Monday, July 5, 2010

Will I Ever Finish My Family Tree?

I've written a bit about what a mess my family tree database was, and even devoted a section of my 2010 Goals and Dreams to it, saying:

* Continue converting existing sources in my database to actual sources (with author, title, publisher, date, page, comments, etc.).
* Eliminate duplicate persons and facts, and add specific page numbers to existing source citations.
* Add sources to unsourced information in my database.

Once in awhile, between preparations for the next two or three classes and presentations, I've found time to work on the genealogy database. The problems I've been working on include:

* When I combined my six separate family tree databases into one database (over 38,000 persons), quite a few duplicate persons were created because they were in more than one database. I'm still trying to weed out the duplicates, and have been making good progress.

* For over twenty years, I used a widow's married name when she married again - such as "Alvina (Bradley) Lewis (because the source invariably used the married name in the record). Of course, she should have been listed as Alvina Bradley with a first marriage to Joseph Lewis. I'm still working on these items, and have been making good progress.

* I have many English baptisms and burials in my database (due to having so many early American colonial ancestors), but they don't show up in the birth and death fields. I've been going through and adding dates like "Before 4 June 1613" for the baptisms and christenings that I have - that way they show up in the person index. I add these as I find them, but have many more to find and add. I'm also adding a Source to these entries when I have information about the Sources.

* When I changed from Personal Ancestral File to Family Tree Maker in 1998, a number of "artifacts" came with the information. Specifically, a "Master Source: PAF" appeared in the FTM "Notes" section, which I've tried to eliminate. Also, double dates (for example, for "24 January 1664/65") came across as, "24 January 1663/64 - 24 January 1664/65." Needless to say, this was a real pain in the database...I'm weeding these out too.

* When I had my database in PAF, I added vital records source information to the place name field, so many place fields have entries like "Westminster, Worcester, MA (VR 235)." That meant, of course, that the record was found on page 235 of the Westminster MA Vital Record book. I've been adding the Master Source and volume/page numbers for the citations, and deleting the "shorthand source" citation in the place field.

* This was easiest done by creating a "shorthand Master Source," e.g., "Westminster MA Vital Records" and at some point adding the author, title, publisher, date, online access, repository, etc. to the Master Source. I have lots of "shorthand Master Sources" still and need to work on getting the Master Source Information into the appropriate Master Source fields. I also have some duplicate Master Sources that need combining.

* Over the years, I have put many source citations in the "Notes" section when I've abstracted or transcribed information from books, census, military, probate, land and other records. I'm trying to add Facts to my database for many of these, but have left the abstracts and transcriptions in the "Notes." The challenge is to get the Source citations in Notes copied into the Fact source citation.

Unfortunately, I started doing these tasks randomly about two years ago, and have actually gotten quite a bit done, but I still find whole sections of the database with the sources in the place name, and I'm still finding the duplicate names and widow's names that need to be fixed.

Several months ago, I decided to be more disciplined in my approach, and started doing one alphabetical letter at a time in the index. I started with Z, and have worked my way up through G. I'm trying to do all of the tasks above when I go through one of the letters, but I miss some of the entries. I'll have to do another run through the index when I'm done.

Lastly, I need to do a Data Error search to find the "leftover" Name problems, the "leftover" "double date problems, the "child's birth after father or mother's death," and the "child's birth to a mother older than age 50" problems. Those will take some research to determine why my database has the problems and determine, if possible, the correct information.

I have been doing all of these corrections in Family Tree Maker 16 for several reasons: I am very familiar with it; the name, date and place data entry is efficient, navigation is easy, I can add source citations and Master Sources easily; the index lists name, spouse, birth date and death date for each person; and it runs fast. The index information is really the big reason I chose to do this in FTM 16.

When I get the database in some semblance of good order, then I will import it into my other software programs (Family Tree Maker 2010, RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7) and do a Place Name resolution so that my cities/towns, county/province, state and country citations are consistent.

Of course, there are still many ancestral families with sparse, or no, notes. Information for many of these families were "taken" from published books or online family trees and I need to find original and derivative source information for the facts and stories of their lives. That is a never ending battle, it seems. And I'm still doing research, and adding data whenever I find useful information about my ancestral families.

Then there's the issue of attaching photographs, document images and the like to persons in the tree. I really don't think my computer storage is big enough for the scans of the 40 linear feet of paper I have in the Genealogy Cave! I will save this task for after I have the database in decent order! Maybe, and will have all of those documents online by then!

So - will I ever finish my family tree? Are you kidding me?

"As I pondered my ancestral chart,
Twenty two years after a fateful start,
Finally, it clearly dawned on me,
I will never finish my family tree."

I still have many blank entries in my pedigree chart from the 6th generation and on back from me. There is much research work to be done, and I look forward to the challenge of doing it. Or challenging my grandchildren to do it!

But I'm trying to make the family tree database better. It will never be perfect. But it could be worthy of publication at some future time. And saved for posterity in many online family tree databases!

How about you - is your family tree finished? Are you working on it? Are your sources and citations up to snuff? Do you have original source, or authoritative derivative source, information for each of your facts in the tree?


Barbara Poole said...

Amazing how similiar we are with our research. I have 1,000 less than you, began a year after you and made many similiar mistakes as you. In addition still use FTM16. Although, I decided years ago not to import photos or use a wife's married name, always maiden.
Good luck and I hope your completion date is soon, mine too, since we are the same age!

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

A family tree is never done :) I have inconsistent source entries in my FTM, duplicates, notes upon notes, people that need is all a work in progress.

What would we do if it was done????

Celia Lewis said...

Oh Randy, I feel so much better seeing that you are working on the very same issues in sources for family tree ancestors! I'm not yet as organized about it, but sooooon.
And, like you, I use several family tree software programs: RootsMagic 4, Legacy 7.4, and an older version of Family Tree Maker (2005).
I removed my cousin's wife's ancestors - he sent me his entire family tree - but there are little orphan families and individuals still left over... One by one by one, I'm trying to get them done.
It will never be done, you know!
Cheers - Celia

GrannyPam said...

Of course I won't. I just keep plugging away, on the same or similar problems. When someone tells me there family tree is "done", I know they have no idea what they are doing.

Louis Kessler said...

It is impossible for anyone to "finish" a family tree because ... Take your parents. Do you have their parents? Do you have all their descendants. If yes, go to their parents and repeat this question. If no, find out who their parents are. Continue this forever.

I won't even mention the various sorts of information and stories you should collect about each person.

In fact, it is technically impossible to complete your research about any one individual, since an autobiography and 1000 pictures wouldn't even qualify as enough.

Each person in your family tree is precious. Do what you can to capture everything you can about every one of them. You are finished when you pass on and at least two of your descendants carry on for you.

TALON said...

Randy (and I guess Celia), I am confused why ya'll are using multiple programs for your research and databases. Randy maybe you can go into some detail on this in one of your blog posts.

Martin said...

I did what you are doing a while ago. It is tedious. I hauled out my files alphabetically (I went A to Z) and added all sources. Even then I'm much pickier about entries in my database and have only 11,000.

English baptisms are easy. Here's how I do it. Since infant baptism was the norm, if a person is baptized on the 5th or later, I put born month year and then baptized day month year. If the date is 1, 2, I put the previous month. The 3rd or 4th I put both months with a slash: April/May 1612.

I just think before a baptismal date is not very accurate. You can work the same routine for burials. I wish reunion had a between date function when you have a will, but no death date.

In any case, you have two different questions muddled into one. Will I ever finish my family tree? and Will I ever finish organizing my research on my family tree? The answer to the first question is no. And the second question's answer is up to you.

Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

If your family tree is done you just didn't do it correctly!

Linda McCauley said...

Glad to know I'm not alone. I switched from FTM 16 to Legacy over 2 years ago but still don't have everything set up in Legacy like I want - adding events and photos for individuals, updating sources to current standards. The bottom line - file "clean-up" isn't as much fun as researching and entering new data so it keeps getting put on the back burner. If I could just commit to updating 10 people and 10 sources every day . . .

Elyse Doerflinger said...

Randy - I think this is a problem for everyone. I am trying my best to make my family tree file as nice and consistent as possible (I even started my entire tree over a year or so ago). It looks much better, but it will never be complete or perfect.

Besides...gotta leave something for the kids and grandkids to do!