Monday, June 11, 2012

Cleaning Up The Alphabet - Lessons Learned

In December, I started a project to clean up my genealogy database. I chose to look at each person in my database alphabetically and search for missing citations as well as missing records. I made the goal to look at 5 ancestors each day, analyzing what I had and find new information. I was amazed at how many new documents I was able to find, how many photos of tombstones I found and how many missing surnames were within my database.

As the project comes to a close, I'd like to share a few things that I learned:
  • Organizing alphabetically was the right approach for me. I found that I really wanted to get through my main surnames quickly and didn't spend enough time analyzing everything I had on each person. On the other hand, I spent more time tracking down the missing information about people who had married into my family. Something about the disconnect for everyone else let me focus on the individual and not rush.
  • Sorting through every person gets very confused. I would find people with one of my surnames in books about counties far, far away from where they lived. Looking at everyone made me forget who I was actually seeking. Next time (maybe in a few years) I think I will separate the project into my grandparents or great-grandparents. Then I will be able to focus on the places more than the names.
  • It was a great way to start the day. I knew that every day I needed to look at 5 ancestors. Many days I did more depending on the time frame and how much information I could reasonably expect to find on people. Of course some days I struggled to get it done when I was fortunate enough to hit a gold mine of information. And I didn't stress when I didn't have time for my 5 ancestors every so often. But it got me into the habit of doing something small with my genealogy each day (AKA more projects coming).
So what's next? I was going to take a break, but I found that I like doing something each day. So here are my future projects.
  • Cleaning up place names in my database. I'm really bad about making sure that I have the right county on a certain date in history before I enter it into my database. This is especially true of my colonial New England lines. Probably because I'm not as invested in the research on those families and have used family histories to fill in those lines. So I ran County Check in Roots Magic 5 and am fixing a page of errors a day (about a dozen). 
  • 1940 Census. I'm going to wait for the 1940 census to be completely indexed and then go back through my tree alphabetically and (hopefully) find everyone.
  • Husband's tree. When I started this project, I planned to start organizing my husband's tree when I finished mine. But I'm going to wait until the 1940 census is indexed before I start his tree. That way I don't have to go back through it later.
What are you doing to clean up your genealogy database?


  1. Congrats on finishing! I am still going through mine. I am not sure why it is taking so long (abt 3,400 people). Maybe it is because I have so many sources for so many distant cousins and collateral lines. I have been going by family instead of alphabetically, so that may make a difference too. There are also numerous Michigan and Ohio sources online now that I have been adding. Oh, well. I will get through!

  2. I'd love to get something like this done, but I'm intimidated by the process. My database (and by that I mean my watchlist on WikiTree) is not too big, only 1124 people at the moment. But it would definitely test my attention span!

    But I have actually been going through my list alphabetically lately. I've been adding categories to all my profiles for every place I know they lived. I've also fixed up a few things along the way, so it's like a less thorough version of what you did. :)