Thursday, October 15, 2009

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Alas, hindsight is always 20/20.

I have been researching my family history for over a decade. In that time, I used a software that I can't even remember the name of but didn't really stick with it. I was really only researching one branch and didn't hardly have any names to add. Then I converted to FTM2005 in earnest and used that to record data. By that time my tree was growing to maybe 500 or so people. However, time constraints held me back from really going full force with that software.

Then, did something that I thought (and still do think) was a great idea: they introduced online family trees. It enabled me to set up a tree and directly attach my census records to the people. It enabled me to share this family tree data with people who could easily view it by surfing the 'net. Because I wanted the ability to share data but was also concerned about privacy, I came up with the "great" notion to create 4 online family trees, one representing each of my grandparents. I did this so that a cousin on my paternal grandfather's side wasn't also seeing info on my maternal grandmother. So I went along in oblivion adding records (probably at least 1500) and people (approximately 2000) between the four trees. I connected with other researchers and as I did so I sent them an invite to my private family tree. I worried about someday merging this data all into one file but felt confidant the GEDCOM format would work just fine.

So this year "someday" came. While I have enjoyed the ability to have online access to the trees with the records attached right to the people, it has had some drawbacks. First, how do you send info to people that don't have internet access let alone have a computer? That would mean I'd have to export a GEDCOM file, import it into FTM2005 and create a report to print. That's not too terribly hard but would require some cleanup, but I wasn't really pleased with the report options available in FTM2005.

I have also always relied upon the website to maintain the appropriate sources for the records I attached. So as I began to enter the blogging community first as a reader/follower, I noticed many discussions about proper source citation. My concern over a lack of accurate and/or consistent sourcing also drove me to look for other alternatives.

So after researching software alternatives, I settled on a new software package that specifically promotes the sourcing options using the Evidence Explained! style by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Then began the hard work. I exported the largest of the four family trees into a GEDCOM and imported it into the new software so I could get the feel on how it worked. After I was fairly comfortable, I then exported the remaining three trees and slowly merged them into the one I'd already set up in the new software. I think that was the easy part. The harder part was establishing what happened, if anything, to the website sources when the trees were exported.

I created a source report from the software that was over 200 pages long! That should be enough to scare anyone off from doing this project. I now have to convert every one of those "free form" citations into something that matches the Evidence style. I am slowly working my way through the list and have focused on one specific line to work on as I work my way through. As I am going through and creating the citation, particularly for the census records, I am transcribing the information so I also have that in my notes. So it really is serving a dual purpose but boy is it time-consuming.

Needless to say, it has been a very tedious task and one I only work on when I'm home alone or when the children are already in bed. It'll take me a month of Sundays and then some to finish this task. Wish me luck.........


  1. It may be very time-consuming now, but I'm betting that it will pay off later and even save you time later.

  2. Ditto what Greta said and you will have one tidy tree, that is wonderful. It's great you are doing this. I would love to have my tree the same way and that is my goal. Thank you for such a great post.

  3. Thanks, ladies, for the support. It is a tremendous amount of work but I will be able to reap the benefits eventually.