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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?

Online Source Citation: my thoughts

8 May

If you have spent any time recently looking at genealogy blogs you will have come across Mark Tucker’s A Better Way to Cite Online Sources video on his ThinkGenealogy blog. Mark Tucker is starting a crusade to get online providers to provide a better system for genealogists to cite information from their databases.

Whilst I agree in principle that citing sources is an essential part of family history, that everyone should cite their sources (regardless of their professional or non-professional status), that it should be made as easy as possible to cite a source and there should be a standard for citing sources, I do however have some reservations about his suggestions.

What I see as the real issue here is that genealogists need guidelines and instruction on how to cite sources, regardless of where that source is found. It is all well and good giving someone a button to press to cite an online source, but what happens when the source is not online?

Genealogists need the knowledge to be able to construct the source citations themselves, so rather than taking it out of their hands, we should be encouraging them to learn to do it themselves.

In my opinion the key reason why genealogists find citing sources so problematic is that there are very few clear and concise guidelines on how to do it properly. I don’t want to knock Evidence Explained but at 885 pages it is probably too complicated and inaccessible for many people (and virtually impossible to find outside of the United States, in hard copy at least).

Now I am not an expert, and my sources are certainly not perfect, but personally I would rather see the online providers spending their time and money (or rather our money) on digitizing and indexing new content and leaving me to deal with how and where I am going to put that information into my family tree.

Family Historian 4: first impressions

2 May

Having just installed version 4 of Family Historian (FH), I had to give it a try (I should have been doing the housework!) and get a taste of the new and improved features.

The biggest difference appears to be the addition of a project management element, previously FH had really only been about handling the GEDCOM file, but now it also tries to take do the job of the organising other media as well (such as photos and census images). This appears to be causing concern amongst some existing users (who already have folders structures in place) but should be a great help to beginners.

Personally I think it is going to be a great help to me, I don’t have many images linked to my GEDCOM at the moment, and this will hopefully encourage me to include more.

I am not sure if this is the intended purpose but I am going to use the project capability to create two distinct parts to my family history research. One is the completed research with images and photos, and the other the research material/notes and work in progress.

As an example, I have lots of scanned photos (I am sure I am not alone) which need cropping, retouching, resizing and generally having work done on them. Using this new project system I will have one folder (and sub-folders) for the original image (which will be kept untouched) and another folder (as part of the FH project) for the ‘public’ copy.

The handling of media has improved, and I can now easily see the few images I do have linked. I was really impressed when I clicked the ‘Open in default player/editor’ button and my editor opened up almost instantly. I am sure this has nothing to do with FH especially, just that I did have much else running at the time, but I don’t think I have ever seen it open so fast.

The other major addition is the focus window, this is a more traditional way of viewing and editing the individuals. It shows the family of an individual (parents, spouses and children) in a clear and logical way as opposed to the list based view in the record window. The information here is not directly editable, but it is easy to bring up the property box alongside the focus window and edit the details there.

I think I will still be using the record window for most of my work, but the focus window is a great way of exploring your tree and jumping to other individuals. It has four tabs in total: Spouses & Children, Parents & Siblings, Ancestors and Descendants.

It is great to have a built in pdf printer, especially one which supports such a wide range of page sizes, that is going to make getting a large chart printed so much easier and quicker.

There is so much to explore with FH, even prior to this latest upgrade I hadn’t used even half of the features, and now when I look at a menu I have trouble remembering whether it was there before or not.

Personally I would say it is well worth the money, I know it is going to be another distraction to getting my actual research done, but research is only half of the job, presentation and explanation of the results should be just as important.

I would recommend anyone looking for family history software whether they are a beginner or an expert to download the 30 day free trial and give it a try.

Family Historian 4: purchase and installation

2 May

The arrival of the weekend has given me chance to sit down and upgrade Family Historian to version 4. As I previously reported the new version has just been released and I have purchased the upgrade to version 4 from my old version 3 (which was itself an upgrade from version 2).

I had decided that I would purchase the download version (having no desire to bring yet another CD and box into the house), so I visited the Family Historian website and clicked on the Buy Family Historian link at the top of the page. Here I selected the product I was after and was transferred to the kagi.com website for payment.

I was delighted to see the ‘Check of with PayPal’ button there, that meant I didn’t need to enter all my details or even get out of my chair to get my debit card. The transaction went through quickly and I headed to my email inbox to await further instructions.

This is where there is only one slight negative point, it wasn’t immediately obvious after the transaction had been completed that details would be sent by email. It did say earlier in the check process that this was the case, but I think I would be helpful to have it at the end of the process as well.

The emails arrived within a couple of minutes, I printed out the email with the licence key for future reference, and clicked on the download link and saved the file. Installation was quick and easy, just a few clicks and enter the licence key and it was done.

All in all it was a pretty easy process, without any problems. Like I said earlier it would be nice to have seen a prompt to go and check your email after purchasing, or perhaps I missed, but that would be my only complaint.

Family Historian 4 available from Calico Pie

26 Apr

The latest version of the UK authored, Windows family history program Family Historian is now available from the Family Historian website.

I have been using Family Historian since June 2002 (version 2.0.7) and have had no call to change in all that time. I love the flexibility in it’s diagrams and queries, and it’s records window just seemed so intuitive to me when I first started, although I know it is not to everyone’s taste.

Details of what’s new in version 4 can be found on the website where you can also download a free 30 day trial (existing Family Historian users should make sure they read the note about installing the trial version over their existing version before downloading).

I will be downloading the upgrade shortly and will give you an update on it’s new features in due course.

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