Family histories and family websites in a narrative form are popular with many people. You could create a narrative book by sitting down at your computer and typing out every detail you've discovered through your research and through interviews and correspondence. But what if you have not finished your quest for stories and documents and such. You would have to continuously update the narrative to enter each new item and tidbit of information, and revise any affected numbering system you've employed.
With genealogy programs, you enter the data into the program as you find it and let the program create the narrative when you would like to see your progress. In RootsMagic, Sentence Templates tell the program how to combine the various elements (the roles you've defined and the fields from the fact type) into the readable sentences that will appear in your narrative reports and on your websites. However, you are not stuck using the same form all the time (unless you want to).
Sentence composition is controlled in two ways:
- Through the sentence templates for each role associated with a fact type – This provides the default composition of the sentences. This template is used to write the global or main sentence for each role. Because it is the default, all sentences for a particular role for the same fact type will be identical in form, other than for the actual names and details, such as date, place details and place. The sentence for the Principal role is the main sentence for each fact, while the role sentence is displayed for a person who is assigned a shared role. The footnote number is placed after the content of the sentence template and, usually, the period at the end of the sentence.
- Through the Customize button – This allows you to customize each sentence template on a local basis for each person. You can tailor the output to make each sentence (or the ones you want to customize) unique. You can even customize several instances of the same fact for a person (residence or occupation, for example) so there is variety within the person's story. You can use Customize with fact sentences or with role sentences.
The basic sentence can be supplemented in two ways:
- Through the Description field – The description field can be placed anywhere within the main sentence template to insert textual information. The description field isn't intended for multiple lines of information. It is designed for shorter text that a sentence might include with the date / place for the fact (for example, the Occupation description would be the name of the occupation). Longer (multiple line) descriptions should go into the Note for the fact.
- Through the Notes field – The content of the Notes field is added after the footnote reference number for source citations, thus making it the ideal place to add supplemental (and expansive) details that are not practical in the main sentence template. Uses of a note field could be to add the text of a will or obituary to the respective fact sentence, or to include stories or letters that have been handed down through generations.
Combining the fact sentence and the note text
- Usually, the fact sentence template ends with a period, followed by the footnote reference number, if there is one. There is one character space then the note text begins, usually with a capital letter that you entered. However, RootsMagic does not force the first character in the note field to be capitalized.
- You can take advantage of this to combine the sentence and a note into one sentence. Use Customize to change the last period in the template to a comma (or semi-colon as needed), and start the note with a lower case letter. Voila, the sentence flows nicely in one combined sentence unit. Note that the footnote reference number now appears after the comma in the midst of the sentence.