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No genealogy again!

12 Dec

Today is the second Saturday in a row where I have not really done any family history work.

Today was mainly devoted to getting my new PC up and running, and this is the first post written using my (nearly) new PC and Windows Live Writer, which must mean that everything is working properly.

There wasn’t really any problem with installing everything, I have all the CDs and licences, but what was really time-consuming was getting everything set up just the way I like it.

Family Historian is the best example, there are so many different settings and customizations that you can do, it took forever to get it back to what I am used to.

Apart from removing a couple of bits from my old PC (the CD/DVD writer and USB expansion card) it is now sitting unwanted on the floor. I’m not sure what I will do with it, I am reluctant to throw it away, but I’m not sure anyone else would get any further use from it either.

I’ve just remembered one thing I haven’t plug in and installed yet, that is my printer/scanner/copier. I am hoping not to use the printer too much, but the scanner I couldn’t live without.

Perhaps once I have that up and running I can spend a bit of time on my family tree, on second thoughts, perhaps I have spent enough time on my various computers today.

Could Texter make your data entry quicker and easier?

29 Oct

Last night as I entered the phrase “agricultural labourer” for the umpteenth time I decided I need to find a short-cut to save having to keep entering it over and over. The majority of my relations were agricultural labourers, and I don’t like using the phrase “ag lab” preferring to spell it out in full.

I turned to a little application, that I had played with briefly before, called Texter. There is nothing new or revolutionary about this program, but it is quite powerful, and I have only used it at its most basic level.

What it does is watch what you type for “hotstrings”, which are certain combinations of letters, and when you type the correct combination, it converts them into something else. A bit like using find and replace, but it happens as you go along.

In my case I set it up so that when I type the word “aglab” it replaces it with the phrase “agricultural labourer”. It is pretty simple to install and set-up. All it takes is a little bit of thought in selecting the hotstrings and a few minutes to set it up. I set up two hotstrings, “aglab” and “Aglab”, for the second one the word agricultural is capitalised.

The great thing is that it appears to work in almost any Windows program, such as Family Historian, my family history software. The best thing of all is that it is free, so if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything.

I have previously used it to speed up the entry of several family surnames, but there is probably no limit to what you could set it up to do, such as surnames, place names, addresses, occupations, in fact anything that you find yourself have to type repeatedly.

There are a couple of videos on the Lifehacker page, showing the basic use of Texter, plus some of the more advanced techniques.

I think this is going to save me a serious amount of typing in the future, I don’t know why I didn’t start using it sooner. Make sure you have a look and see if it could make your life easier, whether it is for family history, blogging or elsewhere.

Thinking about place name structure

5 Jul

This afternoon I was thinking about how I record place names in my family history database (Family Historian). I suppose this is actually part of my database cleansing operation, in that I want make sure all place information is in a standard format, but also I want to make sure it is the best way of recording it.

Family Historian uses the GEDCOM standard, and has two fields for storing location data within events and attributes. These are place and address. So using my 2x great grandparents Henry and Dorothy Isabella BATEMAN as an example their location data would be:

ADDRESS : 2 Shenley Villas, Hurst Wickham

PLACE : Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, England

The address field contains a house number/name (or farm name) and a street name (if there was one) within a parish. There may also be an area or district included if there was one within the parish (in this case Hurst Wickham).

One element I need to standardise and check my database for is when the event referred to takes place in a church, such as a baptism, marriage or burial. In this case the address field would contain the name of the church, such as St Peter’s Church. I need to make sure they all have consistent format, capitalisation and punctuation.

The place field contains the Parish, County, State (not really sure if England is a state or not). This is alright for rural parishes, but for urban parishes where a town may contain more than one ecclesiastical parish things start to get untidy, examples of these from Sussex would include Brighton, Lewes and Chichester.

In one of these cases I would record the place as: Town/City (Parish), County, State. So as an example: Lewes (All Saints), Sussex, England. The first element is standardised so that if I generate a report from Family Historian which includes the place then all the town or city will show up first, rather than having some events listed under All Saints Lewes and some under Lewes All Saints.

The other advantage to this system is that it matches the Parish, County, State format when the actual parish is not known. For example when someone gives their place of birth on a census return as Lewes, Sussex. All places beginning with Lewes could be listed together on a report regardless of whether they have an ecclesiastical parish included or not.

Of course there are always going to be places which don’t fit into this format, the main one being the registration districts listed in the GRO BMD indexes. These I simply record with the district name, such as Lewes District or Brighton District. The theory being that these are only temporary records, and one day they will be replaced by more precise data. I am not sure whether I should change the format and record Brighton District as Brighton Registration District, Sussex, England. This is more long-winded, but probably more descriptive and helpful.

I would be interested to here what you think about my place structure in the comments below. Do you have any suggestions for improvement? How do you record registration districts?

I think I may have found a tool to manage my to-do lists and projects

3 Jul

I have been looking for database software to enable me to store information about houses or properties that are connected to my family tree, such as current address, maps or grid references.

I still haven’t found what I was looking for, but I may have found the solution for managing my to-do lists and next actions on my different projects.

I am still evaluating (or playing around with) it but I think TreeDBNotes could be just the tool for keeping track of my research. I am just trying out the free version, and it looks pretty flexible, I particularly like the tree structure.

I am thinking of having one folder per family surname, and then sub-folders of different types, such as one for the individual people I am researching, another for general research goals, perhaps another for the ancestral home, the possibilities are endless. The folders can be colour coded and have different icons, depending on the category.

The actual notes side of it looks very flexible (I normally use a basic text editor like notepad), with the ability to insert all sorts of different objects such as images and tables. The text can be formatted in many different styles, just like you would expect in a fully featured word processor.

There are only two drawbacks I can see at the moment and they could both be my fault. Firstly I haven’t been able to get the global search to work. I would like to be able to search across all notes in the tree.

The second problem I can see is that I might spend more time formatting and editing the notes than I would actually doing any research. It may be the case that I need to set up some predefined folder types and templates to stop me getting carried away.

I would be interested to hear if anyone else is using TreeDBNotes (or something similar) to track their research, in the mean time I will continue playing with it using it and see if it is a help or a hindrance.

The Hemsleys cricket team

4 Jun

I discovered a wonderful mention of my HEMSLEY ancestors yesterday in a book in the Oxfam Bookshop in Horsham, Sussex. I usually pop in once a week to see what they have to interest me, I have picked up some great books and maps from there in the past.

I didn’t actually buy this book yesterday, I couldn’t really justify spending the £24.99 they wanted for it, for one small mention of my ancestors. Instead I went to Horsham Library today and took a copy of the relevant part for my records.

The book is entitled The Memoirs of Gaius Carley – A Sussex Blacksmith and for a while the author was working in both Blackboys and Framfield in Sussex. There are only a couple of pages on each of these places, but in the Blackboys section he says

The village had a good cricket team and a family named Hemsleys could muster a team of their own and name.

Instantly I started to wonder if there are any records of the Blackboys cricket team and whether any of the HEMSLEY family did play, an interesting little avenue to follow one day.

Then I started thinking about how I would actually record this on my family tree? I can’t really attach the information to any particular generation or individual, in fact I can’t think of anywhere I could record it in my software. If you have any suggestions let me know?

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