5 Ways To Clean Up Your Family History

Sunday, January 15, 2006

If you have been adding names for years into your genealogy program you have probably collected thousands of names from different sources and have probably changed your methodology style over time. If you have never thought about cleaning up your database or are not sure where to start, this blog entry is for you.

1. Duplicate individuals
Most genealogy programs have a merge feature. This is designed to look for duplicate individuals and to then merge them together. Make sure that the two individuals really are duplicates. Many families named individuals after other individuals in the family and so exact duplicate names are quite common in genealogical research. If your genealogy software allows you to review information during the merge process, make sure that you review parents, spouses and any dated information to ensure that you do not unintentionally merge two real individuals. If the individuals aren't duplicates, mark them as not duplicates so that you do not have to do this review again during another merge in the future. And whatever you do, create a backup before you start this process!

2. Cleaning up individuals
Almost all genealogy programs have a potential problems report. This report can be useful in spotting non-sensical data in your file. Many programs allow you to set threshholds for the data, such as minimum age for marriage, maximum child-bearing age or maximum life span. Check each individual listed and if possible, mark them to be ignored if the potential problem isn't actually a problem. Correct any genuine problems that you find.

3. Cleaning up places
Not all genealogy software programs allow you to merge places but some of the common programs do (such as Legacy). Use the Location List in Legacy to spot duplicate places and merge them together.

4. Cleaning up sources and citations
There are three things to do here. First is to merge any duplicate sources. This happens often when another gedcom is imported into your file. For example, one user might have referred to the IGI, the other to the International Genealogical Index.

Secondly, ensure proper source citation. While it is not necessary to become too obsessed about the proper way (check Elizabeth Shown Mills' "Evidence"), you should at least be consistent. Rootsmagic 3 has a Source Wizard that helps you to enter the information in the correct format and to ensure nothing is left out in the citation. The Master Genealogist has a similar feature where you can select whether you want to follow one of the more popular citation formats and then it guides you to how to do this.

Lastly, every "fact" in your database should have a source. The Master Genealogist has a feature that reminds you to enter a source when you enter data. TMG, Legacy and Rootsmagic all require multiple steps to find missing sources. You will need to search by fact, for example, individuals who have a census record but no associated source. In Legacy this requires that you tag all individuals that have a census fact, and then untag all individuals using census sources (you may have one census source or many, depending how you have set up your sources). This will give you a list of tagged individuals that you can add a source to.

5. Broken trees
Some programs allow you to count trees in your file. Ideally your file should only have one tree. Everyone should be connected in some way or other. There should be no stray individuals disconnected from your tree. Rootsmagic 3 allows you to count trees, select the Count Trees in Database from the Tools menu.

Legacy 6 Standard is available for FREE from www.legacyfamilytree.com
The Master Genealogist 6 (www.whollygenes.com), Rootsmagic 3 (www.rootsmagic.com) and Legacy 6 Deluxe are all commercial products.

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