Friday, November 21, 2014

So Many Matches, So Little Time! How Do I Deal With Information Overload?

This week's Wacky Wednesday Hangout On Air with DearMYRTLE focused on "Information Overload."  You can watch it on YouTube at

The audience comments are shown on Google+ at

The panelists were Johanna Inari (from Lapland, DearMYRTLE's distant cousin), Russ Worthington, Dave Robison, John Laws (early on) and Carol Petranek (near the end).   I would have joined the panel if I was home, but I was in Orange County valiantly trying to get to the 7 p.m. GSNOCC meeting on time so I could give my presentation.

1)  There were several interesting and useful suggestions, including:

a)  Create an EXCEL file for each record type and systematically mine the available online records for persons in your family tree (could use Ancestry Leaf Hints, or MyHeritage Record Matches, etc.)

b)  Using your online Family Trees to generate Hints and systematically mine them.  My brief review of my online trees revealed that:

  • Ancestry Green Leaf Hints for persons in my Ancestry Member Tree ($$, separate tree):  I look at Leaf Hints for my ancestors, and by database (e.g. 1940 US Census) for persons in my AMT.  Ancestry also tells me if another researcher has added one of my media items to their tree.
  • FamilySearch Family Tree (free, universal tree) offers Record Hints for each person; and provides a weekly email summary of Family Tree changes for profiles that I am watching (over 300 of them - some of my ancestors).  
  • My Heritage ($$, separate tree)) offers Record Matches for persons in my MyHeritage family tree, organized by person or by database.  I prefer the "by database" method, and have systematically reviewed and added content to my tree - about 2,600 Find A Grave entries, about 1,400 Social Security Death Index entries, some Newspaper Archives entries, and entries from several other databases.  I receive a weekly email summary of changes that others make to persons in my tree in their trees.
  • WikiTree (free, universal tree) offers Match requests from other researchers.  They also provide a weekly email summary of contributions from other researchers who have added content to profiles for whom I am a profile manager.  I can see changes to persons in this tree.
  • Geni ($$, universal tree) offers suggested Matches in a weekly email summary, which I rarely find useful (many are not the right person).  I can see the contributions of other researchers who have added content to profiles in the tree.
  • WeRelate (free, universal tree) offers no record hints, but I can access the contributions of other researchers which are usually well done.
  • FindMyPast ($$, separate tree) offers no hints yet, but probably will in the future. 
  • Mocavo ($$, separate tree) offers no hints yet, but might in the future (since they are now owned by FindMyPast).
  • I have online family trees on other websites also, but can't recall them all, and don't actively use them!

c)  DearMYRTLE showed some spreadsheet possibilities for systematically searching for records on specific websites and on FHL microfilm, based on the FamilySearch Resource Checklist form (see

2)  I have not used a spreadsheet to organize my searches to date.  If I did, I would want to consider:

a)  Each ancestral family by record type (e.g., vital, census, military, immigration, newspaper, cemetery, family, books, periodicals, directories, archives, online trees, etc.).  I have created word processor tables that do this.  I usually use them only for "problem ancestors."

b)  Each surname by record collection or database, sorted by record provider (e.g., Ancestry, FamilySearch, AmericanAncestors, MyHeritage, Fold3, FindMyPast, Mocavo, etc.).   The record providers add databases, and record Hints, on a continuous basis.  I often mine specific collections (e.g., the 1940 U.S. census), and need to keep better track of what I have already done.

3)  My RootsMagic family tree software provides a way to capture all of the information I have collected in Facts (birth, death, marriage, residence, census, land, probate, etc.), along with Notes, Sources and Media items.

a)  I have over 43,000 persons in the database, but I don't continuously search for everyone in my database.  I search new databases for my ancestors to pull records into my database, but I let the Hints from each record provider push information into my database.

b)  I add all of the information that I glean from these websites, and from my research at repositories, to my RootsMagic family tree database.  I can also interact with FamilySearch Family Tree using RootsMagic.  Occasionally, I make a GEDCOM file and add a new tree at Ancestry and other online tree sites so that I can share my work and perhaps find new cousins.

c)  I use the Research Manager and To-Do List in RootsMagic, usually created for specific families, to try to keep up with what I have done, and need to find online or in repositories.  I can sort the To-Do list be repository so that I can focus on records at a specific repository (e.g., the Family History Library).

4)  I try to deal with Information Overload the best I can in the time I have available.

a)  I check and FamilySearch every day for new record databases, and try to mine the ones of significant interest soon after they appear, adding events, notes, sources and media to the RootsMagic database.

b)  I work on the MyHeritage Record Matches by specific database, and the Leaf Hints by specific database, as often as I can to add content and sources to my database.

5)  What is your favorite way to keep up with Information Overload?  Tell me and my readers!

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

mbm1311 said...

Hi Randy,

Like many poor immigrant groups, my Irish ancestors do not have a DAR level of documentation. I wanted to find and connect as many ancestors as possible so I'm up to 3,000 names. I have strong but incomplete evidence for each person. There isn't one person who has been thoroughly researched.

My goal is to get the research out with as few errors as possible. Just like DAR others will pick up my work and continue. It's a great hobby that many more will enjoy. I'm using, familysearch, werelate and findagrave.