Guidance for Best Practices

I just came back to RootsMagic 8 with the intention of using it more productively. After catching up with the Webinars, I have questions that seem to fall into the category of best practices.

  1. I had multiple instances of the same years of US Census records, which after viewing examples in the webinars I decided I needed to merge (for example 11 instances of the 1870 US Census now merged into 1 source with multiple citations). I have images of specific census pages in a Media folder along with pdfs, docs, jpgs. Are they media items that I should link to the person?

  2. I have about 200 media most of which are not linked to any person. They are in a designated Media folder. RootsMagic has the correct pathname and can find them so it is not a matter of using the fix broken links utility to grab media outside this folder. I am wondering if this is the time for me to rename all the media to recognizable standardized names. If I do this will I break any links that already exist to people in the tree?

  3. Is there advice for naming media?

Here’s my reactions and opinions:
Since I am a source lumper, you may wish to do things a bit differently.

  1. Links are free, I use them abundantly:
    For example:
    I have a single Master Source for the 1870 US Census.
    The “page” field usually contains something like “1870, MA, Suffolk, Boston Ward 04 (lines 21-26) - John Strong 1835-_ and family” The appropriate media is linked to this citation. This citation then gets pasted to each person’s General Sources, as well as to Alt. Name, Census 1870, Occupation, and Residence facts. Finally, the media is linked to the Census 1870 fact for each person.
    I don’t link the census media to Master Sources, because there would be way too many links to make a useful list.
  1. Most of my stored media relate to 1 or more people, and are linked as in #1.
    Other media are images of places/buildings or maps. Those images get linked to the Place Media for each appropriate place.
  1. Media naming can be complex to address.
    ABSOLUTELY MOST IMPORTANT: use unique names for each piece of media. If 2 or more media have the same name, the Fix Broken Links won’t be able to make correct choices.
    I name almost all of my media something like this:
  • year or date
  • state or city/state or country
  • person name (birth year) - OR - person#1_&_person#2
  • annotation: headstone, obit photo, b-cert, d-record, m-index, etc, etc.
  • followed by the downloaded name (most of my images come from, FAG, and newspaper archives)
  • I keep the downloaded name under the assumption that the repository had to give it a unique name, so when I prefix my identifying info, the uniqueness remains.

23 Apr 2022 edited to fix typos

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  1. In your example of of the census record, I would link the image to the appropriate census citations, then use that citation for any of the facts that it pertains to. So if I have an 1870 Census fact, I add a source with the details for the 1870 census and attach the image. I then reuse that source for things such as Occupation and Residence. I don’t attach the image directly to the facts.

  2. Yes, if you rename the files, it will break the links to any that are currently link.

  3. The advice given along time ago on naming sources said that you should know what the image is before you open it. So I try to name accordingly. For example, a marriage record for a couple would be ‘Doe_John-and-Smith_Jane-WapelloCoIA_MarriageRecord-Book3Page234’ and an 1870 census record might be something like ‘Doe_John-and-Jane-1870FederalCensus-CassTwpWapelloCoIA’. When naming images, the first name (John Doe) would be the person I am related to, or if I am related to both persons, then the first person is the one that is most closely related.

Whatever naming scheme you elect, think it through well because changing it when you get to a few thousand images…well it ain’t so easy.

  1. RM is excellent at fixing broken media links so no problem there from changes.
  2. My media is 95% pdf files which display better on mac and are organized in family folders like smith john jones emily.
  3. Naming pattern is personal and depends on your desired file organization. I name by person and what the item is: smith john 1871 census; jones emily marriage 1890; smith john family homestead.
  4. One source described so you can find it again but not necessarily in the arbitrary anal obsessed manner of style manuals. Then cite different pages/parts for different details or people.

Doesn’t work though if the file name is changed. It only works if the file was moved elsewhere on the system.


Genealogy is person-oriented, not place or date or census or document. If the file naming contains place, date, or other names, then a search will find it. The file extension tells if it is an image or text. All my files – image or text – are going to be named:
Surname, GivenName-yyyymmdd-Where-What(often fact name)-Detail (other people, +)
Waddle, John-18500718-ED 8, Paducah, KY-US Census-Ida.jpg, or
Waddle, John-1850 Jul 18-Ed 8, Paducah, KY-US Census-Nowell.jpg

(I have noticed that genealogy dates are backward for reading from left to right. What we want to know first is what millennium we are talking about. Then, in order, the century, the decade, and the year. Following that we want the month, and the day is last and the least significant. It is sortable by computers and meets the International Standards Organization rules for dates. Just sayin’ for discussion, not change.)

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Renaming media outside RM will break the link. What has worked for me is to open RM and Windows Explorer side-by-side. In RM 8, I display the Media as a list (Top left 3-line icon) and find the same file in File Explorer. Rename it in File Explorer. In Windows 11, right-click it and click “Copy as path”. This way you won’t lose the folder part of the file address. Paste it into “Filename”. (In Win 10, you can paste to replace just the last folder part of the address.)

If you find other broken links or even want to add media to RM, you can repair the link by using “Copy as path”.

Because the caption is what shows on the Media thumbnail gallery display, you may want to paste it into “Caption” and edit it down to only the filename.

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Great info in these replies. I name my media files using Ref#_item _Person Name (last name first)_item description. Example:

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On mac you select the file…folder, right click and hold the option key to choose copy as path. Mac has much more flexible naming conventions than windows and is happy with dashes replaced by a space (smith-1980-west-covina → smith 1980 west covina).

No, they don’t. On Windows you can use spaces just as easily. Off the top of my head, the only characters you can’t use in a file name are / and .

I’d add wildcards such as * and ?.

Yep! I knew there were some that I was forgetting.

According to Wikipedia, Windows prohibits
0x00-0x1F 0x7F " * / : < > ? \ |
MacOS only : and /

As I recall, 0x00-0x1F are unprintable anyway so one is not going to be able to easily enter them when typing in a filename.

As for Mac, there are other characters depending on various libraries used by the OS. There are also other characters than have to be decomposed before being allowed.

So what it all boils down to, Mac really isn’t any better than Windows, especially for the average user that has no knowledge that anything other than what they see on their keyboard is possible…which is most Mac users.

:rofl: I have to add 20 characters for this post to be allowed! :grin:

Thanks, Richard,
That’s great!

Amusingly enough, today I was watching some videos from a software development conference and I came across this video: Plain Text - Dylan Beattie - NDC Oslo 2021 - YouTube

Some interesting stuff about the 0x00-0x1F characters and later goes into some interesting stuff that might be applicable to sorting issues that RM has in regards to characters with diacritics.

Agreed. Thoroughly enjoyed the presentation in one sitting! Thanks for that.