After two years spent studying Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, our group needed a break. We decided that there is no better way to discover all that The Master Genealogist (TMG) can do than to explore its powerful custom report writer. If you would like to participate in the Tri-Valley TMG User Group's adventures as we examine the best ways to input data to make full use of TMG's wide range of reporting possibilities, please feel free to comment and share your ideas.

The Tri-Valley TMG User Group is associated with the Livermore-Amador Genealogical Society (L-AGS), and we meet in Pleasanton, California. Information on our meetings - location, date, time, and topic - is always available on the home page of the L-AGS web site. Our three-hour meetings are actually hands-on workshops in which up to fifteen computers are connected to a digital projector allowing customized personal assistance to attendees. In the past, the group has systematically studied Lee Hoffman's Getting the Most out of The Master Genealogist, Terry Reigel's A Primer for The Master Genealogist, and Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained.

For further details on the reports we create, please visit our website. The section dealing with TMG reports begins at the page, "Exploring TMG's Report Menu."

Start following our new blog, "The Continuing Adventures of the TV-TMG User Group." This will detail our 2014 project.

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's Not a Hypothesis - It's Wrong!

What do you do when a source says one thing, but you think that source is wrong?

All sources are not created equal. Your analyses, correlations and conclusions should show that you recognize that fact. In your personal database, you keep track of all records you view, even those that are demonstrably incorrect. How do you enter those records? How do you enter the information they contain? Or do you enter it?
  • You need to track this data in a way that makes it clear that you believe a record's information is incorrect and explains why you came to that conclusion.
  • You need to control this data in such a way that it is not reported in any manner that suggests it might be valid.
There are so many different ways to mark information in TMG! You can pick and choose from any of these methods, combine them, or create your own.

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There are three types of exclusion markers available in TMG. Consistent use of these markers will allow you to control what is printed in various reports. (Note that I have not tested these in GEDCOM file output.)
  1. Any text enclosed in curly brackets, or sensitivity brackets ({}), will not appear in any report unless you override it in the Report Options > Miscellaneous tab.
  2. The hyphen (-) entered first in any text field will exclude that information. No information preceded by this exclusion marker will appear in any report unless you override it in the Report Options > Miscellaneous tab.
  3. Do you have information that you want to include in your database, but you never want it to appear in any report? Precede the text with a double hyphen [--]. You will be able to see the information when you open the event, but it will not be visible from the Individual Detail screen, nor will it appear in any report, regardless of the report options selected.

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TMG's surety values are no substitute for a written analysis of a record, its information, and the evidence it supports. They can be useful in many ways, though. The hyphen, entered as a negative surety value, marks a source's bit of information as incorrect. It may also affect the reporting of a tag. Here are some examples of the data entry and its corresponding report output - or lack thereof.

Excluded citation.

Figure 1a. Tag Entry screen showing excluded source citation.

Figure 1b. Individual Report showing tag citation in parentheses.

Tag showing incorrect information.

Figure 2a. Tag Entry screen showing incorrect information.

Figure 2b. Individual Detail report showing output.

 Same tag with negative surety value (Date).

Figure 3a. Tag entry screen showing negative surety (Date).
Figure 3b. Individual Detail report showing resulting output.

Same tag with negative surety value (Principal 1).

Figure 4. Tag Entry screen showing negative surety value (P1).
There is no corresponding report output for the entry shown in Figure 4. Entering a negative surety value for a Principal in a source citation prevents that tag from appearing in any report about that principal, assuming it's the only citation entered, of course. This technique even works for marriage tags, but it does not work for Parent-Child relationship tags.

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Entire genealogies are based on incorrect information, and to counter the arguments of those enamored of a fictional branch of their family tree, you will need to know exactly where those genealogies went wrong. Sometimes that incorrect information comes from original records. If so, the discrepancy must be investigated and explained. After all, you might discover that the information was correct; it just referred to a different person.

If the incorrect information comes from a derivative document, such as a poorly researched and analyzed family history, do you really need to treat it as if it were a reliable source? Consider creating a custom tag, such as Wrong_Info. Use this tag to record and discuss this "wrong information," but don't include this tag in any report you intend to publish or share.

Published genealogies on one of the families I research, the Longfellow family of Delaware and Maryland, are so full of incorrect information that I found it too confusing to include that information in my data project. I removed it to a separate data set within that project. As I find new records about these families, information from the published genealogies is handy for comparison, but it doesn't "contaminate" my project. Perhaps this is an extreme solution, but if you run into a similar problem, it might work for you, too.
Data Set Manager screen showing enabling of Longfellow data set.

View of Picklist with all data set entries visible.
In summary, track incorrect information, but treat it responsibly. It should never be reported as if it were correct - and perhaps should never be reported at all. There's enough poor genealogy going around!