Friday, October 14, 2011

Checking It Twice

I've discovered unanticipated rewards for messing up by not including source citations in my genealogy database and having to now spend hours correcting the errors of my ways.

To give you a sense of scale, my database has almost 21,000 facts and just over 12,000 citations and that is after many hours of effort to correct the situation! While I have admittedly had a tendency to focus on my direct paternal Hadden ancestral line or puzzling maternal lines like that of John Foley, needing to add source citations has drawn me to revisit ancestral family lines like the Sweeneys, connected to my paternal grandmother.

As I have proceeded through my ancestral families, where I have cited fact sources I have been attaching the digital images of the documents, usually in JPEG format. Adding the images not only makes for a more robust database but eliminates the need to later hunt for the document on my computer hard drive if I want to review it at a later date. One difficulty I have encountered is having a fact but no digital image that I used as the fact source, applicable where I know a digital image was available and used. This has 'forced' me to re-think the fact to ensure that it fits and usually to re-search for the record. I have been successful in retracing my original research and finding the source but now I look at the source information with, I hope, a more mature understanding of genealogy research. Questioning the search results with even basic questions like 'Is this really the right family?' and "Do the ages or dates match for all family members?' has uncovered some facts that I once believed to be true that are not correct for my family.

The best example I can offer was my tracing of a Hadden family through Aberdeenshire, Scotland several years ago only to later, based frankly on gut instinct, to discover that the family was in no clear way, related to me. All because I had neglected to look at all of the information that my great grandfather's birth record offered. Specifically in that case, I had neglected to pay attention to the occupation listed for my great great grandfather.

Checking the the facts and sources twice is allowing me to not only improve the quality of my database but also to 'prune' the family tree of unverifiable facts and in some cases individuals.

In my next post, I will share a discovery on the Sweeney family that I had not for some reason noticed previously, even though I have had a copy of the digital image of the record for years.


  1. Hi Ian, do you think that attaching a digital copy of the source decreases the quality of the source citation that is subsequently created? Is there a kind of false sense of security that comes with knowing the image is attached and you won't have to go looking for it ever again?
    I'm just curious what your thoughts are on this.

  2. Ginger, I don't think attaching the digital copy of the record decreases the quality of the source citation but I do think it is a 'best practise.' I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of images and find that I refer to them frequently while researching my ancestral families. Having the right image attached to the fact it supports saves a lot of valuable time that I can better use for research.