient. I'm looking forward to when RootsMagic 8 comes out, whenever it does.

  4. I have RootsMagic, but have not yet sat down with it. I will have to revisit this post when I finally do. Really need a new laptop first... yikes! Adrienne Abiodun

    1. I had planned on doing more RootsMagic Videos until my laptop crashed. We're in the same boat there. I find the software useful. If you run into questions, let me know. I'll make some videos about the program.


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