Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Confessions of a BAD Genealogist.

I've missed working on my family history. I would like to get back “into it” again. I'd also like to make a stop at a little library in Salt Lake City in the not too distant future. I'm not sure how I can “get into” the genealogy while traveling, but we'll see. First though, I need to figure out what it is that I need to research! It's been over a year since I've done anything in that regard.

After spending some time this last week re-immersing myself in my genealogy databases, I realized that they are a bigger mess than I remembered. I have two primary databases. One for the maternal lines (6330 people) and another for the paternal lines (1680 people) and a few smaller “special research” databases. And yeah, I've spent much more time on Mom's families.

When I first started working with a genealogy program (back in the dark ages, it seems) it was with the DOS based PAF (Personal Ancestral File). My first personal computer (about 1994, three years after I completed the book on the Phend Family History the old-fashioned way!) was Windows based and, after a year or so of working with the clunky DOS program, I moved on to Reunion for Windows. I also tried Family Tree Maker and a series of other early genealogy programs but stuck with Reunion.

This was back in the day before genealogy software had sourcing capabilities and, to be honest, before I had an understanding as to the importance of keeping track of ALL of your sources. The data went into the assigned fields. Sources, if any, were thrown into the notes. In 1997, Leister Productions sold Reunion for Windows to Sierra Software and focused their efforts on the MAC version of Reunion. I stayed with Reunion for a few more years but then Millennia came out with version 2.0 of Legacy Family Tree. I tried it. I liked it. I switched. I'm still using it!

So, now, some sources are where they are supposed to be, although not necessarily “correct” by anyone's standard. And some sources are still in notes. (My “theory” regarding sources has always been to provide enough info so that someone else could find it. Just not formatted according to Mills or anyone else!) But some of the data that has been input doesn't even have sources. And, to top it off, I've been totally inconsistent in where additional information has been entered – sometimes in notes, sometimes in events/facts, and some even in both places! I could lay the blame on the software but in reality it is/was downright laziness on my part.

Thinking that I might have some extra time on my hands, I purchased RootsMagic about a month before embarking on this journey of mine. I finally installed it last week. I imported my biggest Legacy database into RootsMagic. And that is when I discovered what a really, really big mess I have. Worse than I had ever imagined. There's nothing like a different program to “bring out” the shortcomings of the “special” things I'd done with data entry in Legacy.

Like I said, my databases are a mess. I want to get the data “out there” in cyberspace, I want to share it. But not in its current condition!

So, what am I going to do about it?

A little over a year ago, I remember reading about Amy Coffin's efforts when she began Planting a New Family Tree. At the time, in my mind, I silently congratulated her while at the same time thinking she had to be absolutely crazy!

And here I am, considering doing the same thing! But that idea causes my brain to freeze up. So many people, so much data, so much time! But it would also take time to go through each person in my current databases – check their data, sources, notes, events/facts, etc. So at this point, I really don't know what I'll do. Or when I'll do it. Obviously, since I'm still in traveling mode, and the available time for working on a project of this magnitude is limited, it is going to take a long, long time to complete no matter which route I take and no matter which software I go with.

But first, I'm gonna go check out the ancestors and see what information I am missing on them... if I'm going to Salt Lake City, I need to get prepared!


Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with any of the software programs or companies mentioned and have not been compensated by any of them for mentioning their names in this post. As a member of Geneabloggers, I did receive complimentary versions of Legacy 7.0 and RootsMagic 4.0 at the 2010 California Genealogy Jamboree. However, I had previously purchased both software packages.


  1. Wow....I'm glad I'm not the only one! All my sources are in my notes..notes read like a time line mostly, and I like it that way really. But early on I didn't source everything and many of the links I used for Internet sources are dead links now. I would need an extra lifetime to finish all the genealogical tasks I have lined up and this would not be at the top.

  2. Becky, I seriously doubt that you are the only one around who has squirrely stuff going on in their software, you are just the only one who admits it on their blog lol.
    As for the sourcing, you aren't alone there either. I think the most important thing to remember is that you source period. Is not as important as to whose standards of sourcing you use as long as you source IN SOME FORM.
    Enjoy the time in the library - its an awesome place!

  3. Becky, remember, as a wise friend once told me, you accomplish this by taking one bite at a time, the same way you would eat an elephant, (eh Karen?). Many of us have been there, done that, and, yaaa, we still are there, doing that.

    First step back and decide how you want to source, a master plan, as it be, then, start with yourself, and your parents, and fix those records. Work along a few at a time. And, even if you never finish, what you have corrected will be all the better for it! Good luck, we will be reading and listening, let us hear how it goes.

  4. That's funny - I've been thinking of starting all over, too! I think it's a least among us "bad" genealogists.

  5. This could be a new kind of self-help group -- one citation at a time!


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