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A History of the Roots Users Group of Portland, Oregon
1998 - 2008

By Norma Reynolds
January 2009

In 1988 Adell Goggins, Ruth Drake and Vince Mobley met together to discuss the ROOTS software which had been developed by CommSoft. This group of three amateur genealogists soon grew and began meeting regularly. In February 1990, the Roots Users Group of Portland, Oregon (RUGPO) was incorporated as a non-profit organization. The founding members were:

Ruth Drake
Adell Goggins
Maggie Kitts
Ellen Collins
Vince Mobley
Frances Hillesland
James Casto
Lynne Peterson
Mary “Kitty” Kier-Keating
Lee Ayer
Earl Constant
Norma Jean Drebin
Diane Seifert
Enid Burghart
Evelyn Wolfer
Muriel Battaile
Walter Black
Ilene Black
Joanne Seymour
Andrea Storm
Marlene Dopp

The Corporation was modeled after that of the RUG of Arlington, Virginia. The dues were $15 for individuals and $20 for a couple. The members at this time were using ROOTS II and ROOTS III and the book, Getting Started with ROOTS III was their bible. By this time Donna Przecha had written Understanding ROOTS III, which the group sold to members at cost. One of the chapters was entitled, Trouble Shooting: What to Do When Nothing Happens. The first members reminisced about how they knew next-to-nothing about computers and were always grateful to Jim Casto for conducting “How-to” classes. Ruth Drake’s presentations on using the software were also a valuable addition to each meeting. Another popular feature was the door prize drawing and the refreshments. The monthly meetings were held in the community room of Far West Savings Bank in King City, a suburb west of Portland.

The meetings were divided into two sessions, Beginners and Intermediate. In March 1990 the presentation for Beginners featured:

  • Starting the program with an existing basefile
  • The keyboard
  • Edit database – adding names
  • Edit database – individual record
  • Saving your basefile
  • Exiting the program

The Intermediate users studied:

  • Roots Writer and text files
  • Roots Writer commands
  • Dot commands – spacing – print fonts
  • Roots Writer Macros
  • Modifying Roots reports using a Word Processor

The first newsletter was published in August 1990 by Ron Houseman. It was packed with information about the purposes of the group, minutes of the previous meeting, a “Did You Know” column, a book review of Getting Started with ROOTS III, and an article by Richard Cleveland about the new SESAME program by CommSoft. This was a spreadsheet program designed to enhance the capabilities of the ROOTS programs.

A valuable feature of membership was the support offered by other members. Upon joining RUG each new member has access to the expertise of veteran users of ROOTS III over the telephone. These volunteer tutors have offered to help other members in techniques of using not only ROOTS but also DOS, interfacing with other genealogy programs through GEDCOM... and using the electronic bulletin boards operated by the National Genealogical Society, Prodigy, CompuServe and Genie. (From the 1991 RUG brochure)

In February 1991 Walter and Ilene Black took over as editors of the newsletter. By November of that year there were 93 tapes in the lending library with George and Ann Rutan serving as librarians. At the end of 1991 the members totaled 114. One of the articles in a newsletter was titled: Warning!!! Floppy Disk Limitations, Disregard at your Peril. Another feature described an article by Donna Przecha on “Splitting and Merging your Database”. This year also saw the start of SIG (son of RUG – SESAME Interest Group). Jim Casto was the leader of this group. Words such as “internet” and “mouse” were now being seen in the newsletters. “Dr. ROOTS” answered questions and helped everyone better understand the software. Does anyone remember what a Tiny Tafel was?

In 1992 the group was selling More Understanding ROOTS III by Donna Przecha and the membership had increased to 134. Ilene Black gave a presentation on ROOTS Writer in March. This was a separate program that supplemented the limited capacity of the main software. Blaine Whipple wrote an article on Genealogical Dates for the Nov-Dec newsletter and submitted several articles on the Whipple family in subsequent newsletters. Walter and Ilene Black resigned as editors at the end of the year and Ruth Mickelson agreed to take over as editor.

ROOTS IV became available in August 1993. It cost $195 for new users and $79 for an upgrade, “ten times as powerful, yet much easier to use”, said CommSoft. The May meeting featured Marie Diers presenting the first class of a beginning course based on the book, Using ROOTS III, by Terry and Jim Willard. This was followed by a demonstration of Pnames, Dfoot, and Pnamesort by Ruth Drake. At the same meeting Walter Black demonstrated Datecalc. Fetch Table Fun was the topic at the February meeting that year.

Articles on ROOTS IV were prevalent in the 1994 Newsletters; however ROOTS III continued to be supported by Dr. ROOTS and various newsletter articles. Footnotes were a hot topic for ROOTS IV users.

Meanwhile, technology continued to advance. With the advent of Windows, Visual ROOTS was announced by CommSoft in the summer of 1995. It was designed as a streamlined version of ROOTS IV, featuring very simple data entry while enabling the user to create a narrated slide show and take advantage of other media capabilities. Searching and Grouping and Word Perfect were popular topics in the Newsletters. ROOTS III Push and Pop was featured at the February meeting. In May Ruth Drake explained the differences between Major Footnotes, Detail Footnotes and Record Footnotes in ROOTS III.

In 1996 Family Gathering was released as an upgrade to Visual ROOTS. This was the first genealogy software with online capabilities. RUGPO added support for users of this software and the members continued to grow in their expertise. The September newsletter featured Understanding URLs and encouraged readers to create their own personal web page. By this time the Group was supporting ROOTS III, ROOTS IV, and Family Gathering, as well as general computer questions and internet use. During this year the group changed the meeting place to U.S. Bank in King City.

1997 brought newsletter topics such as how to print labels for Christmas cards using the software, a discussion of faxes (what are they, how can we use them?) and the announcement of ROOTS V for Windows. Ruth Mickelson was a popular teacher of internet use. By this time MSWord had become the preferred word processing program for most members, surpassing WordPerfect. The newsletters continued to feature a Who’s Who column and the ever-popular Dr. ROOTS. In May Ultimate Family Tree was announced. CommSoft had teamed up with Palladium Interactive to produce UFT and sell it in stores. Availability in stores was a first for genealogy software. Also a first was the news that Palladium Interactive was taking over the technical support for all the ROOTS products and the ROOTS product line would no longer be sold. CommSoft announced that it would “continue to be heavily involved with Palladium in product development, contact with the genealogical community and customer support.” New words continued to be used in the newsletters. We learned about macros, mice, software bugs, viruses, www, and html. Members had started buying laptops and were developing their own source templates.

March 1998 brought the first web page for RUGPO, developed and set up by the president, Bob Park and his students at Jefferson High School. Ruth Mickelson published an article about cookies, explaining that they were computer-type, not eating-type. In 1998 the list of volunteer tutors included Walter Black, Earl Constant, Ruth Drake, Blaine Whipple, Maggie Kitts, Ruth Mickelson and Andrea Storm. First Baptist Church in Tigard became our new meeting place and for the first time, rent was one of our expenses. At the end of the year, Palladium Interactive was acquired by The Learning Company, producers of Family Tree Maker. There were rumors that The Learning Company would merge with Mattel. What about support of the ROOTS products? How about UFT? What’s going to happen to our software? Maggie Kitts, editor of the newsletter said, “Let’s not get upset until all this has been sorted out.”

In the March 1999 newsletter, Palladium announced that even though it owned several other genealogy programs, it considered Ultimate Family Tree to be “eminently suitable for the more advanced genealogist” and would continue to promote and furnish support for it. Some members were wondering if UFT was “Y2K compliant”. Palladium assured everyone that it was fully ready for the new millennium. Dr. ROOTS continued to answer questions and our website was featured in several of the newsletters. In June several members demonstrated UFT at the Family History Fair given by the Genealogical Forum of Oregon (GFO). Maggie Kitts and Ruth Mickelson were frequent contributors to the newsletter. RUGPO tutors continued to support ROOTS software as well as Family Gathering and UFT, while Palladium (now The Learning Company) offered support for UFT. The newsletter articles were mainly devoted to UFT tips, instructions and descriptions of features.

January 2000 found us alive and well, having survived Y2K. The January and February meetings were held at the Tigard Fire Station on Burnham Road. In March we moved our meetings to the GFO on SE Gideon Street in Portland. UFT had been purchased by Genealogy.com and members were urged to write to officials of the Company regarding the lack of support. Dues for U.S. residents continued at $15/year but due to increased postage, Canadians were charged $20 and those living in Europe or Asia were $25. There were 105 members, including international residents. Some of the Newsletter topics were Exporting List Reports, E-mailing Reports with Footnotes, and of course, Dr. ROOTS.

The June 2000 newsletter headline shouted: UFT 3.10 Update Now Available – last update. An inside article further stated, UFTree to Fade into History. Genealogy.com assured users that sales and support would continue through “the next year”, thought to mean 2001. Several online forums were discussing this and in response to the news, Wholly Genes, Inc. offered to sell the Gold Edition of The Master Genealogist to UFT users for $49.50. RUGPO president, Blaine Whipple announced that part of the June business meeting would be devoted to discussion of the future of the group. He reminded the members that the bylaws had been amended in April to enlarge the group’s purpose to include study of other software. Meanwhile, the RUG of Arlington had passed a resolution that they would continue to support UFT, study the quality and difficulty of data transfer to other genealogy programs of similar capability, and evaluate and select a new product that would allow members to transition to a program of equal or greater capability. At the June meeting of RUG Portland, it was decided to adopt a similar resolution. Information on importing UFT to The Master Genealogist (TMG) program was handed out. The September newsletter was devoted to transferring to TMG via Genbridge and the October newsletter featured a step-by-step lesson on installing TMG, written by Maggie Kitts. A survey was sent out to all members, asking their opinion about the focus of our group in the future. Fifteen percent of the members responded to the survey and the overwhelming majority expressed their preference to continue to support UFT while also supporting a change to TMG.

At its January 2001 meeting the Board of Directors voted to discontinue the newsletter as of the March 2001 issue and decrease renewal dues to $10 per year. They also voted to discontinue snacks and door prizes and to alter the timetable for the monthly meetings. At the January business meeting the Board of Directors presented a resolution to change the focus of the group from UFT to TMG.

In the final newsletter of March 2001, president Blaine Whipple devoted a page to thanking various members for their service. These included Marie Diers for arranging the gift of a projector from InFocus for our use in presentations at the meetings. Bob Park was thanked for his many years of presenting, teaching and demonstrating UFT at the meetings. Ruthie Mickelson was thanked for her work as editor of the newsletter and taking charge of the web page. Maggie Kitts was recognized as a leader in many activities. These included being program chairman, editor of the newsletter, president of the group and teacher/problem solver for both TMG and UFT. Norma Reynolds and Mim Aline were thanked for their years of service as Treasurer and Membership Chair. Andrea Storm had been both president and vice-president of the group and she was thanked for her service.

Meetings in 2002 were mainly devoted to watching TMG instruction tapes. Some members were bringing their laptops to the meetings, giving them the opportunity to practice what they were learning. Attendance at the meetings ranged from six to twenty-four and membership declined to around 50 in 2003 and 36 in 2004. Efforts were made to reverse this trend. The president, Blaine Whipple wrote for a list from Wholly Genes of people who had purchased TMG and wished to be contacted about a user’s group. Blaine then contacted these people and gained a few new members as a result. In 2005 the number of meetings were reduced to six annually and the name of the group was changed to TMG Users Group Portland, Oregon. Ruth Mickelson developed a new brochure, which was distributed at various genealogical meeting places throughout the city. TMG instructional tapes on DVD were purchased for viewing and discussion at the meetings.

These changes worked well and members reported that they liked having fewer meetings and more instruction in TMG. Besides TMG demonstrations and instruction, other subjects studied were book publishing, exporting data to a word processor program, WIFI and GEDCOM. Attendance still varied from six to twenty-five during the years 2005-2008 and membership held steady at between 20 and 30. The website continued to be updated and improved. The InFocus projector was donated to the GFO in exchange for the use of their projector. They were also given a $250 donation in thanks for the use of the Higgins room for the meetings.

An idea for change was brought up in January 2008. Should the corporation be dissolved and become a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the GFO? An email was sent to the membership, listing pros and cons and asking for feedback and ideas. After much discussion and research, it was formally decided to become a SIG of the GFO. After donations and expenses, what was left in the treasury was deposited in a special fund within the GFO account, to be used for TMG expenses as long as the fund lasts. The website was incorporated into the GFO website. Meetings will continue to be held six times per year in the Higgins room and future meeting topics will be posted on the TMG-SUG web site. The remaining assets were donated to the GFO white elephant sale. The membership agreed that there would be no further need for minutes during future meetings. With that, the September 2008 minutes closed the formal records of the group.

The following is a list of officers.

YearPres.Vice
Pres.
Sec'yMemb.
Chair
Treas.Prog.
Chair
News
letter
Website
1990Ruth
Drake
Adele
Goggins
Adele
Goggins
'90-91Ruth
Drake
Vince
Mobley
Nadine
Tinsley
Marlene
Dopp
Adele
Goggins
Ruth
Drake
Ron
Houseman
'91-92Robert
Park
Earl
Constant
Millie
Beck
Norma
Reynolds
Lee
Ayer
Jim
Casto
W.& I.
Black
'92-93Robert
Park
Earl
Constant
Millie
Beck
Norma
Reynolds
Lee
Ayer
Maggie
Kitts
Blacks &
Mickelson
'93-94Robert
Park
Earl
Constant
Millie
Beck
Doris
Crawford
Lee
Ayer
Marie
Diers
Ruth
Mickelson
'94-95Andrea
Storm
Penny
Sittner
Ilene
Black
Doris
Crawford
Lee
Ayer
Maggie
Kitts
Ruth
Mickelson
'95-96Andrea
Storm
Penny
Sittner
Irma
Markel
Ann
Rutan
Lee
Ayer
Maggie
Kitts
Ruth
Mickelson
'96-97Andrea
Storm
Penny
Sittner
Irma
Markel
Norma
Reynolds
Lee
Ayer
Bob
Park
Ruth
Mickelson
'97-98Ruth
Mickelson
Gerald
Culp
Joanne
Metcalfe
Marge
Stacey
Norma
Reynolds
Bob
Park
Mickelson
& Kitts
'98-99Maggie
Kitts
Robert
Rempel
Marge
Stacey
Mim
Aline
Norma
Reynolds
Bob
Park
Maggie
Kitts
Ruth
Mickelson
'99-00Blaine
Whipple
Andrea
Storm
Marge
Stacey
Mim
Aline
Norma
Reynolds
Bob
Park
Maggie
Kitts
Ruth
Mickelson
'00-01Blaine
Whipple
Andrea
Storm
Marie
Diers
Mim
Aline
Norma
Reynolds
Bob
Park
Mickelson
& Kitts
Ruth
Mickelson
'01-02Blaine
Whipple
Andrea
Storm
Roger
Ostrom
Mim
Aline
Norma
Reynolds
Bob
Park
Ruth
Mickelson
Ruth
Mickelson
'02-03Blaine
Whipple
Andrea
Storm
Roger
Ostrom
Mim
Aline
Norma
Reynolds
Bob
Park
Ruth
Mickelson
'03-04Blaine
Whipple
Andrea
Storm
Roger
Ostrom
Mim
Aline
Jim
Markel
Bob
Park
Ruth
Mickelson
'04-05Blaine
Whipple
Andrea
Storm
Roger
Ostrom
Mim
Aline
Jim
Markel
Bob
Park
Ruth
Mickelson
'05-06Blaine
Whipple
Betsy
Hughes
Roger
Ostrom
Mim
Aline
Jim
Markel
Bob
Park
Ruth
Mickelson
'06-07Blaine
Whipple
Betsy
Hughes
Roger
Ostrom
Mim
Aline
Jim
Markel
Ruth
Mickelson
'07-08Roger
Ostrom
Norma
Reynolds
Betsy
Hughes
Mim
Aline
Jim
Markel
Ruth
Mickelson
'08-09Roger
Ostrom
Norma
Reynolds
Betsy
Hughes
Mim
Aline
Jim
Markel
Ruth
Mickelson

This information was compiled from minutes, newsletters, membership records and brochures of RUGPO. If anyone has anything to add, I encourage them to do so.

Many thanks to Ruth Mickelson for help in formatting this article.

Norma

Our members exchange information on The Master Genealogist (TMG) and Ultimate Family Tree (UFT) series of genealogy software.