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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Reporting Find-A-Grave Records

"Most of my cemetery information comes from Find-A-Grave. Does that make a difference in how I create my cemetery reports?" Yes, there are differences in how you should treat this online information.
  • Your citation should make it clear that you did not view this gravestone yourself.
If you would like to see an example of a Find-A-Grave source citation, take a look at this one from our TMG citations blog. The focus of the citation is the website, not the cemetery, and your name does not appear anywhere.
  • Although you will probably download the gravestone photograph and link it to your TMG database, you do not own the copyright to the photo.
What does this mean?  It means that you can't publish a report that includes any copyrighted photographs without the explicit permission of the person who took those photos. It is not enough to cite the photographer in your citation. You must obtain permission from that person before publishing anything that includes that photograph. What does "publish" include?
  1. A book for your family.
  2. A report sent to another researcher.
  3. A report posted online.
  4. An e-mail message.
  5. A GEDCOM file that includes exhibits.
  6. A family tree on Ancestry or other online site.
  7. Any physical appearance of that photograph whose subsequent reappearance you can't control.
If you link a copyrighted photograph to your TMG database, there is a risk that it might be published inadvertently. It's so nice having that picture handy, though, so is there a way to minimize the risk?

Gravestone photographs I take myself are linked to the corresponding burial event tag.  Cemetery reports that include photographs are designed to print exhibits linked to this event tag.  Therefore, I cannot link photographs to which I don't own the copyright to the burial event tag. There are two other possibilities.  Link the photograph to its citation or link the photograph to the source.  Pros and cons:
  • Linking the photograph to the citation makes it easy to review the individual's gravestone, but exhibits linked to citations do not appear in an individual's Exhibit Log.  This is my choice, but this also means that I don't create reports that print citation exhibits - and it's not easy to view all the photographs I've downloaded from a website.
  • Linking the photograph to the source makes it easy to see all the gravestone photographs you've downloaded from a website, but it's more difficult to review an individual's gravestone.  Exhibits linked to sources don't appear in an individual's Exhibit Log, either.  Using this option also means you must be careful creating reports that print source exhibits - and I do have a few of those.
A picture is worth a thousand words.  Compare these two TMG screenshots.

Burial tag: Cemetery viewed and photographed
Burial tag: Find-A-Grave record
  1. The first Citation screen shows that the record came from the cemetery itself. The date is the date the cemetery was viewed. The second screen shows that the record came from Find-A-Grave, the date is the date the site was accessed, and credit is given to the photographer - who photographed this stone at my request. Thank you, Garczar!
  2. The green camera icon in each screen shows that an exhibit has been linked to each record. In the first example, the event icon is lit, and this exhibit will print in my cemetery reports. In the second example, the citation icon is lit, and this exhibit will not print in a report.
  3. Memo and location information is similar in both records. Both memos contain gravestone transcriptions in the Memo2 field. The first burial event is from a small cemetery, and the photograph number in the Memo1 field is used as the locator. The second burial event references a large cemetery, and the section, lot and grave numbers are found in the Addressee field.
How you choose to treat Find A Grave records is really up to you, but TMG does provide methods that allow you to responsibly differentiate between those gravestones you've actually visited and photographed and those stones some nice Find A Grave volunteer photographed for you.  Of course, if that volunteer gives you permission to publish his or her photograph, you can then link it to burial event - but don't forget to state on the photograph that you have permission to publish it from the copyright holder.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

People Aren't Buried in Alphabetical Order

Like so many genealogical sources, cemeteries contain information inherent in their structure. People are not buried in alphabetical order. They are usually buried with, or near, family members. Creating a list of burials in alphabetical order is easy in TMG. Creating a list in chronological order by date of death is easy. Neither of these reports captures the information inherent in a cemetery's pattern of burials, however - and that's information essential in analyzing family structure. Remember! You can't get information out of TMG, if you don't enter it in the first place.

In my opinion, TMG's greatest reporting strength is the ability to create Excel reports. If you want to examine information for patterns, create a spreadsheet report and play with the data sort order. You will be amazed by what you see. A report designed to show burial patterns should be sent to Excel, or another spreadsheet program, and all those reports in TMG are found in the List of ... reports. The two most obvious choices would be a List of People report listing people buried in a given cemetery or a List of Events report listing burial events in a given cemetery. Both reports allow burial information in output columns. Now, all you need to do is determine how to input a cemetery's burial pattern.
  • Large cemeteries are usually divided into some combination of sections, lots and grave numbers. This information is easily obtained from the cemetery office, or it may be found in online databases like Find A Grave. Including this information in a burial event field in TMG allows you to create a list of burials ordered by section, lot, and grave numbers. It's very easy to see who is buried next to whom.
In the illustrated report, burials are listed first by section, then by lot, then by grave number. Note that Section 2 follows Section 17. This problem could be avoided if the numerical information were entered as Section 017, Section 002, etc., but I haven't worried about that. People buried in the same section are listed together, and people in the same lot are listed together. I treat these section numbers as if they were street addresses, inputting them in the Addressee field in the burial event tag. The name of the cemetery is placed in the Detail field.
  • Small cemeteries seldom have easily found lots and grave numbers. You can create burial associations yourself in several ways. Here are a few ideas.
  1. Assign one person's name to a burial grouping and number all the graves in that group; e.g. Laird01, Laird02, ParkerOW01, ParkerOW02.
  2. Assign a letter to a row and number all the markers in that row; e.g. A001, A002, etc.
  3. If photographing a cemetery, walk the cemetery in a stated order and use the digital photograph number as the burial order indicator; e.g. 006735, 006736, etc. (This allows the easy creation of a cemetery photograph catalogue, also.)
  4. Draw a burial plat of the cemetery, numbering each grave. Use these numbers for the burial order indicator.
Because these burial indicators are "unofficial" indicators, I don't put them in the Addressee field. Instead, I put mine in the event Memo area. I use Memo1, but that's a holdover from the TMG days before split memos existed. You can assign any Memo area you choose, but be consistent. As you can see from the burial list, my report is designed to accommodate large or small cemeteries. It's sorted first by the Addressee field and then by Memo1, the location I use for my own burial grouping numbers.

Burial tag: Screenshot
This screenshot shows a burial tag. This burial is in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, one of the largest cemeteries in North America. Note the section, lot, and grave numbers in the Addressee field. These should always be entered from largest unit to smallest. The name as entered on the tombstone appears in the drop-down box. I enter the transcription of the stone in the Memo field in the Memo2 area.

Remember that in TMG, there is no one right way to do anything. If it works for you, it's the right way. Here are some principles to keep in mind.

  • If you're trying to identify patterns, a List of ... report usually works best.
  • If you want to use the information in a report, you must input it first.
  • Always be consistent in how and where you enter your information.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Entering Information from Monuments

How would you enter information from this tombstone in TMG?  This is the back face of the monument, and memorializes four people: Charles Varney and his wife, Huldah Lawrence, their daughter Josie, and her husband, Wesley Hoffman.  The front face has only the family name.  The right face memorializes Charles' brother, George Varney.  The brothers were in the same company in the Civil War, and two G.A.R. flags are posted next to the monument.  Entering information from grave markers that mark only one person's burial is simple; but what is the best way to enter information from grave markers like this?  I have absolutely no idea!

If you know me at all, you know I always have ideas.  In this case, though, I have yet to discover an idea that I think is best practice.  My TMG database is full of my experiments, and here are a few.

  1. Add burial tags for each person named on the stone.  Transcribe the relevant face of the marker, noting which face it is, and put this in the memo area you like for your reports.  Link the photograph of the relevant face to the burial tag as an event exhibit.  Note in the citation memo the names of others found on the marker.  (This is what I'm doing at the moment.)
  2. Add burial tags for each person named on the stone.  Transcribe the relevant lines from the marker and note in square brackets the names of others found on the stone.  Link the photograph of the relevant face to the burial tag as an event exhibit.
  3. Create a custom tag called Tombstone or Gravestone.  Use it for markers memorializing multiple people.  Transcribe each face and link all photographs to the tag as exhibits.  Link each person to the tag as witnesses.
There are pros and cons to all three methods.  If you don't have a method that works for you, experiment with these and see if one of them meets your needs.  If you do have a method you love, please let us know.  I would love to find a better idea!