Once you have started your own Ancestral Hunt, you will soon find yourself accumulating many family materials. As you document stories and traditions, gather photographs and letters, and excitedly trace down every piece of paper with a possible clue on it, you may find that all of those bits and pieces are slowing you down, especially as you begin to enter unknown territory.
Imagine a hunter going into an uncharted forest. How will he find his way back? How will he keep track of where he has been? How will he stop himself from walking in circles and repeating the same steps? What can he use to keep from getting lost?
Keeping Track of Searches
Ancestral hunters also go into unknown territory. They need to be reminded of their own research steps which brought them to a certain place (or conclusion). They need to keep track of where they have been by writing down their searches on research logs. Finally they can prevent becoming lost or duplicating the same searches they have previously done by maintaining research planners. "Logs" record what was previously done. "Planners" record not only previous research, but list what we plan on researching.
While you may want to skip over keeping records, because it isn't nearly as much fun as hunting, it is the very core of a good genealogist's success. While other hunters are finding unrelated insects, squirrels, and rabbits, the prepared and careful hunter is finding the exact game he is hunting. Don't be fooled. Anything worth doing, is worth doing right the first time.
A Powerful Assistant
Now is the time when a powerful genealogy program really comes to your assistance. Placing the clues from the gathered materials into a computer program will not only keep them straight in your own mind, but will also speed up the research process. This acceleration in research, however, will only work if consideration is given to good record-keeping methods from the very beginning.
Lesson one covered the many features of a good genealogy computer program. This lesson will lay out for you several tried-and-true steps for greater success in your research using your own computer program.
Good record-keeping methods include proper documentation. Documentation is actually a three-pronged approach which includes:
- a citation of what the material was, and where it can be located, so that anyone following in your footsteps can find the document again, (think of it as broken tree limbs, bread crumbs along the path, or actual animal tracks).
- a photocopy, transcript, abstract, or extract of the materials, (rather like sighting the animal from a distance), and
- the researcher's evaluation of the materials.
If you have found a documented connection on one of the World Family Tree CD-ROMs, you have experienced the happiness documentation provides already. With today's new technology, adding documentation to your own family files can be quite painless, and can bring some of that happiness to others.
Documentation varies according to:
- which computer program you are using,
- which media you intend to retain your materials in (will the information be printed on paper or kept in an electronic database?), and
- whether you intend to write an article, a book, or produce a CD-ROM.
Often, what we start out doing (having fun entering our family in the computer) is not what we end up doing (preparing a copy of everything we have for a family reunion). Therefore, information prepared for one purpose is often used in another medium or publication format.
I like the fill-in-the-blank approaches to documentation that the major computer programs allow you to use. This makes the chore of entering your citations much easier, and the program will be able to pull these citations, comments, abstracts, and images right into a publishable report, booklet, or book.
For example, the Family Tree Maker (FTM) program allows a simple fill-in-the-blank approach.
There are several ways to document the sources of the information contained on this FTM page. Clicking the "More" button allows you to place biographical information about an individual into his More About dialog boxes If you click the "Facts" button after clicking the "More" button, you get the screen shown on the next page. The Facts fields on this screen allow you to enter facts about a person's life. If you prefer, you can enter these facts in chronological order.
Notes entered in chronological order are most effective in the research process. Our lives and the lives of our ancestors are history. A great truth involving history is that it is a relationship of time and events in sequence. The sequence may be a simple chronology or a complicated sequence of cause and effect.
Once you have clicked on the "More" button, you are in an individual's More About dialog boxes. The buttons to the right, Facts, Address, Medical, Lineage, and Notes, take you to each of the dialog boxes in Family Tree Maker where you can enter additional information about an individual.
Sample of Facts Entered in Chronological Order for Thomas Lincoln
1778 Born at the end of the Revolutionary War in Rockingham County (the year the county was divided from Augusta County, Virginia) 1800 Land records indicate he moved from Rockingham to the state of Kentucky 1806 Married Nancy Hanks in Kentucky 1809 His son, Abraham was born in Kentucky 1816 Mentioned in the land records of Kentucky as moving to Indiana 1818 His wife of twelve years, Nancy Hanks, dies in Spencer County, Indiana.
Time lines help us understand and remember sequential relationships. It is a visual aid that seems to promote the mental arrangement of events in their proper order.
You may also use these Facts fields if you import information into Family Tree Maker from a different genealogy program using GEDCOM. For example, Fact 1 could be a person's birth date; Fact 2 could be a marriage date; Fact 5 could be an Ancestral File number; Fact 6 could be a lineage society number, Fact 7 a baptismal date; Fact 8 an endowment date (for LDS users); Fact 9 a sealing date to spouse (for LDS users); Fact 10 a sealing date to parents (also for LDS users); Fact 11 the date information was entered, etc. These fields can be searched later.
When you bring your data from another computer program (such as the Personal Ancestral File 2.31, PAF, program) into the FTM program, all the notes are placed in the "Notes" dialog box as shown above. You may also enter transcribed oral histories, family stories, and comments to your heart's content in this "Notes" dialog box.
The general concept is that all facts and clues pertaining to an individual should be recorded with that individual. The FTM program allows that concept to be maintained. In this lesson, we provide two samples of note styles that you could enter in this dialog box. The first sample is basically text, and it can be seen in the picture above. The next type is in strict chronological order.
The first example allows for a nice narrative and transition from one family unit or family research problem to another. However, the clues to continuing the research are buried in paragraphs of text.
The second example, in chronological order, helps the reader to examine the materials as though he were a researcher. Missing information can be seen immediately. For example, the 1910 and 1920 census records are missing on this example.
- 1897 BIRTH: WI, Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Film # FHL 1275678, item 2, Vol. 1, page 346: James M. Nelson, son of George O. and Mary Elizabeth Nelson, of Milwaukee Heights, born 4 May 1897.
- 1900 CENSUS: WI, Green Co., Monroe Twp, Film #32 San Bruno Archives, E. D. 43, sheet 13A, line 14: George O. Nelson, white, male, 40 years old born Jun 1860 OH, father born OH, mother born NY, can read and write, owns home freely, occupation farmer; Ellie, white, female, wife, age 38, born Sep 1862 born Canada, parents born NY, housekeeper, can read and write; George, 18, born Nov 1882, OH, father born OH mother born NY, farmer laborer, can read and write; Mary, 16, born Oct 1884, IL, father born OH, mother born NY, going to school...Monroe, son, age 3, born May 1897, WI...
- 1905 LETTER: Letter from George O. Nelson to his wife, dated June 14, 1905 from Medicine Lodge, Kansas, copy in possession of Mr. John Browning, 12566 How'd He Do It Drive, Hoe, CA 98435: "...Sweetheart, found a wonderful new farm outside of Medicine Lodge...will be there in two weeks with the boys to pick up the household goods...Jim Boy can even have a swing in the big tree we've found for him here...love George."
- 1910 CENSUS: Missing
- 1920 MARRIAGE: CA, Monterey Co., Salinas, marriage record, certificate 45723, copy in my possession: James Monroe Nelson, age 22, and Sarah Marie Brown, age 19, both of Salinas, were married at the home of the bride, on February 14, 1920.
- 1920 CENSUS: Missing
Besides including basic sources to substantiate the vital information entered in the individual data fields, FTM Notes dialog boxes can be used as a place to enter your personal impressions about what records to search the next time you have an opportunity to go to a repository. This dialog box also provides a place to identify conflicting or missing information.
The Notes dialog box can also help you keep track of ideas and unanswered questions which evolve as you enter your documentation. These can be in the form of "Take Action" notes or "To Do" lists. Here are examples of "To Do" notes.
- Order death certificate in California, Monterey County, for James Monroe Nelson. Maybe it will tell the year he moved to California.
- Search the 1910 census index for California or Kansas for James Monroe Nelson via his father George.
- The 1920 census would give Sarah's birth place. Maybe her obituary that is in mom's scrapbook would tell me more. Ask mom to read it to me.
- What happened to the brothers and sisters of James Monroe? Did he marry once before in Kansas?
You can enter narrative text, chronological notes, facts, and "to do" lists under each person, or under selected individuals.
It is best to experiment with the program to see which features you want to use. You can go back to the fill-in-the-blank form by clicking on the "FamPg" icon.
The Scrapbook feature of FTM allows you to store any type of electronic information including sound clips, video clips, and OLE objects or Kodak Photo CD-ROM pictures. Also scanned documents such as copies of marriage certificates, military records, wills, etc., may be added if they are scanned in a format used by FTM, such as .JPG. If you do not own a scanner, these documents may be ordered from the GRA Record Lookup Service and scanned for you into .JPG files.
In addition to allowing you to enter text and facts, the FTM program allows you to easily enter 22 of the most commonly used genealogical sources in the proper bibliographic format with the Ctrl + S command. You'll learn all about that in the next few pages.
Entering Endnote and Bibliographic Citations
This new feature in version 4.0 of Family Tree Maker allows you to document specific events from the fill-in-the-blank fields entered previously. Genealogists have long found that each date and/or event in a person's life may be documented in one or many sources. The ideal situation would be to "document" each event with the actual source from which that event was obtained.
To see how this works, place the cursor on the "Date born" field of an individual. Then hold down the Ctrl key and tap the "S" key. A source citation dialog box will appear.
In the ""Title of Source"" field in the Source Citation dialog box, enter the title of the birth source in upper and lower case letters. When the sources are printed, they will be italicized automatically by FTM when appropriate to standard citation methods.
If need to use this source again, you won't have to retype the title and some of the other information about the source. Instead, you can just click on the "Find Master Source" button below the "Title of Source" field. Then scroll down to the source you want to use, and tap the Enter key. That source will appear in the "Title of Source" field.
Now click on the "Edit Master Source" button to include the author or originator of the information, the publisher's name, the type of media (a book, Family Archive CD-ROM, manuscript, microfilm, or any one of the other 22 sources offered in the drop-down menu), the call number of the item, and the source (or repository) of the item.
In our example (shown on the next page), James M. Nelson's birth information came from a microfilm found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. So we clicked on the "Source media" drop-down list and selected "Microfilm."
We then typed the film number in the "Call number" field and the repository in the "Source location" field. However the film number did not appear in our footnote as we wanted it; so we entered the words "FHL Film #1275678 item 2" in the "Publications Facts" field; and it worked! (See the sample report in this lesson to see how the footnotes turned out. The footnotes are at the bottom of the report.)
We also typed information from the document in the "Citation Text" field. (Again, see the sample report.)
Completing the Master Source Dialog Box
When you click the "Edit Master Source" button, Family Tree Maker displays a dialog box where you can finish entering information about the source. The title you entered in the Source Citation dialog box is in gray in this dialog box rather than in a bold black font -- that's because you can't change the title of the source here. However, in the field below that, you may enter the name of the author or originator of the source.
Type in the first name, then type in the surname (the last name of the person), such as "Karen Clifford." Endnotes and footnotes are entered in this manner, not last name first. The next field, "Publication facts," allows you to enter the city (the name of the state if the city is not commonly known by most people), publisher, and the copyright date. For example, if you were going to enter the book about the federal archives by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, you would enter it in this manner:
Enter the title of the source in the "Title of source" field as "The Archives: A Guide to National Archives Field Branches."
Then in the "Author/Originator" field, enter the authors as "Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking." You do not need to put any commas, parentheses, italics or periods, because the program will automatically do that if you click on the "Source media" button and select the proper source, which in this case is "Book."
Next you would enter the publication facts as follows: "Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1988"
When you returned to the Source Citation dialog box and entered the page number that you were referring to (145 in this case), the whole citation would appear at the bottom of that dialog box as follows: "Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, The Archives: A Guide to National Archives Field Branches , (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1988), 145."
However, we're not quite finished entering the master source yet.
In the "Comments" field, you can provide any comments about the source, provided they are not too lengthy. The purpose of this field is to alert another user of the veracity of this particular source. In other words, has this author provided adequate documentation, does his work seem accurate, or is the material "lacking" in some way? You may also type in a note about the quality of the source in the "Quality" field. When finished, select the "OK" button and you are returned to the Source Citation dialog box.
Having now edited the master source, you can add the page number and actual text from the citation in the Source Citation dialog box, if you desire. Remember, this is the place to put expanded knowledge of the citation that you would like to have placed in an endnote or a footnote. There is room for only three sentences.
By leaving the "Include citation text in footnote" check box marked, the information you enter in the Source Citation dialog box will be printed with footnotes. Note that the citation you have asked to be printed will show up at the bottom of the Source Citation dialog box. It will appear exactly as it will print in the report. This way you can determine if it is the format you desire. If you have put in any extra punctuation marks, or make any other changes, now is the time to correct them. Now click the "OK" button.
By entering your citations properly, they will be organized into the correct format, and will look right when you use Family Tree Maker to produce a book or report for you.
To see how your own notes will look in a printed report, select the word "View," at the top of the screen, and click on it. From the drop-down menu, select "Genealogy Report." The program will produce a report starting with the person you had on the previous Family Page.
You can also click on the word "Format" at the top of the screen and select "Genealogy Report," from the drop-down menu. Now you can select the "NGS Quarterly" report option and a sample will appear. Feel free to test the other options available such as the "Register" version. Now click on the "OK" button to format your report. It does not change any data in your FTM file."
If you want to change the contents of the report, click on the word ""Contents"" and then select the word ""Options."" Then select whether to include individual notes, facts, and marriage notes. Also select whether to include source information as endnotes or inline notes or not to include them at all. Then select the way you would like the generations numbered. Once you hit the ""OK"" button, you can see your report on the screen before you actually print it so you don't need to waste paper if you don't like it."
We have included a generated report for you to examine. You can see the notes down at the bottom of the page.
To see how your own notes will look in a book format, select the word "Books," at the top of the screen, when your cursor is on the Family Page of the person with which you wish to start the book. Click on the words "New Book."
Make up a title for your book, type it in, and put your own name down as author.
When the "Outline" comes up, available items to be included in your report are to the left. Select a Title Page, Table of Contents, Genealogy Report of your individual, and an Index by highlighting those items one at a time and clicking on the "Add>" button to place them in your "Outline" which is the right side of the screen. You can add blank pages of text by selecting "Text Item" and choosing "Introduction," "Preface," "Foreword," etc.
You could select a Title Page, Copyright, Introduction, Table of Contents, Register Report, Descendant Tree, and Index and put together a nice book.
The outline will print the items you selected in the same order as they appear on the right side of the screen pictured above. Therefore, you should have these items listed in the order in which you want them printed. If they are not in order, press the "Move Up" or "Move Down" buttons to place them in order.
When you click on the words "Genealogy Report of...," you will be asked to select the type of report you want printed. After you have selected the type of report, and added any options you want, go to the word "View" at the top of the screen and click on "Genealogy Report" in the drop-down menu to see how your book will look on the screen.
By selecting the word "Prefs" or "Books," you can select a variety of options. You can choose from three different genealogy reports, select the number of generations to include, include notes and source information, change how the generations are numbered, and change the title. By selecting the word "Contents" and then "Options" in the drop-down menu, you can include individual notes, facts, marriage notes, and sources in your report.
After viewing your report, click on the "File" option and select "Print the Genealogy Report."
Your first printout will probably be a working draft. You can change things around, add missing data and photos, and correct spelling errors. By this time, you should feel very proud of the nice family history book you have written.
A citation is good because it tells you where to find a document again. The actual interpretation and transcription of the document is even better. Computers allow the space and the ability to search every clue to extend a family backward in time.
You can share your newly-found information with ease by contributing it on the Internet at Family Tree Maker Online to the World Family Tree project. You can also create your own Web page for sharing information at Family Tree Maker Online. The high cost of publishing a family history is therefore avoided. Why ignore all the opportunities to pass on your research to your descendants?
There is a caution, however. Computerized sharing of data often occurs without the built-in safeguards associated with paper publishing, such as pre-publication screening, proof-reading, editors, reworked drafts, galley proofs, and post-publication reviews by impartial readers. So, as we enter our materials, we want to be as careful as possible. We are going to want to share our information with as wide an audience as possible if we ever hope to find all the missing branches of our family trees, and we don't want to share incorrect information.
Much of electronic publishing is actually only working papers; all the more reason for exercising greater care with documentation. New software replaces professionals who have training and experience. Sometimes this is good, as evidenced in word processing programs which help us become our own editors, and financial programs which balance our checkbooks. In the future, computers with intelligent systems will actually help us do the research, but we must be wise in our use of all technology. There are important basic citation techniques to be learned, along with the tools to improve the searching.
They Spelled Our Name Wrong?
How we handle the transcripts, abstracts and interpretation of the record is part of documentation. Only extraneous, redundant words are removed, while all the essential who, what, when, where, why, and how elements remain. If something unusual is encountered such as the misspelling of your surname, or other words, they are recorded as found. Names, dates, signatures and punctuation are never corrected, and any needed explanatory remarks are included in brackets. Spellings should remain the same as in the original document followed by [sic] if you disagree with the spelling or information. The original document may later provide clues to foreign spelling.
Entries should be recorded in sequential order, starting with the year for easy reference. If the document is torn, difficult to read, missing parts, or in some way different from others in the same series, this should also be noted as it could provide valuable clues for future research.
But I Disagree with the Record!
Place your personal interpretation of the data in a separate part of the report (as automatically separated in the FTM program in the "Comments" field). Don't judge your ancestor by changing the record itself. Social customs and word terms have often changed. Therefore, you may be misjudging your ancestor because you do not understand what you are reading. There are authoritative sources, such as Black's Law Dictionary, A to Zax, or historical references of the time to understand how the meaning of phrases have evolved over time. For example, unabridged dictionaries, with multiple definitions are very helpful for explaining early relationship terms.
The use of ellipses (. . .) lets us know when part of the complete text or title is not being cited. This may be used as often as you leave out nonessential information, such as legal verbiage or redundant sentences. Brackets are used to signify that you are adding material not found in the original, such as a point of clarification, an alternative transcript of a hard-to-read word, or your own interpretation of the word.
Not only will these citations and abstracts help others, they will guide you, the researcher, to more sources and even generate additional clues.
The best type of transcript is an actual photocopy of the original, which you could eventually scan into your document when you desire. However, if a transcript is necessary, be very careful that you have entered each word the way it is spelled and punctuated, and with any errors that are already in the record.
Don't Forget to Evaluate!
The final step in the research process is evaluation of the materials. It may be necessary for you to study a history book, a dictionary, or a guide to research in a particular state to evaluate what you have learned from the document and how this now applies to your ancestor. This evaluation process also can become the transition from one family to another, so that when the materials and a book is compiled, it will not be necessary to redo the process. This is the most neglected step among new genealogists. If used, however, this step will make your research much more successful.
The FTM program produces a quality family history largely because the critical elements of the documentation process have already been placed into the program. But more importantly, by doing the documentation as you go along, you will find that it directs you to new clues.
Three books which will provide you with abundant examples of citation formats preferred by highly respected genealogists are:
- Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997);
- The Chicago Manual of Style , 14th edition, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); and
- Guidelines for Genealogical Writing: Style Guide for The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, with Suggestions for Genealogical Books (Boston: The New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1990)
Whatever source documentation method you use, be sure to:
- include the who, what, why, when, where and how, and
- enter sources consistently.
Incidentally, where do you place all the left over papers that have not been scanned into your computer program, original copies of your documents, and research planners? That is a lesson in itself which we will leave for another day. For now, however, jot down LIGHTLY IN PENCIL somewhere on the actual document (I use the upper right-hand corner) an indication that you have entered the material in your program so you don't need to worry about that document again. Then file these papers away in a safe place. With developing technology, you may soon be able to scan all of them onto a CD-ROM.
Copyright © 1997, Genealogy Research Associates, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Genealogy Research Associates, Inc. and Genealogy.com.
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