Monday, December 5, 2011

Cleaning Up My Genealogy Database

Last month I wrote about the amazing finds that I had made in my research just by cleaning up my database. I said that I was going to write about my process, but then I never did. So today I will share what I am doing to make my family tree database better.

First thing I did was to create a list of all the people in my database. I could have kept this as a digital file and highlighted within it, but I wanted to use my pretty highlighters and I get some odd satisfaction out of actually crossing things off a list. This list will help to make sure that I get everyone. I've found more people to add to my database, but I've decided not to add them to the list. I'm trying to add them and all their details properly the first time (and they'll get their turn the next time I decide to do this).

For each person in my database I am:
  1. Checking that all facts have sources.
  2. Making sure that all sources have source detail to tell me what the source said and why I added it to each fact. Nothing annoys me when I am trying to figure out who was in a census with someone and it's not in my database. The record is there, but not the transcription. I like being able to see the information I want quickly and not having to waste time trying to decode someone's awful handwriting for the 10th time.
  3. Research for person in online databases. So many new databases have come online recently. I keep pretty good track of what is new, but I will never remember all the places that family members lived. So it's is good to go back through everyone and see what new resources are available to find them.
  4. Check Find A Grave. Add person if not listed. Request photo if not found. At one point, I thought I would just visit and take all these photos myself. But that is not realistic, especially for all those collateral lines. Now might not be the best time to request photos with the snow and cold weather, but I've already gotten 5 photos back. Plus my requests will be waiting when someone wants to take a walk through a cemetery on a warm day.
  5. Compare RootsMagic database on my computer to my online tree on Ancestry. I love my Ancestry tree and all those little leaves. Probably because I'm smarter than those leaves. I don't just add everything it suggests, I evaluate the sources and add them if they fit. But I love those leaves because sometimes they find sources I would never cross my mind. Keeping my Ancestry tree current with my research should help to get more leaves that fit my tree.
  6. Make a list in Evernote of sources to check at the Allen County Public Library on my weekly research trips.
So why am I taking the time to do this? There are 2 main reasons. First, my research skills have improved tremendously in the last 3 and a half years. It's time to go back and use my improved research skills on my own tree. Second, I'm bored with my research. I've been stuck with my research and have been ordering microfilm and other records. Which is good. But sometimes I just want to do some good old fashioned census research. I thought that I had finished that within my own tree, but I am amazed at how many people I lost track of and have now been able to find. I'm still going to order microfilm, visit repositories and request records, but I like having something I can do at home and online.

My goal is to do 5 people a day. There are over 1800 people in my database, so I'll be able to finish this clean up before the end of 2012 if I keep doing a little every day. I am skipping all the people in one branch of my tree that I think has a bad connection. Whenever I finish a surname letter, I'll write a blog post on what I found. I've written about the unknown surnames already and will post about the letter A tomorrow. Currently I'm working on the Bs which will take a while since there are 6 main family lines under that letter.

What are you doing to improve your database?


  1. Gosh. How 'bout if I improve mine by sending it off to you for a 2013 project?

    Seriously, great post. I'm still slogging through my pared down pedigree tree, but your point about keeping the Ancestry Tree current is worth thinking about. I haven't paid much attention to it.

  2. I wish you stamina for a task like that!

    I tried to clean up my family file once but didn't get far because without a method to follow. I have an old index of my database with columns for name and bmd dates and places. I should print a new one and use your system.

    It will mean new research because there's bad data for a lot of people. I started my online research in 1996 ... lots of family members over the dam since then.

    Good luck and persevere! —@AuntJill

  3. I'm experiencing what you said about new databases that have come online recently - I've been going through my database with the Ancestry free access to World War II records, and found lots of new information in their BIRLS database from the Veterans Administration! Birth & death dates, branch of military service, and entrance & exit dates for that service. (Some people with more than one hitch!)

  4. Outstanding! I'll bet most of us need to go back and do this type of clean-up. I find myself going back over some of the people in my Reunion database as I add them to my Ancestry Family Tree and to my website on Weebly. Sometimes it's place names that need to be fixed up, sometimes it's a missing census, and so on.

  5. Great project, Tina! I really like the steps you are taking. I may incorporate some of this in my 2012 goals. Good luck!

  6. Agree with previous posts and I also need to clean up my database. Did you keep a backup for clues before your cleanup? Then did you delete data with no source? I feel like I have some valid info that I might not have or know the source but it could still be a helpful clue.