Monday, July 6, 2020

Dear Randy: How Many Details Do You Add To a Family Tree Profile?

A society colleague asked this question in our society newsletter. 

My answer includes these points:

1)  I add as many events to my ancestor's Facts or Events in my desktop software program (I use RootsMagic for all data entry).  From birth to estate settlement - it might include church, town, marriage, tax, land, cemetery, funeral home, probate, directory, census, military, immigration, emigration, passenger lists, society membership, citizenship, school, newspaper, voter, residence, occupation, and other records.  I include biographical information from books, periodicals, newspapers, family stories, photographs, memories, etc.   My goal is to have source citations, media, and notes to support each Fact or Event assertion.  It all adds up to a timeline for the person profile. 

Here is the "Edit Person" screen for my great-grandfather Thomas Richmond (1848-1917) in RootsMagic:

NOTE:  The Facts are in chronological order.  The three columns with check marks are for Fact Notes, Sources and Media.  

I add research notes (if there is conflicting or confusing evidence) and person notes (a life sketch) in a "Note" attached to the Name of the person in the profile.  I often add "Fact Notes" to Facts/Events that transcribe, abstract or summarize the information in the record source.

The profile "Note" is in the right section ("Person Details") of the profile with the Name highlighted on the screen above.  Here is a screen with the "Note:"

2)  I don't do as much for collateral lines (for example, siblings of my ancestors, siblings of my wife's ancestors, DNA Match lines from common ancestors, cousin lines, my one-name study profiles, etc.).  For these profiles, I do try to find and source birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial information using the best source records available.  I usually don't add Media or other Facts/Events to these profiles, but I do add obituaries and biographies to profile Notes..

3)  I am a "lumper" rather than a "splitter" when it comes to data entry to the software program. A "splitter" will enter a Fact or Event for every variation of an event - for example, there might be six records for a birth or a death of a person, and they may have slightly different dates, or places, or name spellings.  A "lumper" might pick the earliest event information, or a consensus of the records, and enter that information to represent the event.  A "splitter" might identify a person with only a birth name, or an alternate name, and include all name variations in their profile, with a source for each name.   A "lumper" might add "Alternate Names" and source each one, with a source for each alternate name.  Software usually permits the user to add "Alternate Birth" or death or marriage information too.

As an example, here is my entry for 2nd great-grandfather Devier James Lamphier Smith (1839-1894) showing "splitter" entries for the birth date:

NOTE:  Devier was born a "Lamphier," was adopted by the Smith family, and had his name changed to Smith in 1866 by a Wisconsin state law.  There are several record dates for his birth date, but only two which give the specific date (but they are three years apart!).  I discuss this conflict in the "Person Details" Note.

4)  All of this information can be used to write blog posts, periodical articles, unpublished manuscripts, or published books at a later date.  When I get "a round tuit!"

5)  It's up to the Individual researcher as to how much to include.  I started as a "lumper" and decided 15 years ago that it was too much extra work to become a "splitter."  Being a "lumper," the narratives and reports created by the software are much more readable!


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