Bruce’s Filing Cabinet 2 – Exhibits

At the 4th Annual TMG Sydney Conference in April 2011 Bruce Fairhall, Convenor of the conference, shared with us his methods for using TMG as his filing cabinet. He gave us a four-page handout which he has kindly allowed me to share on the blog. This the the second of four posts.


1.    The system for exhibits and other references revolves around the Person ID# as allocated by TMG.  So, with my system now running I cannot totally renumber my people, but why would I want to?  Before implementing it, I moved some people around by renumbering single persons, then renumbered my whole data from ID#1 (me).  If I delete a person, or do a Merge Persons, I use that “spare” number later, by pressing F2 on the Add Person screen, then I can select and use that unused number so it’s not wasted.  So every person in my data set has a fixed ID number.

2.    All exhibits are External, and are in a folder named \Exhibits (in a customised location so I can find it easily!!).  Turn on Thumbnails and the images can be seen.  Perhaps I could have had sub-folders with Primary, Images, Certificates, Documents etc. all separated – but if I have just the one large folder I can easily see what exhibits I have for any given person.

3.    I use leading zeros so any sorting of my exhibits would put them in numerical order, and all people are nominally given 6 digits when I name my exhibits.  This was very optimistic as potentially it gave me “space” in my data for 999,999 people – probably five digits (capability 99,999 people) would have been sufficient!  So TMG Person #1234 is called 001234 for filing exhibit purposes.  Any exhibit for that person has the number 001234 at the start of its file name.  Then when that folder is sorted according to “File Name”, all the exhibits for each person are viewable together because the first 6 digits are the ID number.

4.    Exhibits are named by person Surname –Given Name then a description of what the exhibit is.  I started this a bit late and so what could be a strict naming system isn’t!  It could be very tightly defined.  So, some exhibits for our TMG #1234 could be like:

001234 Bright –John BCert 1876.jpg

001234 Bright –John MCert 1900.jpg

001234 Bright –John EngineerCert 1927.gif

001234 Bright –John DCert 1953.jpg

001234 Bright –John Biography.rtf

and so on …

5.    If I have documents (photocopies or originals) I copy them then place them into a Family Documents lever arch file with that ID# at top right, in numerical order.  So all documents relating to John Bright would be at 1234 in my folder.  Marriage Certificates are a problem, so I number by which party is closest to my line, whether the male or female (my discretion – as it’s only a system not a definitive process!!).  The folders have dividers for each thousand, and at the front is a print out (Word file) that is an index in Surname, Given Name order with the ID#.  So a marriage certificate will be indexed under both parties.  If I want to find Alfred Gumbleton, I look in the index under Gumbleton, Alfred and he is ID #3022 so at that location in the lever arch file will be any documents for him.  Likewise William Fairhall ID #2766.

6.    Other exhibits are usually attached via the relevant Tag, so Marriage Certificate, wedding groups etc. are attached to the Marriage Tag, headstone photographs to the Burial Tag etc.

7.    I really need to include original photo prints in this system, but haven’t done so yet.  It would be possible to have plastic sleeves with the prints filed again in TMG ID# order, with an index at the front.  Finding suitable plastic archival sleeves, to cater for several sizes of prints, was my main stumbling block, but I have one from Gould’s that will do the job.  Or I could combine it with my document index.  One day …

8.    I attach a primary exhibit (portrait or similar) to the person using the Exhibit icon on the toolbar.  The Reference field in the TMG Properties is the name of the person who provided it.  I also include that name in the Exhibit Description, as:  Birth Certificate – John Bright 1876 (from Fred Bright).

9.    I have some special Tags for family groups (IMG-Family), historical photos/images (IMG-Hist), Wills that are in a text (.rtf) format (DOC-Will) and so on. As my major archive is in HTML format via Second Site, my exhibits then are icons attached to the relevant Tag sentence, and can be opened easily by the viewer.

10.   I do have a few exhibits that are photos of e.g. a church used by several people, a document about a ship on which several people travelled etc.  These exhibits are given a descriptive file name so I can refer to them as needed – no numbering is included as they don’t refer to a specific person.

11.   Exhibit size for image scans or cropped photos etc. has been roughly standardised as follows:

– Scans of precious documents/photos are filed apart from TMG, full size scans in .PNG or .TIF format in 300dpi

– Primary exhibits (portraits) are scanned to 75-95 dpi, and approx. 300 pixels high (see web site) which displays as a good size image in Second Site (see web site).  Thumbnails in TMG Preferences are set to 200 pixels which is good in the TMG people data screen.

– Other exhibits are scanned 75-95 dpi, up to 950 pixels wide for portrait orientation images and up to 650 pixels high for landscape orientation.  Viewers can scan up/down or across with keyboard to view the whole image in Second Site etc.  Older monitors are 72/75dpi, but more recent monitors are closer to 95dpi – but there is little viewing difference.  My current monitor has a screen 410mm (17.4”) wide set to 1440 pixel resolution and it is therefore operating at 83dpi.

Note:  This process has been documented for sharing with other TMG users, and is not copyright or secret.  I’d appreciate suggestions as to better clarity etc. if any changes to this procedure might make it easier for others to understand it.  It is MY system, and that doesn’t mean it’s right or the best: the main thing is that it works for me.

Bruce’s website is

Next week – Inward correspondence


Using TMG with DropBox across multiple computers

I have a laptop which acts as a portable desktop, and a new (replacement) mini notebook which is more convenient to carry around. Since copying things between them is a constant source of irritation I have been experimenting with Dropbox, which copies specific files to its servers and from there to any other of your computers, and keeps them in synch.

Right now I am experimenting with DropBox to keep my TMG project/s in sync.

Dick Eastman explained the process not long ago. I want to extract some excerpts here to help me get going:

What I am about to describe is a one-time setup. Starting with The Master Genealogist installed on all three computers, I installed Dropbox on all three. Each Dropbox installation created a folder named “Dropbox” inside the “My Documents” of the installed computer. Next, I used one of my computers to run The Master Genealogist and opened the latest version of my database. Everything looked normal. I then clicked on FILE and then on COPY PROJECT. (In some other genealogy programs, the command will be SAVE AS… .) For the new file location, I specified the new Dropbox folder as follows:

\My Documents\Dropbox\The Master Genealogist v7\Eastman\

NOTE: The best location on your PC might be slightly different.

That completes my setup routine. Since I had specified to store the new database under \My Documents\Dropbox\, all files I placed there were automatically copied to the Dropbox folders on the other computers. Dropbox mirrors, or “replicates,” all files you place in the Dropbox folder. All the files and folders under \Dropbox on all of your computers will be mirror images of each other.

I then went to another computer, opened The Master Genealogist, clicked on FILE and then on OPEN PROJECT. I then specified the software to open the following on the second computer:

\My Documents\Dropbox\The Master Genealogist v7\Eastman\

The latest version of my genealogy database immediately appeared on the second computer. I made a few updates, then saved the data as normal (back to the same location: \My Documents\Dropbox\The Master Genealogist v7\Eastman\ ). All the data was quickly copied to the first and third computers.


There are two scenarios, however, that could cause problems.

First, when traveling, I do not always have an Internet connection available. It is possible to boot the laptop and become operational without receiving the latest version of the database. In such a case, I could be updating an older database. When I do later make a connection, the two versions would both show as “new” versions, and the Dropbox software would not know how to handle that. A pop-up window would appear with an error message and then would ask what to do: overwrite the local database with the remote, overwrite the remote database with the local, or do nothing. In any case, some manual “catch up” work would be required.

I almost always have an Internet connection available, either by wi-fi or with a 3G cellular data wireless connection, so the problem has never happened to me. However, it is a potential problem that can be handled easily if you stop to think about it each time you load your genealogy program.

The second risky scenario is if two people are working on the same data at the same time, using two different computers. For instance, if I am updating my genealogy database at the county courthouse with my laptop computer at the same time that someone else is using my desktop computer at home to update the database, things could become badly scrambled. Most genealogy programs are not designed for multiple simultaneous users. In my case, nobody else ever uses any of my computers, so there is no risk. However, if you share any of your computers with anyone else, you need to make sure the two of you are not updating the same file at the same time. You can both READ files simultaneously, but don’t try to make simultaneous UPDATES.

And some relevant comments that asked, and answered, the questions I had:

  • —> are your exhibits external or internal, and do you have them there as well?

Internal. But if they were external, they would also be backed up so long as they were stored someplace under \My Documents\Dropbox

EVERYTHING under \My Documents\Dropbox gets copied every time there is a change. You can place your genealogy documents there as well as word processing documents, picures, videos, income tax records, anything at all. The contents of all the folders under \My Documents\Dropbox will be copied to the other computer(s).

  • —> What about data security? Putting unencrypted genealogy data (and other personal information) anywhere off site is risky.

All data sent to Dropbox is ALWAYS encrypted first on your computer before being sent across the Internet. That is automatic and there is no need to obtain any additional encryption software. Even the Dropbox employees cannot read your files.

  • This is a great program. I have been using it similar to the way you do. It offers one additional huge plus – you can access the files on their server from any computer (without installing dropbox) by logging into your webspace (password protected). This can be an easy way to access a file on the road when you are using a company laptop on which you cannot install software.

There are a few issues with TMG that are easy to work with, but could cause difficulty if you don’t understand they interfaces. It takes a bit of time for the files to update. When I make changes on laptop on the road to my TMG dataset in dropbox folder the changes do not sync until I shutdown TMG and they take a bit of time. So the key is shutdown TMG and wait before turning off computer for the icon in the tray to show all files are syncronized. Also, you can get a failure when you run maintenance on either computer if you have exhibits because the naming convention and path may not be exactly the same to the exhibits. Solution is simple, let maintenance fix the links by adding the exhibit folder and then shutdown TMG. Same thing may then happen on other computer, but again, simply run maintenance in TMG and let it reset the paths on it. Other than these I have no difficulty. It sure is nice to know I essentially have one master set and can travel worldwide with my netbook and do whatever I want.

So, here I go:

  1. Install Dropbox on both laptop and notebook – DONE
  2. Copy project on laptop to new directory under DropBox folder.
  3. Open new project under Dropbox folder on notebook.
  4. Update file paths on both machines.

That’s it!

When I feel comfortable with how this works I’ll turn the backups off, which will, in theory, be taking up space I don’t need them to. In the meantime I’ll leave it on.

Some questions I have to resolve:

  1. How will I handle my external exhibits? Do I need them on the notebook?
  2. How will I handle client projects? I don’t really need old ones sychronised, but I don’t want to split them.
  3. Will I have to change the layout each time? (this answer is probably obvious to you already, but I want to check for myself because I can’t remember if it goes with the project)
  4. How long does it take? I suspect our internet speeds are slower than Dick’s.

Some initial observations:

  1. TMG opened the file in Repair Mode first time. While I was updating my Preferences it crashed. It’s open again now, and so far looks OK.
  2. TMG asks me about the exhibits every time it opens, so I’ll have to decide soon! [Later] Ah, of course, it’s because I’ve moved from Vista to XP, and the paths are different.
  3. It was slow to copy the project to the notebook, and wouldn’t open initially. Have to remember to give Dropbox a chance to download new files before opening TMG, or anything else.
  4. The question is Do you have a master and backups, which are there for information but you do not expect to make any changes, or do you need to be able to make changes? If I’m at the library or archives I wouldn’t, but if I’m on a research trip to Fiji I might, although I didn’t last time.
  5. Where are the project options kept? If I change the file paths on the notebook will they get synchronised back to the laptop? I really don’t need that! I’d have to create empty files in Dropbox, for backups, etc.

Extra Tags for use with Exhibits

With the exception of a Primary Exhibit, I try to place Exhibits within an existing Tag, (or add a new Custom descriptive Tag) mainly so that the Second Site output (for web use and as an archive on CD) is logical.

So, I attach an image or a transcription of a Birth, Marriage or Death Certificate to the appropriate Tag, and it thus gives the reference for the data contained there. Photos of homes are attached to the appropriate Residence Tag. The default sentences are not usually changed.

Other Exhibits are attached to the following Custom Tags, with their sentences:


PR: A Document recording details from a Biography/Eulogy of [P] <[D]>

WIT: [W] was mentioned in the Biography/Eulogy of [P] <and [PO]> <[D]> <[L]>

Note: Often the only written biography of a person is their Eulogy, so I delete the word Biography from the sentence when entered, and of course delete Eulogy if I attach a biography.


P: A copy of the Last Will and Testament of [P] <[M]> <[D]> <[L]>

WIT: [W] was included in the Last Will and Testament of [P] <[M]> <[D]> <[L]>

Note: Other researchers have extended the Roles in similar sentences, to include Executors etc. and this is an excellent idea which I haven’t yet implemented. Perhaps one of those researchers can add their updates here?


PR: [P] <was|and [PO] were> photographed <[M]> <[D]> <[L]>

WIT: [W] was included in a photograph of [P] <and [PO]> <[D]> <[L]>

Note: Appropriately dated (using exact or Sort date) this Tag allows attachments of family groups etc. If it is a special event such as an Anniversary or major birthday I include those details in the Memo. For Second Site output or family groups, I also insert an Image map using John Cardinal’s Utilities.


PR: [P] <was|and [PO] were> photographed <[M]> <[D]> <[L]>

WIT: [W] was included in a photograph of [P] <and [PO]> <[D]> <[L]>

Note: Yes, it is the same. But this Tag is used for events or objects of historical importance to that person, such a workplaces, trade qualifications etc. with appropriate content in the Memo field.


PR: An image relating to the immigration of [P] <and [PO]>

Note: Not a lot of use for this one, as it was intended for images of ships’ logs, immigrant lists etc but I haven’t made a lot of use of it. Those images could usually be attached to the relevant Immigration or Emigration Tag with an appropriate Description.


PR: A photograph of the Wedding of [P] <and [PO]> <[D]> <[L]>

WIT: [W] was included in a wedding photograph of [P] <and [PO]> <[D]> <[L]>

Note: This Tag is valuable for wedding groups and other wedding photos. I add all the group members as Witnesses and also compile an Image Map for Second Site. I add a sort date of one day after the wedding date.


PR: An image of the Will of [P] <and [PO]> <[M]> <[D]> <[L]>

WIT: [W] witnessed the Will of [P] <and [PO]> <[D]> <[L]>

Note: This is for a scanned image of a will, where an actual text version is not available. See notes for the DOC-WILL Tag

Other users’ thoughts, comments and additions to this list are welcomed!

Bruce Fairhall