Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One of My Favorite Things – Microsoft Excel

As anyone in my family will tell you numbers are not my thing.  I think that is why I never had much use for Microsoft Excel in the past.  However, Excel has become “my new best friend!”  In my previous post I mentioned that I acquired a great deal of "raw data" or genealogy information while researching online sites and at the FHL.  Now I was in St. John's for a limited amount of time and I wanted to "fill in the blanks" and see if I could acquire additional raw data.

First, a little background.  The Rooms (PANL) does not allow researchers to photocopy church records and most of the vital records registers are on microfilm (there are no provisions for scanning microfilm records at PANL – I believe they allow photocopying of microfilm but I decided it would be easier and less expensive to transcribe the information). 

While I was at PANL and the Centre for Newfoundland Studies (CNS) I decided that I would make a point of transcribing the following:
  1. King’s Cove Roman Catholic Baptism Records – this record appears to be maintained only at PANL and at the Archdiocese Archives at Grand Falls (which does not appear to be open to the public)
  2. King’s Cove Roman Catholic Marriage Records – same as above
  3. Newfoundland Vital Statistics - Birth Register, 1898-1923 (Books 4 - 13)
  4. Newfoundland Vital Statistics - Marriage Register, 1922-1923 (Book 10)
  5. Bonavista South Region – Voters’/Electors’ Lists – The 1928 Voters’ List is on-line at the Grand Bank's site, however there are several additional Voters’ Lists located at CNS and PANL.  While I was there I photographed the following Lists – 1890, 1900, 1928, 1932, 1946, 1948, 1955, 1962, 1966,  1972, 1975, 1978, 1985 and 1988.
  6. Bonavista South Region - Directories - Various of the directories have been transcribed and are on-line at the Grand Bank's site, however, it was nice to be able to photograph the directories (included various advertisements) as well as photograph some of the more recent directories - 1877, 1956, 1959, 1964, and 2008. 
Each day I sat down at the microfilm reader with my notebook computer to read and transcribe the information.  This is where Excel came in to play.  A caveat - I was not all that familiar with using Excel for data entry of text but having played around a bit with the program, I have determined that it is a real timesaver (check out the on-line Microsoft Office tutorials to learn how to make the best use of Excel).  I took a look at each series of documents I planned to transcribe and determine how the information was entered in the document.  Next I made a worksheet for each document I planned to review.  For my purposes I set up the worksheet based on the order the information was presented in each document as it made it easier to input the information (with Excel you can always rearrange the columns after the fact). 

For instance, for the King’s Cove Baptism Records the church register tended to be in the following order:

Date – Child’s Name – Sex - Father’s Name – Mother’s Name – Place of Baptism – Sponsors – Priest – Additional Information

King's Cove Baptisms2
 An example of the data entered in from the Register

I entered the information on a worksheet for each volume, book or reel so that I would be able to write up a source citation for my work AND entered the information in individual cells so that it would be easy to work with later.  Additionally, I put all of the information from each individual worksheet into a summary worksheet, entitled “Sorting Reel” (the combined information for any series of records) and in this worksheet I added columns for RIN, MRIN, Notes, and Source (a reference to my scanned jpeg which enables me to cross-reference my genealogy program and my scanned documents).  The Notes column gave me a place to make any notations, for example - unclear spelling, notes included by the priests, prior marital status, thoughts on any potential relationship.

Once all the information is entered in Excel, it becomes a simple matter to use the sort and/or filter functions to zero in on information important to a particular researcher.  For example, having entered all of the information from the King’s Cove Baptism Records into Excel I am now able to search by surname and get all children of a particular couple, search by community, search by surname of either parent, spouse(s) and/or child (which I can confirm by searching through my marriage worksheet or my death worksheet). Now, when I work with my genealogy program, I am able to tell if I have included all marriage, birth, baptism, and death information (and cite to the appropriate records).  Additionally if a fellow researcher or potential relation contacts me, I can quickly find information that may be of interest or use to them.

King's Cove Baptisms
My Sorting Reel Page – Sorted Alphabetically

As you have probably gathered, I am not only interested in my particular family but also the community and surrounding communities.  My grandfather left home at an early age and he died long before any family members became interested in genealogy.  We do not know where all of his relatives scattered and I have found that tracing my Keough family involves working backwards, forwards and sideways. As a result and due to the distance involved in Newfoundland research, I found the best use of my time to be acquiring as much information as possible from  all the research facilities available to me.  Entering all of the information into my Excel worksheets and my Legacy Family Tree database is definitely a work in progress!

Final Thoughts: 
  1. If you do not use Windows and/or Microsoft Excel, there are several open source programs available to you, including Google docs Spreadsheet.
  2. How do you organize your research information, what has or has not worked for you?
Next time ~ back to the Newfoundland Research Seminar.

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