13 January 2015

Genealogy Do-Over or Source-Based Incremental Fix?

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the 'Genealogy Do-Over' or 'Go-Over' proposed by Thomas MacEntee. I am taking a different approach. I'm doing a 'source-based incremental fix'.

Starting again from scratch is not an option for me because...

  • Some archival records that I used are no longer open to the public. The Government has since changed the access restrictions.

  • Talking to relatives in the 1970s gave me vital details that I have never found in documents - and those relatives are now in Heaven.

  • Many records that I used are on the other side of the world. They are not indexed and not digitised.

  • I have never copied details from online trees, and I never will. I might treat them as clues for further research, but that's all. About 90% of my research was done in the 1970s and 1980s, long before I had Internet access, and I used original records in State and national archives. I have since used a wide range of online resources, but I have not found any mistakes in my original research.

Louis Kessler has suggested a source-based incremental fix, which will suit me perfectly. Taking one document at a time, I will analyse it carefully and check that every bit of information has been extracted and entered into my family tree programme, with the source reference. Then I'll file the source in a new and separate location. As I work, I'll note gaps in my knowledge and list my ideas for further research.

First, though, I need to decide how to organise my records. This is what I've done so far.

  1. I've gathered together all my paper documents and research notes.  There are fifteen ring binders and one archival quality photo album from which data has already been added to my genealogy programme (The Master Genealogist). There are also two 52 litre storage boxes with countless unscanned photos and unprocessed photocopies and research notebooks. Eeek!  (Note to self:  Don't panic.)

  2. I've read Nancy Loe's guides.  These three e-books are very practical: Organizing Genealogy Research Using Archival PrinciplesCataloging Digital Family Photographs and Records; and Simplifying Genealogy Sources and Citations. (16 Mar 2017: the link to the e-books, http://www.sassyjanegenealogy.com/guides/, is currently not working, but Nancy hopes to have her Web site back online soon.)

  3. I've read those guides again, this time making notes about how I'll modify Nancy's method so that it fits the way I think when I look for records in my files.

  4. I've downloaded source checklists for Evernote, via CyndisList. (Thanks to Michelle Patient for bringing these to my attention.)

  5. I've started creating a 'style guide' to ensure that I name and store files (especially digital files) consistently. (Nancy Loe says, 'Using controlled vocabulary is the single most important thing you can do to keep your research organized.')

In amongst all that organising, I will be writing about my ancestors in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.  (Note to self:  Don't panic. Nobody said the 52 weeks have to be consecutive.)

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/2015/01/genealogy-do-over-or-source-based.html.)

19 comments:

  1. Excellent thoughts Judy - I am doing a similar sort through - I also started in the early 1980s with paper records etc - my first task is as I have said is sorting though the abundant Evernote notes and notebooks, tagging ones I haven't tagged etc - we should compare notes later in the year

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    1. Thanks Helen - and yes, let's keep in touch. As for Evernote - so far I've mainly used it for bits of Webpages that I want to keep but which don't look right if I copy-and-paste into Word. Now I'm keen to start using the source checklists too - but I need to make one that lists all of the UK record sets on FindMyPast!

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  2. I have a similar number of ring binders. Ugh. I must follow your lead and document my processes.

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    1. Hi Jill. I can just about cope with the ring binders, but the two 52-litre storage boxes worry me. :-) Writing this post definitely helped me to focus on what I need to do, so the time was not wasted.

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  3. Point number 5 is one I'm going to concentrate on. I am (and have been) scanning old slides and prints but my file-naming is a bit up the creek!!

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    1. Good luck. Lorraine. Writing a 'style guide' takes time, but it's well worth the effort. I designed one for The Master Genealogist data entry, and it has been a huge help. I wish I hadn't waited so long to create one for naming digital files. Now I have hundreds of file names that need to be fixed. Groan.

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  4. Great post, Judy. You've inspired me to get organised!

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    1. Thanks Wendy - and good luck with your organising! Some of mine (or at least, the digital part) is still more theory than practice, but I want to test-drive my system thoroughly before totally committing to it.

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  5. Thanks for the recommendation re Nancy Loe's guides, they certainly provided me with food for thought and some badly needed direction concerning arrangement of folders and consistent file naming practices.

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    1. I'm glad you found Nancy Loe's guides as useful as I did. I have almost settled on a file naming system and digital folder structure, but I want to test-drive everything thoroughly before I write about it in more detail. I am still undecided about what programme to use to add metadata to my digital images. I want a free one because I am on a very tight budget right now. Nancy Loe mentioned some in her new post, Choosing Image Management Software, but I am also investigating IrfanView, which does allow you to enter IPTC information (metadata).

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    2. Irfan View or XnView are good options but if you want simple and quick, Photo Gallery part of Windows Essentials (free download from Microsoft) enables a variety of fields for metadata. I posted about it here. http://librarycurrants.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/its-snap.html

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    3. In Cataloging Digital Family Photographs and Records, Nancy Loe says, 'An additional concern when using third-party services is whether the metadata (tags) you have added stay embedded in files or are stripped out when downloaded.' Someone (not Nancy) told me that metadata entered into any Windows application will indeed be stripped out. This is certainly true with some Windows programmes, because I've tested it (though I haven't tried Photo Gallery).

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  6. An updated reply to Carmel's comment about images... In Cataloging Digital Family Photographs and Records, Nancy Loe warns, 'An additional concern when using third-party services is whether the metadata (tags) you have added stay embedded in files or are stripped out when downloaded.' I'd been told that this 'stripping out' happens with image metadata entered using Windows programmes, so I did a test. Metadata that I entered using Windows Photo Gallery did *not* 'stick' as IPTC data attached to the image when I opened it with IrfanView. This will be a problem if you (or those with whom you share the image) use different software - or if you are relying on the metadata to help you catalogue or search.

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  7. I have an to-be-undisclosed number of ring binders, organised by family and in some cases generations. However I still have "some" unfiled papers...not too many. I do want to go back through those folders, scan my copies of original documents and re-check I've absorbed everything on them, and that any content doesn't leap out as "new". Don't panic is definitely for me too Judy as I try to downsize the house. Yikes indeed!

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    1. Good luck, Pauleen. Preparing to move house is obviously your top priority now, and going through your documents can come later - although I imagine you'd like to do the scanning before you move, as a precaution.

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  8. Lots of great links here too Judy, thanks!

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  9. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS OR GENERAL INTEREST in FRIDAY FOSSICKING… at

    http://thatmomentintime-crissouli.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/friday-fossicking-17th-march-2017-st.html

    Thank you, Chris

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    1. Thanks for mentioning this blog in your Friday Fossicking, Chris. I'm still plodding along slowly with my source-based incremental fix! Please note that although the link to Nancy Loe's e-books is currently not working, she hopes to have her Website back online soon.

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