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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Only a Hypothesis - Part Two (A)

Although our ultimate goal in genealogical research is to prove identity and relationship, to do so, we must find evidence documenting many different events - what happened, where it happened, when it happened, and who was involved. That leads us to the second question arising from our data entry party.
  • What do you enter when you don't know a date? How do you show that you're not sure of a place? How do you enter a marriage when you have no evidence that it took place? What do you do when different sources provide different dates for the same event? What do you do when a source says one thing, but you think that source is wrong?
First, there are established protocols that answer most of these questions with respect to publishing a genealogical article or family history. Perhaps by reviewing publication protocols, you can determine your own ways of entering these bits of questionable data. Always be aware of the software's subtle pressure to make a conclusion before the evidence justifies that conclusion; and always remember that a questionable bit of information entered into your database requires an explanation.

What do you enter when you don't know a date?

There are lots of established protocols for handling this problem, and TMG allows you to use most of them. Most of the time, the explanation of your reasoning can be placed in the Citation Memo field. If you want the explanation to appear in a narrative sentence, make the appropriate entry in your Memo field or create a custom sentence. Common qualifiers include before, after, between, circa, say, and or. All of these are allowed in TMG's date field. Note that all of them will require explanations of their use, either in the narrative sentence, the Citation Memo - or both. Consider these examples of journal output. It may help you decide how you will deal with these situations when entering data in TMG.
  1. Molly died before 17 January 1899, the date of her sister's diary entry mentioning her grief over Molly's death.
  2. Philip died between 22 November 1814 (the date he deeded land to his son-in-law, Aaron Pennell) and 18 February 1815 (the date probate was begun on his estate).
  3. Andrew was born circa 12 June 1797, as calculated from age 83 years 9 months 2 days at his death.
  4. Mary was born say 1822. (This would require a statement of reasoning, such as, "Her marriage to John took place in 1840, her first child was born in 1842, and her last child in 1861 ...")
  5. Jonathan died 10 May 1859 (the date entered in the Smith family Bible) or 10 May 1860 (the date on his tombstone). Note that this requires a statement of your analysis of both sources cited, as well as a statement of all relevant research performed with obvious negative results.
What happens when you create abbreviated reports, such as a a family group sheet or a GEDCOM file containing qualified dates? TMG includes the qualifiers with the dates, but make sure that the report designs include your explanatory statements, as well. What happens when a TMG-created GEDCOM file is imported into other genealogy software? I don't know, but don't be surprised if qualifiers don't make it into the new database. This is one of the many reasons why I don't send GEDCOM files to other researchers. It's a very easy way to lose control over the quality of your research.
Example of Death tag showing date qualifiers, explanatory memo, and sentence output

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Did You Know?

Did you know that you can change the length of the Reference field in the Individual Detail screen's "Other info" box? I didn't realize that until I started playing around with using that field to mark possible identities after our December meeting.
  • The "Other info" box is that area in the top right-hand corner of the Individual Detail screen.
  • Right-click anywhere in this box and select Customize 'Other info' box ... from the pop-up menu.
  • There are six fields that can be visible in this box. You can enable or disable any of these.
  • You can change the order of the fields by highlighting each one and selecting Move up or Move down.
  • Highlight the Reference field and the Customize button becomes active. Select it.
  • Voila! You can change the length of the Reference field. Note that the length is "limited by available screen space."
  • Save the change by clicking OK.

Screenshots showing pop-up menu, "Other Info" customization, and "Reference Field" customization

It's Only a Hypothesis - Part One

I love data entry parties! Someone always has a problem that provides a new opportunity to make TMG dance - or at least make us think a little. Here's the first of the questions asked at our data entry party.
  • I know that Subject A is my 3x-great-grandfather. Given the location and all evidence found to date, his grandfather must be Subject C, but I don't have any direct evidence that states that Subject B is his father. What do I do? How do I enter this in TMG?
Although we search for names, dates, and places in our research, what we're really trying to prove is identity and relationship. Everything else is simply accumulated evidence to help us reach a conclusion as to those two aspects. Unfortunately, no matter how flexible the genealogy software might be, there is always a subtle push to force that conclusion before we're ready. We need to use our software to track our in-progress research, but if we're not careful, our software might turn those nebulous, in-progress hypotheses into solid conclusions. TMG offers many ways to clarify the difference between our hypotheses and our conclusions. You can pick and choose among established ideas - or create your own.
  • Although the various -Can[didate] relationship tags (Father-Can, Mother-Can, Daughter-Can, Son-Can, Parent-Can, Child-Can) are custom tags, they were created so long ago and were so quickly adopted by everyone that they feel like standard tags. If you have settled on a probable parent or child relationship, but still lack direct evidence, consider linking people via one of these tags.
  • Do you want to create a Parent-Child link between two people, but you don't want to create any reports that show that hypothetical link? Consider using the appropriate -Can tags, but do not mark the parents as primary parents. You will see the connection in your database, but reports won't show it.
  • You want to create a hypothetical Parent-Child link between two people and you want to see all the proven and hypothetical sibling connections, as well. You will need to mark the parents as primary parents and you will need to come up with a marker that appears in all reports you publish. This isn't as easy as it sounds. Pedigree charts do not show the relationship tag label and family group sheets only show the label for the subject's and his or her spouse's parents. GEDCOM reports don't differentiate the -Can relationships at all.
    • Since this practice is okay in database use, but not so great in reporting, one possible solution is only publish Journal reports. Send your Journal reports to a word processor and make hypothetical connections emphatically obvious. Don't be surprised to find that others reading your reports ignore the hypothetical nature of these connections, though, and reproduce the report with that emphasis removed.
    • Mark all candidate relationships in some way that appears in all reports.
      • One of the options in both pedigree charts and family group sheets is the inclusion of the Reference field, in parentheses, next to a name. This works for those reports. The Reference field can also be exported in a GEDCOM file. Enter something like Candidate or Hypothetical in this field and all your hypothetical connections will be marked.
      • TMG contains several name parts that are seldom used. Create a Name style that is reserved for at least one of the members of these hypothetical relationships and use one of these name parts as a marker that is always printed.
      • Nothing is perfect, and you should never forget that those reading your charts are very good at ignoring even the most obvious attempt to show doubt.

Individual Detail screen for Chloe (Cooper) Wakefield

Individual Detail screen for Chloe (Cooper) Wakefield

  • Many times, my problem is not necessarily the parent-child link. In the illustrated example, I know that Sherman and Mary (Powers) Cooper had a daughter named Chloe. I am not certain, however, that this daughter is the same Chloe who married Amos Wakefield. This is an identity problem. Until I can write a well-documented proof argument of an identity, I maintain two separate persons linked by a custom Identity tag. I merge the two persons, with the proof argument, when I'm reasonably happy with it.
Identity tag in use
Identity tag in use
  • Whenever doubt exists in a TMG entry, you must include a source-cited statement that explains why you have entered the information in TMG or have made a hypothetical conclusion.
Brief proof statement documenting hypothetical parent-child relationship
Brief proof statement explaining hypothetical relationship
Continue with "It's Only a Hypothesis - Part Two (A)"