Monday, October 24, 2011

Motivation Monday - Database Clean Up

Long time no blog!  My plan to blog at least once a week fell by the wayside due to "real life" interruptions.  Last year at this time I was sailing through a month (31 days straight) of posts devoted to family history topics using an alphabet theme.  Ah, those were the days!  These past few months while I have kept up with other blogs, attended several webinars and web workshops, gone searching for ancestors at the Minnesota Archives, several County historical society libraries, and more than a few out of the way cemeteries, I just could not get it together blogging-wise. 

Now that the leaves have turned and an autumn chill is in the air, it is time to get back to it.  I have spent the past few weeks cleaning up my master lists in my Legacy database program.  This particular project is part of my continuing effort to organize my genealogy research (both the paper and computer variety).  I discovered that I needed to make a few decisions about what I was doing and how I was doing it before I added any more people, places and things.  The impetus for this organization project is that I just have too much paper, too little space, and I don't think I have taken advantage of all the information I have accumulated over the past few years.  I want to make sure I am working smarter ~ not harder, and in the process I wanted to pare down all the excess (sound familiar).

My organization project is an effort to have a more professional product or output for all my research.  I spent the better part of this summer playing with Legacy and some add-on programs, reading the manuals, attending seminars, workshops and webinars, and lurking at the various program forums.  Until I played around with the program and printed several reports and then used them during my research trips, I found I had not really paid enough attention to the input and the output of my genealogy data.

So what have I learned?
  • Pick a database management program and learn it ~ play around and learn all the ins and outs, the tips and tricks.  Make sure the program you chose works for you!  If you keep jumping from one program to the next, you tend to lose focus and you will never master the program.
  • Determine at the outset how you want your data to look in a report and then plan your data entry accordingly ~ be consistent with data entry (the key here is templates - mine are in a Word document on my desktop).
  • Set time aside to clean up your database program on a monthly basis ~ clean up those master lists (surname, address, event, repository, and sources) on a regular basis.  Doing a bit each month means you won't have a big mess to clean up right before you need a research to-do list or an ancestor report.
  • Spend some time with your master source list and make sure you like how the sources read in a report.  Figure out how to add events/facts and sources in your program.  Make sure you are comfortable with the wording of both the events/facts sentences and the source output and/or make any necessary changes and additions.  I spent the better part of the last month cleaning up my master sources list and changing the sentences for facts/events for a better flow in reports.  It was a pain but it helped me clean up past mistakes, put my master sources in a useful order, and gave me plenty of quality time with the source clipboard.  Is a fellow genealogist able to follow your research and find your sources?
  • Spend some time each week with one family and do the following:
    • check for vital records information (birth, marriage, death) ~ make a note of what is missing and where you should look for it ~ add it to the to-do lists.
    • check for census entries (for me these are facts/events) ~ make a note of any missing censuses and where you should look for the family ~ add them to the to-to lists.
    • check for obituaries - make a note of where you should look for them ~ add them to the to-do lists.
    • check for burials/cremations ~ make a note of what is missing and where you should look for it ~ add it to the to-do lists.
  • It is all about quality not quantity ~ pay attention to the details at the outset and you will be rewarded with a professional work product.
A big thank you to all those lecturers whose webinars, workshops and seminars helped me fine tune my approach to genealogy research.  Both my paper and computer organization are slowly but surely "getting there." 

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