Saturday, September 7, 2013

Do I start over ???

Do I start over seems to be running wild on Facebook. Folks are realizing that their files are out of control. I got that, been there done that. I understand the problem. My file has always been pretty well documented with Citations, as I have always used the Undocumented Report in Family Tree Maker. When I am looking at my screens, I try to make sure there is at least one citation for each fact. But that is just me.

My thought on the "start over" question was, I have spend 10 to 15 years working with this SAME family file. I have spend many, hours working with it. Do I want to through away those many hours of work?

But the Do I Start Over question has been on my mind. I spent a lot of time thinking about that question, but my answer is different, and it has paid off for me. I learned "my answer to that question" last year. My task was to move ALL of my source and citation information into the Template Feature of Family Tree Maker. I have blogged about that process many times.

How to attack the issue of an an out of control, messy, undocumented family file?

Let me say that over these past years, I have learned a lot about how to do family research. "GPS" wasn't part of my understanding until just a few years ago. How knew about Inferential Genealogy 10 years ago. Who knew the importance of a properly formed citation? I certainly didn't. My understanding of how to do research has changed and far more records are online, we have access to. I chose to work with what I have.

Make a plan.

There are many ways to go at this clean up process, You could do it my "line", by person, but I chose to do it starting with my Sources. That is, intentionally starting with my Sources, moving each of them into the Template format. In doing this, I actually accomplished 3 things.

1) All of my Citations, where the Source is in a Template, are in the Evidenced Explained format, which is my goal

2) In order to "fill in the blanks" of the Template, and complete the Citation, I had to go back to those sources, just to fill in the blanks

3) Picked up the data elements (Facts) that I missed the first or second "time around".

I worked on this and continue to work on this for the past 18 months. Not that I have a lot of Sources, but I took the time, had to re-do some of the work that I had done, but I have better information, more complete information in the Citation and about the people AND relationships within my file, just by looking at the Source.

When I started to look at my data from the Source, I did two things. Learned what the source is all about, why was it created, what was it's purpose. Just look at the Census Records over time. What was the purpose of that Census Record for each Census Year, What was being asked and WHY was it being asked. WHY did the 1940 Census Record have a question about where you were in 1935?

Understanding the Record was where I started, but the next step was, for me at least, What do I want to capture from that Record, any record. Sticking with the Census, do I want to capture if the family owned or rented? I chose not to track that. Was the person listed at being married in that Census Record. I chose to track that one. Just by relooking at the Census Record for that column, I then had a handle on, and could track, at a glance, when the person was married, when a spouse died, so know that I may have to look somewhere else.

A single female in 1910, not with the family in 1920, I might have to look for her, but being married in 1920, so my search strategy for her in 1920 would change.

By starting with the Record, Identifying what I want to capture, got me started. I started with the Census Records, mostly because they are at the top of my Source listing in the Source Workspace, I was able to understand that family make up over time. I made sure that I used the Head of Household and add the household members to that Citation. Making sure that I didn't have a number of the household members with their own Citations.

This gives me ONE Citation for that Household, with the Media file, LINKED to that Citation, and links from that citation to many Facts for that census year.

Here is a link to the work that I did for the 1940 Census.

So, if I have any question about an entry, I can go to the Source Workspace, and I have then 2 places where I can see the record itself. Either the Media Tab, or the Link to the record, if it came from

There were a number of times where I re-merged an Ancestry record because I had done the merge from a household member, but I wanted to be consistent, then cleaned up the entries associated with the "first" non-head of household, but I wanted to be consistent.

Looking that the Timeline feature for the person, you help me identify what information I might be missing or to help understand what happened to a family. The best example was a family lived in one place for a number of years, but between two census years, they moved. Looking at the Time Line, I noticed the move. But WHY did they move. Looking at the Head of Household's timeline, with the Family Included, didn't help much. BUT when I looked at his Spouse, with the family timeline, I realized that HER father had died, just before they moved. Looking a little closer, I realized that they have been living with the "in-laws" in the previous census. So, it appears that the "father-in-laws" death caused the family to move.

Am I done, no. Do I add new information, absolutely. I follow those shaky leaves, but I am spending more time understanding what I am looking at (the source) before I enter the data into my file.

My Citations are far better. I have moved some of the details that I might have in my citation into the Fact Notes or Citation Notes. Moving source information that was in the Person Notes, into Fact Notes or Citation Notes. Also taking advantage of Research Notes, AND adding to my ToDo list. Many of these features didn't exist when I started this file, way back when.

Bottom line here, for me at least, I have learned much over these years, AND Family Tree Maker has many more tools, built in, that I can take advantage of that didn't exist earlier.

Oh, if the plan that you start with doesn't work for you, look at your plan again. So far, my "clean up plan" has worked. That is move ALL of my sources into the Template feature is helping me clean up my file.

One User's Experience.


Copyright © 2013 by H R Worthington

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