Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - If I Knew Then...

Greetings, genea-philes. it's SATURDAY NIGHT - time for more GENEALOGY FUN!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  On GeneaBloggers Radio last night ( the discussion turned to regrets that we all have about our genealogy and family history experiences.  Someone said "If I knew then, what I know now, I would have..." I thought that it would make a good SNGF topic, and it may be a general topic on a future GeneaBloggers Radio show.

2)  Tell us about your "If I knew then what I know now, I would have..." regret in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook status or note.

Here's mine (I'm going to pick the low hanging fruit here in the Genea-Cave):

"If I knew then, when I started my genealogy quest, what I know now, I would have written down more complete source citations, and would have added them into the source fields in my genealogy software programs."

I learned about source citations in high school when writing essays that required a bibliography and footnotes (50 years ago!), and that carried into my college courses. 

When I started doing my genealogy and family history search in 1988, I didn't read many "how to" books at first - I just plunged in at libraries and the local Family History Center.  I kept the research logs for all of my surnames up to date for several years and then lapsed.  Those research logs contain a column for "source" and I usually noted the author's surname, an abbreviated book or periodical title, the repository I found the work, and the call number on the shelf, or the microfilm or microfiche number. 

I entered the information I found into my Personal Ancestral File program, but since I wanted to be able to "see" my sources when I printed out a pedigree chart or family group sheet,, or a narrative report, I entered an abbreviated source citation into the location field for birth, marriage and death facts (for example, a birth place in the Vital Records of Westminster, Mass. book might read "Westminster, Worcester, MA (VR, 93)).  That worked really well for me.  I also added abbreviated sources into my Notes for a person - sometimes in approximately Evidence! form, but usually not.

When I finally obtained Family Tree Maker in 1998 (got a new computer!), it had a more complete source citation field, and I had learned a lot from reading "how-to" books, the Internet and attending local society programs and conferences.  However, all of my sources that I transferred from PAF to FTM were still in the location fields, and in my notes. 

Over the years since 1998, I really regretted not doing a better job of writing my source citations on the papers that are now filed in my surname notebooks (or in the stack of papers to be filed), and not using the source citation fields in the genealogy software.  But I let it all slide because I was too busy collecting more paper, doing real ancestral research, working for the society, speaking on genealogy subjects, and writing/blogging.

After Evidence! Explained was published, and I joined the Transitional Genealogists Study Group, and then the ProGen study group (I was in Group 1, graduated in early 2010), I realized that I needed to put my money where my mouth was and get my source citations in better order. 

As devoted Genea-Musings readers know, I've gone through my database of 40,000 persons and over 100,000 events and have added near EE-quality source citations for about 20% of the events.  I'm gradually working through my surname notebooks and paper stacks to enter more.  I doubt that I will ever get up to even 60%, but that's a reasonable goal!  I've documented my saga for creating these citations in the Seaver Source Citation Saga, which had the goal of finding a software program, and a method of creating sources in the software, that transfers using GEDCOM to any other family tree system without being mangled.  I completed converting the 650-odd master sources in my database to near-EE quality earlier this year after about 12 months of effort - I estimate at least 400 hours of work, and probably more.

I actually like doing master source citations now - it's Genealogy Fun (because it's a challenge, I think!).  I have Evidence! Explained on my computer as a PDF file, and I use the RootsMagic 4 source citation templates to create master source citations, and then copy those into a Free-form master source. 

I'm sure that my readers are glad that I have resisted asking SNGF players to tell the world about their own source citation sagas, but this is a way I can bare my soul on the subject.

I look forward to reading about my readers genea-regrets - "If I knew then what I know now..."


Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

Randy, I have so many regrets and no way to rectify them (almost everyone has died). I should have been more organized; I should have been more "pushy" as a child and asked more family questions; I wish I had asked even more questions of my parents. :::sigh:::

Ginger Smith said...

Hi Randy, I'm with Carol, I would have asked more questions! If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Mel said...

Here is my list of regrets...

Sassy Jane Genealogy said...

Mine's the same with a bit of a twist. I actually asked my grandparents about historical events, but never about family. D'oh is me.

Liz said...

I couldn't stop at just one!

Andrea Fox said...

Regrets always haunt you in the end. The best thing that you could do is to learn from them and make changes.

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