Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

More SNGF from Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings!

Hey genea-philes (that's Kathryn Doyle's Twitter/Facebook moniker), it's Saturday Night -- time for more Genealogy Fun!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to:

1)  Open your genealogy software program (on your computer or online), and use the Help function to determine how to make a "Problem Report" or "Data Error Report" (or something similar).

2)  Create a "Problem Report" or "Data Error Report" in your software for the persons in your tree (either everyone in the tree, or for a selected number of generations of your ancestors. 

3)  Tell us what type of problems or errors that your report found.  Tell us how many errors were found.  Tell us what problem or error surprised you. 

4)  Tell us in a blog post of your own, a comment to this blog post, or a comment on Facebook.


Well, if there's a problem one can have in one's genealogy database, I'm pretty sure I have it.  In fact, I probably have a number of them.

I use MyHeritage.com and their associated Family Tree Builder software as my main database.  In the Tools Menu, I selected the Tree Consistency Checker tool.  It gave me quite a long list of issues I need to eventually resolve.  Here's a partial listing of some of the issues:

  • Child born after death of parent.  I have far too many examples of this one.  Now, it's possible for a child to be born after the death of the father, but it's extremely rare for a child to be born after the death of a mother, and it requires a modern medical miracle to make it happen, and then only by minutes.
  • Died too old.  Yes, this means some people have incorrect death dates, so the software thinks they died well over 100 years old.  One example is over 300 years old.  I will "resolve" these by working to find the correct death date for them.  A few really did live to be that old, and may not be errors!
  • Parent too youngThe software defaults to a warning at less than 16 years of age for the mother.  Now, we all know it's possible that some of those girls had their first a bit younger.  But some of mine are certainly errors, as they show as young as 9 years old.  Too young to be a realistic possibility.  Many show at 14-15 years old, though, which would have been scandalous, but very possible.  Again, more research is needed to confirm dates.
  • Parent too old.  I believe it is unlikely that these women actually gave birth in their late 60's.  Even late 40's is stretching things until the recent past when medical technology has allowed for some really radical births.
  • Fact occurring after death.  This is just plain errors, or poor research and documentation.
  • Siblings age.  Siblings born too close together.  A bit over 9 months is possible, and has been called Irish Twins, which are not really twins at all, but siblings born less than a year apart.  Some of mine show 4 or 5 months apart, which really isn't workable.  Again, somewhere there was sloppy or missing research and documentation work done.
  •  Married too young.  Sometimes people married young.  But I highly doubt this many married as young as 12-14 years of age.
  • Maiden name similar to married name.  Usually this is identical, from the names being input into the software incorrectly.  Someone (me) put in the married name where the maiden name should have gone.
  • Siblings with the same first name.  Actually, this may NOT be an error!  It may be a case of one sibling having died in infancy or early childhood, and the parents used the name again on a later child.  This was not uncommon.  But it bears checking to be sure.  The software is alerting me to a potential issue that should be verified.
  • Inconsistent last name spelling.  Again, this may not be an error.  The further back we go, the more creative the spellings of names were. 
  • Siblings with different last names.  In this day of broken homes and life partners and such, this is actually becoming too commonplace.  Sometimes the names get changed, but sometimes not. 
 I know I need to do a lot of cleanup work on my database, and I work on that as time allows.  Some of these problem cases are on lines for which I have little or no solid documentation, and usually further back in time.  I may never resolve all of the issues.  That's okay, it gives me something to strive for.  But I need to be careful to not pass along these errors to other researchers, as they may not realize these are errors, and may rely on them and spread them further!

I'm contemplating starting a new tree in another software, and being much more stringent about what data gets put in there, requiring much better documentation of myself.  I admit most of the errors in my data are from sloppy research and poor or lacking documentation at an earlier stage of my genealogical hobby, and it will take me a lot of work to get it fixed.  For you people new to genealogy, this is why some of the oldsters harp on citations and documentation all the time, they want to spare you the chore of going back over your data to fix the problems and fill in the holes later.