Goodbye to a 30 Year Friend – PAF to RootsMagic

When I first installed PAF back in the 1980s on my old CPM machine, everyone at the local Family History Center was cautiously curious. I worked in the computer industry and they wanted to see how this new-fangled computer software thing worked.

I loved PAF. It allowed me to organize my information.  I probably didn’t use it exactly correctly, because I typed everything into the notes field which was, thankfully, of unlimited size.

I later discovered I should have been using source fields and such, but I’m not even sure there was a source field initially.

When the Mormon Church discontinued support for PAF in 2013, I was greatly saddened, not because the software had been free and I was now going to have to purchase software, but because I knew that software so well and was so comfortable using it. I didn’t want to have to take the time to evaluate and learn anything else.  To me, software is only a tool and the tool I had was fine.

So, I’ve used it for the past 2+ years unsupported, but I know full well that with the advent of new operating systems, one day it’s not going to work anymore and I surely don’t want to have a crisis and have to adapt on top of a crisis situation.  I knew it was better to be proactive.

Recently, I had a forced upgrade to Window 10 with the purchase of a new laptop, and I need my genealogy on my laptop. I mean, you never know when you’re going to need to refer to your genealogy!  If you think I’m kidding, I met one my closest cousins, Kathy, at a client site about 15 years ago (how can it have been that long???) completely by accident and yes, we compared our family trees on my laptop.  I just remember wondering if our unknown “cousinhood” was the reason we got along so well.  We went on to become and remain very close friends.

I evaluated several software packages, but it came down to two, Legacy and its competitor, RootsMagic.  I selected RootsMagic for a few reasons.

  1. I asked several people with large data bases if they had problems when they converted. Specifically, anyone with large notes files, if the entire notes file came over, or they lost data. The reviews were unanimously and overwhelmingly positive for RootsMagic, with data bases far larger than mine with its 37,000+ records.
  2. RootsMagic had everything that I wanted but without being overly complex, cluttered or busy.
  3. RootsMagic was intuitive to use.
  4. RootsMagic felt very PAFlike to me in terms of screen layout and functions, just PAF on steroids.
  5. RootsMagic offers a “RootsMagic for PAF Users Guide” which made me feel better.

paf bye

So, here’s my last look at PAF on my computer. I feel a bit guilty, like I’m abandoning an old friend or an old car that has served me so well for a very long time.

paf tombstone

I imported my file into RootsMagic which took an amazingly short time, so short that I was sure there was a problem. There wasn’t.  I checked notes, they were there.  Now obviously I can’t check all 37,000+ records individually, but some of the larger ones are there and intact – all of the records I checked were fine.

rootsmagic hello

Here’s my first look at the equivalent screen in Rootsmagic. I was very pleased to see that my all-caps first names for my direct line ancestors had come over as all-caps.

And guess what, the first I thing I see to do is something that has been bugging me forever. I discovered that my grandparents had a child that died, but when I added the child, PAF put them at the end of the list.  Yes, that could have been changed, but it wasn’t easy nor intuitive, so I never did.

rootsmagic rearrange children

Well, it’s easy and intuitive now and I fixed it with ‘move up’ and ‘move down’ arrows. Yes, I like this software already.  Little triangles pop up, discretely, if there is something you need to look at.  I clicked on the one for this child.

rootsmagic problem list

It told me I hadn’t added the sex for the child, and I hadn’t because I don’t know the sex of the child.  Thank goodness not many of my entries have problem lists, and the ones that do are short.

But hey, look, I’m already using two new features I didn’t have before.  I think I like RootsMagic.

Next, I printed RootsMagic for PAF Users which equates PAF functions to RootsMagic functions in the lingo of the PAF user, and went through this document step by step.

All in all, less than an hour and I’m up and running and feeling confident. I have changed the children’s birth orders in several families, edited a few things and now all I have to do is to keep myself from going back and looking at PAF, out of habit.  Goodbye really needs to be goodbye.  Goodbye old friend!



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50 thoughts on “Goodbye to a 30 Year Friend – PAF to RootsMagic

  1. LOL You sound like a happy camper cuz! I’ve been using Bruce’s family tree software since back in the day of doing genealogy software reviews–love it then as Family Origins and it’s still the best now. Tried Legacy it is not, IMHO, intuitive at all and over the top for my preferences. Roots Magic has always tried to stay with the times and even has the ability to add DNA info for your participants as well! 🙂 Have fun!

  2. I have had FamilyTreeMaker for 25 years or more, and recently moved to RootsMagic hoping they would be the ones to eventually sync with Ancestry’s online databases. For once, my instincts turned out to be right, but I also downloaded Legacy as a backup. I actually prefer Legacy’s interface, RootsMagic seems outdated and a bit clunky, but for me, it’s all about who will sync with Ancestry. I don’t really care what it looks like, just that it syncs.

      • Divorce is under the “add a fact” pull down menu. If there is only one divorce for the person, I use “divorce”, but if there is more than one, I use “divorce filed” with the dates. Searching is like hunting for an Easter egg, but I click on the Search tab at the top in the interface, then on “person list” and then in THAT interface (found that egg yet?) I click on “name find.” Why couldn’t they have just added a “name find” to the basic interface?

  3. Could Family Tree Maker files to converted to this program?  I need to decide on a new program before mine expires. Frances Willess

  4. Roberta,
    I too, started with PAF back in the 1980’s. Eventually transferred over to online tree and purchased their Family Tree software in order to have a copy on my laptop. With Ancestry discontinuing support for their software, I switched over to Roots Magic thanks to your reviews and other online reviews. Unfortunately ran into problems with Family Tree. This was probably operator error on my part due to transferring from Ancestry Tree to a gedcom, combining two trees on Family Tree software, and gedcom back to Ancestry. I found discrepancies in some of my references. I’m now going through every individual and checking references. I’m also saving every reference file from Ancestry to my laptop. Ancestry use to be my ‘master’ tree. Now Roots Magic on my laptop will be my ‘master’ with a gedcom copy to Ancestry to, as one individual put it, ‘to fish for relatives. So far, Root Magic is great!

  5. Wy did you not consider Ancestral Quest. My understanding is that AQ is the first cousin of PAF and is supported.

    • It’s not one of the packages recommended by the people who have very large files and extensive notes whose data converted well. No other reason. I really don’t want to find out years down the road that my data was lost or partially lost.

    • Bill, that is correct. For a history of PAF and Ancestral Quest, see the following links:
      When I worked in’s Worldwide Support as a volunteer administrator in 2007-2008, we knew then as we were rolling out the internet-based “new.FamilySearch” that PAF was going away. We just didn’t know when. The Worldwide Support Zone was still supporting PAF but it hadn’t been updated in years. At the time we, as support leaders, were meeting with vendors to discuss the many changes taking place. Rumors were flying. It was basically a corporate decision to abandon PAF which wasn’t made until our new director was appointed.

      I’m one of many who recommend RootsMagic, the software I personally prefer. I’ve owned and used PAF, Legacy, Ancestral Quest, and Family Tree Maker. As a volunteer instructor at FamilySearch’s Training Zone in 2011-2012, I taught new volunteers how to use PAF even though we knew it was going away soon.

      Keep in mind that newer generations of computer users prefer online-based software. They don’t keep personal copies of their family tree and therefore don’t require genealogy software. I’m forecasting that all genealogy software is now a thing of the past and will one day be used by very few people.

    • I know that eventually it won’t work anymore and felt like since I was installing a new platform, that time might be now and I would eventually have to move anyway. I’m trying to make lemonade our of lemons, really.

  6. Thank you for this. I was delighted to read of PAF moving to RootsMagic. PAF was my first software package. I loved/still love it. I had been test driving RootsMagic and when I got your email just now that sealed the deal. So I bought RootsMagic 7. Thanks again for sharing.


    Louise Smith


  7. I have used Family Tree Maker for many years; however, I NEVER synced to Ancestry, so that was not an issue for me. I just download my tree to Ancestry and attach it to my DNA. With Ancestry’s initial announcement, I purchased both Legacy and Roots Magic. I have decided to go with Roots Magic, but haven’t pulled the plug yet. It’s on the to-do list and will hopefully be accomplished in the next couple of months. Still have more webinars to watch. I’m glad to see it is your choice, Roberta … gives me more confidence in my decision. I love the Roots Magic Facebook group. They are all so helpful and knowledgeable.

  8. I too started with PAF 1.0 on my Commodore 128 using CP/M. A friend gave me that copy and the MS-DOS version, which I tested at work. The day my database outgrew my 80 KB floppy drive was when I had to decide on an $800.00 HDD for the Commodore or an IBM PC w/80MB HDD at $1,000.00. I went w/the PC with a green screen because color monitors were so expensive, buying one when the prices dropped. Like you everything went into notes, including source info. About ten years ago, I moved to Legacy and began moving sources from notes to the proper fields. And taking advantage of all the new features, including DNA info. The database is now 35,000 individuals and I collaborate with a cousin in MN having self-published a 2-vol 1,650+ ppg book w/Cerlox or hard cover: index, TOC, 35 ppg B&W and color photos and list of sources. It’s been fun. Good luck with Roots Magic. I checked that, The Master Genealogist and others. Felt a pang of loss saying goodbye to PAF but it still resides on my computer so I can view the files.

    Never miss your postings, always find them helpful and interesting to read. I’ve even share some with fellow researchers. Best wishes.

  9. Can’t believe it’s 30 years! Roberta, you said it all … nice stuff about PAF, which never will be replicated in any other genealogy program … too many bells and whistles these days.

    I’m still using good ol’ PAF on my good ol’ PC, “cold”, i.e. not connected to the web and without support, other than running to the local Family History Library when I have a panic question for my long-time guru there. I know it’s flying without a net and the day will come when everything stops. Meantime, when I need to, I move data in .rtf on a flash-drive to my less-old MAC laptop and send attachments which can be read by my correspondents as WORD files. I hear someone muttering “horse and buggy technique there”. Giddyup Nellie!

  10. What specs did you have for the laptop you chose to handle all your info? What did you actually get, and were there any close runners up?
    Thank you,
    A “newbie” who knows she needs something better!

    • Hi Donna,

      My specs might be a bit different were I using the laptop for a primary PC, which I’m not. I use my laptop when I travel for presentations, e-mail and mathematical work with rather large data files. I was more interested in a decent keyboard, lots of memory, a good quality screen and a large solid state disc than I was anything else. Plus, this new laptop had to be lightweight and small enough to fit into a “bag” so I don’t ever have to leave a laptop bag in a car again. Now, I just have a larger purse that is also my laptop bag. I would suggest going someplace like Best Buy and telling the technicians what is important to you. I have always found them very helpful and that’s where I bought my laptop.

  11. Roberta, If you have questions there is a very active Facebook page as well as a mail list on Rootsweb. And if you go to the RootsMagic website there you’ll locate users groups. As a person who started one here I can tell you we, as a group, have learned a lot together. I highly encourage users groups. And, there are tons of free videos on the website too. Time and effort and you’ll be a power user in no time!

      • Sorry I meant the program MacKiev who have bought FTM from Ancestry. The PC version of 2014 FTM in MacKiev is due for download soon They say they will take over where Ancestry left off. This is the program I was wondering about. Thank you. Your newsletters are always extremely interesting

        • Since I’ve never been a FTM user, I can’t comment from the point of experience, so I don’t know. I do know that a lot of people were very happy to hear that announcement. I have not verified, but I understood that the MacKiev employees are the FTM employees so this is just a type of continuity.

  12. I think it is more important to know how to use the features available in your software than to adopt software for which you don’t know how to use the features. However, sometimes we come to a fork in the road and must move on from an old friend. I’ve use REUNION on Macintosh for years, but stopped using it a few years ago to try Family Tree Maker because I could sync to Ancestry. I never warmed to FTM, and was almost glad when Ancestry announced they were dropping support for it. I went back to Reunion, updated to version 11, and am so glad I did. It works for me and I know its feature set – and can figure out how to use the features I seldom use or have never used. Using Dropbox I use the same files on two desktop computers, a laptop, and an iPad. In this case, I came back to an old friend and don’t plan on switching.

  13. I just got through talking with Cina at Roots Magic, and will be downloading as soon as I can get my new PC set up. I figured that if you are happy with it, its got to be good.

    • I think RootsMagic is like anything else – it takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve formed other habits for the past 30 years:) I’m not yet proficient but I’m getting there.

  14. Love the headstone!

    I converted to RootsMagic many years ago, when FTM was tampered with too much over time. Unfortunately, the conversion left me with truncated information in many instances, which I still have to go back and repair (an FTM issue, I believe). I have not had any real issues with RM. It gets it done! I also like the regular updates and communications.

  15. I’m stuck with several GEDCOMs that are too old to open in Family Tree Maker v.12. Some of them were built in PAF. Trying to make the least annoying choice when I upgrade to Windows 10. Any suggestions? Any one?

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  17. I have been looking at genealogy software as my entire tree is contained on Ancestry and I have nothing saved on my home computer. Doing some research, I realized I probably need a backup as well as more control over my work. I had Legacy a long time ago but I don’t remember it much, only that it seemed complicated. Roberta, do you still use RootsMagic and what do you think of it, now that you’ve had some time to use it?

    • I still think I made the best decision, given the options I had. I think RootsMagic is relatively easy to use, as compared to the others that I test drove. I still liked PAF best, but that’s no longer an option. The one thing that RootsMagic does well is to import accurately a relatively large GEDCOM file complete with the notes.

  18. I am still using RootsMagic (Version 7) too, but I am eagerly anticipating the debut of McKie’s Family Tree Maker 2017 and the feature that will allow us to once again sync to’s records. If it works, I will be going back to FTM for the sync feature, even though I love RootsMagic and its simple, easy interface.

    • For someone who wants to coordinate the two and keep them in sync, that’s probably a good option. In my case, I absolutely do not want my main tree on Ancestry. My tree there is a skeleton tree of direct ancestors only. There is also no ability at Ancestry to record the extensive notes I have in my home system, and I would certainly never want to love those.

      • I downloaded RootsMagic and am familiarizing myself with it. I also downloaded my GEDCOM from Ancestry and successfully imported it into RootsMagic. As far as the media gallery goes on Ancestry, is it possible to download the entire library of images at once or do I have to download each one individually? Can you even do it at all?

      • For anyone reading this thread, these features mentioned by Roberta, Lydia, and Laura ARE available. Now that RootsMagic v.7 syncs with your Ancestry tree, you can now download your entire Ancestry tree, including media files, to a new RM7 database. You can also upload your entire RootsMagic-7 database, including media files, to a new Ancestry tree. Unfortunately, you cannot upload or download to existing trees. You must start fresh. Once you’ve uploaded or downloaded your entire tree, then you can sync changes, including media files and notes. Your large notes files do indeed upload quite well. They are also kept private and are not viewable by anyone other than you (the owner) and those to whom you grant Editor privileges. To access your uploaded or synced notes on your Ancestry tree, do the following:
        1) Open your Ancestry tree
        2) Click the person whose notes you want to view
        3) Select Profile to view that person’s profile
        4) Click Tools / View Notes

        Your RootsMagic (former PAF) notes will appear as a popout sidebar. The formatting may not be exactly as you wish but all your notes should be there, no matter how extensive. There is a tab at the top of this popout window to select either notes or comments. These two are separate, one public, one private, so don’t confuse the two.

  19. I also am loathe to give up PAF, but so far haven’t found anything that transfers all my Notes and Sources, as well as all that info saved in the sources file. And everyday, I am getting more nervous about those 23,000 + stories and how to save them EASILY. Shall search for ROOTS MAGIC right now. Thank You.

  20. What I’m wondering is if there is a way to show a father and mother who were not married, and to NOT have to show them as SPOUSES. There are several of these in my tree. Also I have a couple of SAME SEX marriages (with children), and what to show them also as they actually are, not as “society” would like them to show. Thanks

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