A Primer for The Master Genealogist
Second Edition

About the Second Editon:

This edition is issued to reflect changes in The Master Genealogist with the release of Version 8. While a substantial number of useful enhancements were included in that release, the majority of them fall outside the scope of Primer. As a result, the changes in this edition of the book are modest. Only a few sections have been revised because the description in the text differed from the operation of the new version of the program. In addition, a number of screenshots have been updated to reflect new buttons or labels on the associated screens.

Owners of the first edition may prefer to download and print updated pages with significant changes containing the new material for TMG 8 on our Update page.

Front Cover   
Where to Buy It


Printed copies are Sold Out and are no longer available from the publisher.

There are some used copies listed on Amazon.com and other websites, but be aware that some of them may be the First Edition.

However, a PDF version is available for download, free of charge. This is the same as the 2011 printed edition; no updates or corrections have been made. To download this version click here.



The book is designed to help users quickly become comfortable and adept with The Master Genealogist, better known as TMG, perhaps the most capable genealogy software on the market today. The book provides an introduction in straightforward terms, with a level of detail that helps but doesn’t overwhelm a novice user, including the following topics:

  • TMG’s basic concepts

  • Getting your initial data into TMG

  • Finding your way around TMG

  • Establishing personal standards for data entry

  • Adding or editing people, events, and sources

  • Creating Reports and Charts

Understanding that most users adopt TMG to make use of its superior capabilities, the book continues with an introduction to more advanced subjects, presented in a way that allows readers to explore and apply these features at their own pace:

  • Customizing the program’s Screens

  • Customizing Events and Sources

  • Using Witnesses and Roles

  • Understanding Projects and Data Sets

The book is written for the current version of TMG, version 8. While much of the material is applicable to older versions, a number of useful features described are not available in prior versions.

Published Reviews

“If you are looking for a guide to using TMG then consider yourself lucky. This book is one of the best written software guides I have ever come across. The writing is concise and well organized. The language is not overly technical; rather, the book was well written for the target audience, the average user. Visual examples are plentiful. Most visuals are labeled to match key bullet points in the text. Each chapter builds on the previous chapter, moving from basic concepts to more advanced features, developing a clear path to a successful user experience.”

“TMG users would be hard pressed to find a better written guide to using the software...”

Leland & Patty Meitzler, in his March 5, 2012 review in GenealogyBlog

“Terry Reigel has recently published this outstanding book aimed at helping us learn the use of TMG while laying a solid foundation for the development of our genealogies. While it starts with a chapter devoted to the raw beginner it proceeds through the program’s features in an orderly and logical way, interjecting advice on the best ways of using them...

“The text is clearly and concisely written, and sprinkled liberally with examples and illustrations – roughly one illustration per page.”

Dick Cleaveland, in his review in the April 2008 newsletter of the Roots Users Group of Arlington

What TMG Users Say About It

“This is a great introduction for new users! Terry explains complicated topics in terms a beginner can understand, and he explains the concepts as well as the specific steps to make fast, effective use of TMG. Even experienced users will learn from this book, particularly in the chapters about more advanced topics. Terry’s TMG Tips website is a great resource for TMG users, and now Terry has expanded that with A Primer for The Master Genealogist.”

John Cardinal, author of Second Site, TMG Utility, and other companion programs for TMG

A Primer for The Master Genealogist is a ‘must have’ for the new user. With its easy to read format and multiple illustrations even those seemingly complex features and tasks are easy to understand. I wish I’d had a copy of this book when I first started using The Master Genealogist.”

Mark A. Cunningham, TMG user for two months

“As John Cardinal has said, Terry’s Primer is both a great introduction to The Master Genealogist for news users and a useful tool for more experienced users. As I try to get thirty years of research in shape to publish using John Cardinal’s Second Site, I recently bought a copy of the Primer. I began reading it cover to cover and found it to be very helpful. Terry’s book reminded me of several useful features that I either had never used or had used only rarely.”

Allen Mellen, one of the authors of Getting the Most Out of The Master Genealogist

“The content of the book is awesome, not only for a beginner, but for experienced users who will find things in there they didn't even think could be done with TMG.”

Linda Lambert, President, Sun Country TMG Users' Group

“Thank you for your new book Terry.  It has been extremely helpful and is written in a way that someone who is not computer savvy can understand.”

Elizabeth Moye, new user of TMG

It's Not Just for New Users

“Thanks for your book. Even though I am a long time user of TMG, I am still learning some things from it and understanding some other things better. I will shortly be buying another copy for a friend of mine who is newer to TMG.”

Holly Timm, TMG user since version 3

“Am I having fun! Your primer is the best thing since Mother's home-made apple pie and baking powder biscuits! It's even better than your online Tips and organized in a very straight-forward way which continues to add to what was learned in the previous chapter(s).”

Norman R. Brown, family historian for over 50 years

“Terry's Book - it's absolutely a must have!!! I don't care if, like me someone has used TMG for 10+ years or is just checking out the trial version.....you need to have this book. Thanks so much Terry for putting this all together. I've started reading it right from the beginning.”

Joan McIlmoyl Cleghorn, leader of the Victoria [BC] TMG User Group, Past President of the Victoria Genealogical Society

A Peek Inside

The book is written to be easy to read and understand, with plenty of screenshots so the reader can follow the description even when away from the computer.

It starts with the basics. This section explains the basic parts of the TMG's screens. Parts of TMG's Standard Screen


Many of the tasks users undertake are explained in step-by-step fashion, with numbered steps keyed to the screenshots. Here use of the Focus Group to collect a family group is explained.


After covering data entry, reports are addressed. There are sections about reports designed to aid research and analysis as well as those designed to share your work. Filters are useful in constructing several types of reports, so there are also step-by-step discussions of that often confusing topic. example of filter discussion

After covering the basics, there is a chapter on customizing your workspace, including topics like setting up Accents to color-code people of interest. Then there is an introduction to the more advanced topics of Sentence Structures, Witnesses, Roles, and customizing Sources.

With a detailed table of contents and a thorough index it is easy to locate particular topics.

The book is 164 pages, measures about 7 by 10 inches, softbound.

An Interview with the Author

The book is featured in an interview with the author on DearMYRTLE's Family History Hour 25 March 2008 genealogy podcast. The interview focuses on how the book can be helpful to new users of TMG, and covers some features of TMG that might attract users to adopt the program. Check out the interview and the other topics Myrt discusses in the podcast.

About the Author

The author is well known as an expert user of TMG and a frequent contributor to the on-line TMG user support forums. He is the author of Terry’s TMG Tips, a website with over 125 articles, many also available in German. He has written several articles about TMG for newsletters published by user groups and two chapters in the sellout book Getting the Most Out of The Master Genealogist.


A Primer for The Master Genealogist was written for version 8 of TMG. New features and changes introduced in version 9 almost entirely deal with more advanced features and thus have only minor impact on the contents of Primer.

The Master Genealogist, TMG, and Wholly Genes are trademarks of Wholly Genes Inc., and are used by permission.


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This page updated 16 Jun 2023