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Tuesday's Tip - Why Bad Things Happen to Good Notes (Intermediate)

Why Bad Things Happen to Good Notes

Tuesday's Tips provide brief how-to's to help you learn to use the Legacy Family Tree software with new tricks and techniques.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good Notes (Intermediate)

There are a few scenarios that will cause strange things to happen in your note fields. I am going to explain what these things are and how to avoid them. 

First things first
The first thing to understand is that Legacy's main function is as a database (think MS Access) and not as a word processor (think MS Word) so the build-in word processor in Legacy is basic. However, you can control fonts and font sizes as well as some basic attributes such as Bold, Italics, Underline and Superscript. There are shortcut buttons for these attributes in the Notes dialog box. You can also use the Windows shortcuts to insert them (for example, Ctrl-B for Bold). The font is controlled by Options > Customize > Fonts > Option 10.1 Screen Fonts > Notes. You can also do simple "columns" and "tables" using THIS TECHNIQUE.

Another thing to understand is that Legacy does not yet support Unicode. You can type unicode characters into the Notes field using the Window's shortcuts for those characters, but as soon as you close and reopen, your Unicode will be gone. Legacy only allows the special characters present in Western Fonts character sets. For example, I could type Łódź by using ALT-0321, ALT-0243, d, ALT-0378, but after you close the notes and reopen, you would see Lódz because the only supported character is the o with an acute accent. It is good to know this up front before you start typing a lot of special characters. The ones that Legacy supports are available on the Character Ribbon that is available next to the Notes field. You can display up to 8 characters but if you right click the ribbon you have access to all of the ones that Legacy supports. You can also change your options by going to Options > Customize > Data Defaults > Option 4.6 Quick Entry Character Ribbon.

Copying and pasting from a web browser causes weirdness in your notes
Text copied from a web browser has hidden codes that will affect how your notes read out because Legacy can't interpret them. What kind of output you get varies greatly from browser to browser so you can try using a different browser to see if you get better results. If not, the simple solution is to paste to Windows Notepad which will remove all of the hidden codes and then do a copy and paste from there into Legacy. If you do paste directly from a web browser, even if the notes look okay make sure you click the Strip HTML button which will clear some of the hidden stuff. 

I imported a gedcom and now all my notes are run together
When you import a gedcom there is a check box to Rewordwrap note fields on import. If the notes you are importing have hard carriage returns at the end of each line, such as notes from PAF 2.31 (or PAF 3.0 notes imported from PAF 2.31), you can have them reformatted into continuous lines by choosing this option. Paragraphs breaks formed by two consecutive carriage returns are left alone. The only time you would use this is if you are coming from a really old program like PAF. If the previous program didn't format their notes this way, all your notes will be run together if you checked this option. The simple fix is to do the import again but this time leave this box unchecked.

I imported a gedcom and now there is gobbly gook in my notes
When you import a gedcom you will see a check box for Put unrecognized items into the notes field. This option puts any unrecognized information into the individual's General Notes. For example, a line such as "OCCUP Bricklayer" would be put into the Notes because OCCUP it is not a standard gedcom tag. If you don't check this box, when Legacy encounters something that it doesn't understand it will give you several options.

(ADVANCED) During the Analysis pass, Legacy gathers all the recognizable gedcom tags and places them in the Import these Items box. If you find a tag you don't want to have imported, highlight the tag and click Remove, or just drag the tag from the Import these Items box to the Items not to be imported box. You can move all but the first five, basic fields. If you want to only import the five basic fields, Name, Sex, Birth, Death and Marriage, click Basic 5. All the other tags will be moved to the Items not to be imported box. (You can move any tag item back by highlighting it and clicking Include, or by dragging it back to the right window.)

Any tags that are not recognized by Legacy during the Analysis pass are placed in the Unrecognized Items box. These are usually odd, non-standard pieces of information that another program supports. If you can recognize the tag, you can map it to a standard field tag in Legacy. Or, you can always have the information placed in the Notes field so you don't lose it.

The Unrecognized Items list contains nonstandard gedcom tags that were found in the file you want to import. Often, these tags are slight variations invented by another program that are easily recognizable and can be mapped to a standard tag supported by Legacy. To start the definition process, highlight the tag you want to remap and click Map to a Recognized Tag and then choose the gedcom tag you want to map it to.

Some gedcom tags are obviously names for events such as GRAD for Graduation. To convert these tags to events and have them placed in the event list for the individual involved, highlight the tag and click Create an Event for this Tag. Legacy then prompts you for an event name (up to 30 characters). During the import, all occurrences of this tag will be changed to the defined event name.

Unrecognized tags that have been mapped to existing tags, or mapped to an event name and moved to the Import these items list, can now be removed from the Import these items list by dragging them back to the Unrecognized items list or the Items not to be imported list.

You can try a pass with the Put unrecognized items into the notes field box checked to see what happens. What does happen totally depends on how well the program or website adheres to the accepted gedcom standards. I will tell you that if you are importing from a website, expect serious gobbly gook. Websites do not create good gedcoms. Genealogy programs do a much better job but some better than others so you have to experiment a bit. If you are getting a lot of gobbly gook it is worth learning how to manipulate the gedcom import (ADVANCED).

I hope this information saves you some frustration and will help you format your notes correctly.


Find tech tips every day in the Facebook Legacy User Group. The group is free and is available to anyone with a Facebook account.

For video tech tips check out the Legacy Quick Tips page.  These short videos will make it easy for you to learn all sort of fun and interesting ways to look at your genealogy research.

Michele Simmons Lewis, CG® is part of the Legacy Family Tree team at MyHeritage. She handles the enhancement suggestions that come in from our users as well as writing for Legacy News. You can usually find her hanging out on the Legacy User Group Facebook page answering questions and posting tips.


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I keep getting extra spaces in a line of information. Could this be the cause, importing from a website? Sometimes it cuts words in half and give extra spaces. I didn't notice this at first and now to go back and fix all these errors would be next to impossible. In future I will definatly strip the HTML and rewordwrap note fields. Thank for the article!

When I copy and paste from Word, the titles that are bold in Word are not bold in Legacy. How can I fix that?

All formatting has to be done within Legacy itself. It is a basic editor and it can't "see" the formatting in MS Word.

Yes, the wonky stuff you are seeing are coming from those hidden formatting codes.

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