Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dear Ruth: One Tree

My friend and CVGS/geneablogging colleague, Ruth Himan, wrote I would like to pose a question to the Genealogical Community. Multiple Ancestry Trees today on her Genealogy is Ruthless Without Me blog.

It's an excellent question, and I wanted to share  my opinion.

I prefer one tree in my genealogy software for my own genealogy and family history research.  The main reason is simple - it saves me time because I don't have to input data for a specific person more than once.  

I worked with several different trees for a long time, but there were often duplications in them.  I would add or modify data in one database as I received new information, but would often forget to change the information in the other database.

I combined five databases into one large one for the ancestral families of my children (so my tree, my wife's tree) about two years ago, plus all of the one-name study databases for Seaver, Carringer, Buck, Dill, Vaux, Remley, Auble, and others.  

In the combined database, there were duplicate names and events which I fixed over the past two years.  I also took the opportunity to standardize my place names to current map jurisdictions (so that the online maps would work), and to standardize my sources to Evidence! Explained standards.  I add unconnected persons to my big family tree because I hope that the current and future research will connect into my tree at some time, and I know where I can find it!  I keep some disconnected families in my big family tree also, in hopes that when I post the tree online that it might help somebody, or someone might help me.  

I'm still finding mistakes as I go through portions of my database on a daily basis, but I'm also adding content (names, dates, places) for persons with sparse or no data, and I've been adding sources to events as I find them.  There are over 41,300 persons in my big tree at present, and it will never be perfect.  But I am doing my database improvement work on a steady basis and may actually have a decent database in, oh, 20 years or so.  I'm OK with imperfection, and recognize it when I find it, and try to make it less imperfect when I can.

There are drawbacks to a large database.  Some genealogy programs struggle to load them (Family Tree Maker 2012 still takes almost a minute to open mine, while RootsMagic 5 loads in less than 5 seconds), and some programs do not navigate instantly to the desired person or screen.   Some databases are so large that some genealogy programs cannot open them.

I think that the benefits of having one larger family tree for my research far outweigh the drawbacks of having one larger family tree.

I do have other family tree research in separate databases because I have done some client research over the years for friends, and have kept them in separate trees.  This made sense at the time, and I think it still makes sense.

So dear Ruth - I'm in favor of one big family tree for my children's genealogy and family history research activities, for the reasons stated.  However, the opinion of others may vary!

What do my readers think?  One big family tree, or several smaller trees for different families?  Leave a comment, or a link to your own blog post.

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Andrew Kemp said...

Hi Randy,

Totally agree with you for the one database for the entire tree. This is what I am using for the Kemp one-name study and my personal research.


Dianne A said...

Hi Randy, I've tried the multiple tree approach and found it very difficult to manage for the same reasons you cited. It's hard enough to update, source, and reconcile one tree. In addition, I travel a lot and making sure that I'm working on the correct file was exponentially more complicated with multiple family files. This is for my personal research. Any research done for friends is, of course, in separate files.
Simple is better in this case, IMHO.

Mariann Regan said...

I'm glad to know your views. So far I have just one tree, with 700 relatives. (But you have 41,000! And I thought mine was huge and unwieldy.) Since we have some "illegitimate" lines, I've thought maybe I should do them separately. But you are right, there would be a lot of duplication. Your comments have persuaded me to go with just the one tree. Thanks!

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

I use one tree now (my wife maintains her own)... I had three, but consolidated a couple of years ago... still 'fixing' things on that, as your noted. I'm in the 15,000 range, use Reunion on my MAC laptop and it works fine... I just don't spend enough time on the fine points. Using one rather than three allows me to have time to add new material and updates. I haven't put a priority on going back and 'fixing' source citation, etc., but have been thinking seriously about it for the future. Now that I have one tree! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I, too, have only one tree. There are about 5000 individuals in it, including several birth parent/adoptive parents families, step families of all kinds, and it works very nicely for me. The multiple tree concept invites errors of omission, duplication, and who knows what all. I've only had one tree since the 1980s when I started out with PAF.

Susan Park said...

I didn't mean to be anonymous! Got tangled up with the robot disprover. sorry.

Magda said...

I am a ONE TREE woman for all the same reasons as Randy. I had ( and still have from years of research on my old laptop in PAFs) about 80 trees . It was impossible as I did more work .One day, I bought ROOT MAGIC and loaded them all into one tree & backed it up to Dropbox so it syncs to new work .I look at my MASTER TREE as a database of records , like an office database at work .

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

I, too, use just one tree, with my daughters as no. 1 (though only one gets to be the primary no. 1). I do research on both my family and my husband's family, so it made sense to keep it in one tree even if there would never be any overlap. I imagine for those who have common ancestors in both lines would want a single tree!

WyoSpring said...

One tree is not for me!! Each of my 4 lines and hubby's 4 lines are from different countries--so I sure don't want to mix them. My trees are set up for research, not collecting. Repeats??? How does that happen except for me and my parents???I want a tree for my Mother's family who are German-Russian--U.S.A in 1913 Russia from 1808 and Germany before that. When I research, etc. I want to do one line only--I remember the names--places, etc. I have separate files--data, notebooks, etc. for each family. Then I have another tree--for my Fathers line, Also, I have different trees for hubby's lines--U.S. since its beginnings and Irish. Then I have a line for the G-R ancestor from 1677 and all the descendants to today. That family, like mine, were so prolific--it is easier to keep them straight on their own data bases. The parents in these families had 14-17 children and many Jacobs, Daniels and Peters and finding and adding to one huge database would be 10 times harder than to the smaller database family. If I wanted one big tree, I could GEDCOM each tree add to one and then delete probably half dozen duplicates and I would have it in a few moments.