Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Too much information -- I have to sit down

Genealogy is a singularly personal pursuit -- a hobby that boils down, for each of us, to a unique set of research efforts. You may not really care who my great-aunt was (though you may share in my excitement over finding her), and vice versa, but we can each profit from the other’s experiences in seeking out our own relatives.

That’s why this Family Lines blog is not just an account of “who I found this time” but more about “this is how I did it.”

But I digress (already). You have read about my Florida searches and how exciting it was to discover the Confederate Pension applications, digitized by the Florida State Library as part of their "Florida Memory" project. And, before that, the list of Florida death record extracts available at Family Search Labs. This took me back to a family line I had set aside years ago (in the days when we depended on the Soundex to find some census records or simply searched page by microfilmed page).

Now the problem is -- when to stop! After working with these online files to fill in some serious gaps, and follow new clues, I decided to dig out an old handwritten chart a Florida relative sent me dozens of year ago. (Miraculously, I unearthed it with only a little digging.) Many of the clues found on that chart were confirmed by the Florida records I had just been looking at, but there are many more pieces of information there, waiting to be documented and possibly expanded.

Rather than flit here and there in my genealogy program, inserting these items and, in some cases, adding whole new sets of names, I decided to try creating an entirely new file from the chart, with a distinctive name showing its provenance. That way it will be available for reference in unedited form, but won’t get mixed in with what I already have. This is the method strongly recommended for dealing with any external family record -- if someone sends you a GEDCOM, or you download a pedigree from the Internet, the best plan is to keep it in a separate file until you are sure the data is accurate. Then, too, you can prune any unwanted branches -- do you really need the whole lineage from that great-aunt’s first husband’s parents?

Full disclosure here -- I actually faced this situation. A relative of mine was married to a grandson of the frontiersman Simon Kenton. But I am not related to him!! So I have avoided the temptation to add a cluster of folks from that line. Beware of people who brag about having several thousand names in their so-called “family tree.” Are they really “family”?

If transcribing the whole chart doesn’t work for me (it will involve reassembling the old copy which is on several taped-together sheets of paper, and spreading them out somewhere), well ... I will have to think of something else.


Greta Koehl said...

This is a good approach. I never add a GEDCOM directly to my database, but input relevant people individually after I have some sort of verification of their connection.l

Sheri said...

You are so right! I know for a fact that most people do not care about my ancestors, however I do know that they are interested in the methods behind my madness.

I have found though that one must present their findings in such a way that readers do start snoozing before they learn what you are trying to teach them.

Good Post!