A simple request
A kind reader of this website commented recently that she’d like to see some examples of my Family Group Sheets since she is looking for ways to improve her source citations and examine her evidence. Well, the thing is, I’m really not a Family Group Sheet kind of person. Early on in genealogy, I made my own Family Group Sheets (I’d never heard of them, but when I finally did I realized they were almost exactly the same as what I’d drawn up for myself). I filled some binders but quickly moved on to family tree software and digital storage of documents.
I’m a software person. In fact, no joking, if I had the time I would actually like to create my own database solution for family trees and sources using FileMaker Pro. But for now (and probably always) I settle for software made by others. I use Family Tree Maker, as well as online services like Dropbox and Evernote. I like Roots Magic but don’t use it much.
This is how I use them.
All of my documents, photos and pdf’s are stored on Dropbox which I can access from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. The main folders hold genealogy books and documents in two categories: PLACES and FAMILY NAMES. Beneath these two main folders is a detailed file structure. I also have about 20 other main folders. Most of what I have is photos of records, documents, and manuscripts from many sources, plus pdf’s of old books.
I decided a while ago to keep actual BOOKS, RECORDS and PHOTOS in Dropbox, but to use Evernote for all notes, analysis, to-do’s, how-to’s, guidance, expenses, materials from conferences, etc. I keep notes for all libraries, repositories and town halls with a running list of all my to-dos specifically for each of those places. I also have RESEARCH NOTES on many families where I paste notes, ideas, transcriptions, screen shots, and data.
Family Tree Maker
I like that Family Tree Maker will synch directly with my tree on Ancestry.com. I am not a big fan of some of the index-like “records” one finds on Ancestry.com (I use those as clues to how I can find a real record), but when Ancestry comes up with a scanned actual document, like a census record, I have saved a ton of those to my tree. Since I find sources in many other places both online and in libraries and repositories, I also add other sources directly to my Ancestry.com tree. With Family Tree Maker, all of that is synched to my tree on my own computer. It also downloads every image for me, still linked to the proper person. If I quit Ancestry tomorrow, I would have every image and fact from my tree stored permanently on my own computer. I can access Ancestry.com from any computer, smart phone, or tablet, and I use that all the time.
These two products do a good job of keeping track of my facts and sources, particularly the sources where I entered the data from scratch myself. For sources linked to Ancestry-held records, the details are not usually recorded properly and one would have to re-examine each one to format a proper footnote or even a proper bibliography.
- Document a Source
- Catalog Claims
- Analyze Evidence
As I started to complete these steps for the evidence I had gathered over the years for Catherine Young, I have to admit, right here and now, it was an eye-opening experience. And not in a good way. My digital files for Catherine were not organized nearly as well as they should have been. Not everything from those files had been sourced properly in the tree. I had missed some facts contained in those sources (Catherine’s house in Sterling, Massachusetts was “on Long Hill”, “near the cemetery” – I’m still not sure where that is, but I never noticed the clue before). Because I worked on her rather early in my genealogy career, I still had important documents sitting in paper binders – I have now moved those to the digital files. And lastly, there were sources I had noted online but had not recorded in my own files for my own use – things can disappear online, so that was not wise.
Although Evidentia contains many templates for source entries using Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained (1) format (see the used book here, and the electronic version of the book here), I found that I needed to review the formats and add a few of my own directly from the book. Sometimes, the citation asked for a detail which was not available to me anywhere, and I still need to figure out how to handle those, or how to locate other versions of my sources that have better detail. It is possible to take the templates for each type of entry and annotate it with extra instructions – which I could get from the book – something I will do in the future.
I do not want to be updating several versions of my tree, so I won’t be copying it into Evidentia. And I don’t want duplicate files of my source documents and pictures, so I was glad that Evidentia lets me just link to the location of each digital document.
As I move on to research other people, I will add more evidence to Evidentia that may pertain to Catherine. At that time, it is very simple in Evidentia to just keep linking evidence to her, to add to the total documentation for her.
Evidentia produces many reports, in html or as pdf’s. Reports can be generated for almost any view of the data – by person, by source, by claims, etc.
THE RESEARCH SUMMARY REPORT FOR CATHERINE YOUNG
Use THIS LINK to see, in pdf, my Evidentia Research Summary Report for Catherine Young. Here is a list of what the report contains. My Evidentia database includes 8 events and/or facts for Catherine Young. These include:
- Residence 10 assertions, 10 reviewed.
- Birth 8 assertions, 8 reviewed.
- Child(ren) 6 assertions, 6 reviewed.
- Immigration 2 assertions, 2 reviewed.
- Parent(s) 4 assertions, 4 reviewed.
- Religion 1 assertions, 1 reviewed.
- Death 2 assertions, 2 reviewed.
- Marriage 3 assertions, 3 reviewed.
I suspect Evidentia would let me control the ORDER of these elements, but I haven’t figured that out yet. I like version 2 of Evidentia and I expect to keep using it and learning more about it.
- Finish recording clues on Catherine by conducting this review on each of her four children, which will turn up some additional sources on Catherine.
- Start keeping these printed reports in a binder that will go with me to libraries, etc, so I can easily see the state of my research, and recall each idea and source for the person. Also, the pdf reports will sit in Evernote for ready access anytime.
- Look more thoroughly into English sources. Document every POSSIBLE Catherine Young and begin to eliminate some.
- I would like to visit Catherine’s grave in Sterling and figure out where the farm was that burned down in 1894.
- Use every means possible to pin down Catherine’s first husband, William Bennett.
- Hiram Ross may appear in Worcester County court records concerning the liability of the railroad for the sparks that burned his property in 1894. His son in law was on the Rhode Island Supreme Court, so definitely, someone would have thought of a lawsuit. I need to pursue that.
- Move on to person-by-person enter new research problems into Evidentia.
(1) Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Revised edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009.
Illustrations in the post from The Art of Homemaking by Margaret E. Sangster, 1898. Photos and screenshots by Diane Boumenot.
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