Thursday, August 7, 2014

Answering Russ's Question: How Do I Enter Census Information in my Genealogy Management Program?

On Russ Worthington's Google+ Page today, and his Cousin Russ Genealogy Community Page yesterday, he asked two questions:

"When recording information from a Census Record (US Federal for example) do you record the DATE at the top of that Census Page in your Residence FACT for that person?"

"What Census Record Fields to you put into FACTS for a 1940 US Federal Census Record?  I am only asking about what FACTS do you include in your genealogy database from a 1940 US Federal Census Record. For each Fact, what do you enter in the Date field, Location field, and the Description field."

Russ has some responses, and some answers, and some interesting discussion.  I thought I would add my two cents, using my RootsMagic 6 database as an example.

As background, I tend to be a "lumper" in terms of data entry (instead of a "splitter" - there's a whole 'nother discussion about that!).  I don't enter each bit of information I find in a source in a "Fact" or "Event" as an "Assertion."  I tend to think in terms of "Events" rather than "Facts or Assertions." I usually note that information in a "Fact Note" or "Person note" in my database.  For example, if I have ten pieces of evidence for a birth date, I usually pick the one with the most authoritative source (using my judgment) to use as the "birth date" in my database.  Sometimes I add "Alternate Birth" Facts if I don't have an authoritative source.  I know that's not what Russ does, or other people recommend, but it's what I've always done.

The "Facts/Events" I enter into my RootsMagic database for a 1940 U.S. Census include:

1)  I use a Census "Fact/Event" (rather than a series of "Facts" like "Residence, Occupation, Birth, Marital Status, Race, Sex, Age, Birthplace, etc.).  

*  I enter the "official" census date (not the enumeration date at the top of the census page) into the "Date" field (because the instructions say to provide information at that date, although I have no doubt that a Residence Fact probably should be the enumeration date).  I enter the city/town. county, state, country in the "Place" field, and the address (if given) in the "Place details" field.  Here is a screen shot for my Grandfather's "Edit Person" screen in RootsMagic 6:

With the "Census" Fact highlighted, you can see the "Date," "Place," and "Place details" field entries in the right-hand panel of the screen above.

*  I create a source citation for this "Fact/Event" using the "Free form" source template (so that the source will transfer nicely during a GEDCOM export/import operation).  The "Edit source" screen for this entry is:

*  I extract the information from the record for the family of interest and add it as a "Fact note."  This is how I capture all of the information in the census record.  It is in a narrative and tabulated form, which I prefer as opposed to a number of "Facts" for each item in the record.  The "Fact note" screen for this record looks like this:

*  I copy and paste that information into the "Person Note" field and adjust the text as required.  I try to keep events in a chronological order.

*  I add the saved Media item to the Person and tag it to the Event (in this case, the 1940 Census event).

2)  I usually add an "Occupation" Fact with the date, location, place of work (if given) in the "Place details" field, and the occupation in the "Description" field.  The screen below shows this Fact/Event entry:

3)  I do add an Alternate Name if one is used different from the preferred name, and attach the same source citation to the Alternate Name field.

4)  I add the same Fact/Event, Fact Note, Source and Media item to each person enumerated in the source record.  

That's what I do, and have done fairly consistently over a number of years.  I am used to the process, and can perform the tasks fairly efficiently now (to the point that for U.S. census records I can create the source citation from memory for most census years).

The URL for this post is:

copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Lisa Gorrell said...

Interesting that you put the details of the census under the "census notes" instead of the "detail text" in the source citation. Any reason for that?

I put the details in the
"research notes" under "detail text" tab and make my own comments about the source in the " the comments box below.

Russ Worthington said...


Great blog post. I like it when we are able to share our various ways of maintaining our databases.

I realized the approach that I have is different from yours. You are a writer, I am not.

As I have looked back at my data, I did much the way that you did in notes. But with changes in our genealogy databases I changed how I recorded that data.

I totally understand the GEDCOM issue that you present, and I have tested that myself, between Roots Magic and Family Tree Maker and totally get why you use the Free Form Citation.

Since I am not asked for a GEDCOM, I don't worry about that any more. I want my Citations to be in the Evidence Explained (Template) format and forget the impact of that in a GEDCOM. At the same time, my Citations in my Online Tree are more consistent and they CANT be changed online. That's OK with me.

Thanks for sharing.


Donna said...

My method is pretty similar to yours. I am also a lumper versus a splitter.

My direct ancestors in many of my lines were quite mobile and some of them moved relatively near the date of the census, which means I could not verify that they were residents on the date of the census enumeration - only that they were supposed to have been residing there on the effective date of the census. My great aunt was enumerated in one state on the effective date and enumerated in another state with her in-laws on the enumeration date. Was she a resident or a visitor?

I rarely list occupations separate from the detail in the note section of the event because probably 90% of my ancestors were farmers.

In response to Lisa Gorrell's question: my reason for putting the detail in the Event notes rather than the Citation detail is because it is more easily visible in the Event notes.

Shannon Thomas said...

I'm also a lumper and do mine about the same way Randy does his but I use Legacy Family Tree. I do not put the census detail in the Event citation because I like the way the detail shows up in my timeline report.