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.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Creating a "Census Candidates" Search List I

"I want a list of people in my database for whom I have no 1850 census record." That seems like a pretty simple project, right?
  • The name itself tells us what TMG report we probably want: a List of People report.
  • We don't want a list of all the people in the database. We want a filtered list of people.What people belong in this report? The subjects of this report must meet two criteria.
    1. They must have been living on 1 June 1850, the official census date.
    2. The database must be missing 1850 census information for those people.
I last wrote about this report in 2005, "The 'Census Candidates' Report." Twelve years is an eon in computer years, but the process and principles in this article still apply. What I discovered, though, is that my research work flow has changed in this time period, and I seldom create this census candidates report as presented.
  1. I virtually never print out a list of census candidates and take it to the library or archives. With so many census records online, most of my census research is done in my bunny slippers - and it's done incidental to a problem on which I'm working.
  2. I do create a census candidates report to test my progress on a given problem, though. That's the report I will discuss here.
Take a look at the filter in line one. To determine whether or not a person was living on the official census date, a researcher must know something about that person.
  • This is easy, if a person's birth and death dates are both known.
  • If the birth date is known, but the death date isn't, applying a probable life span would suggest a person was living at the time the census was taken.
  • With neither birth nor death date known, one could determine probable candidates by filtering for those with any events falling within a given span.
The Arlington RUG has published several articles on TMG filters. At least two of them include discussions of census candidates filters: "Favorite Filters" and “1880 Census Candidates Using Flags and Book Manager.” For those of you who have created unique census tags for each census year or who want to identify meticulously all people in your database who might be living at the time a given census was taken, these discussions should be read and studied. I don't fall into either category. (1) If I created unique census tags for each census year in my database, I would currently require 52 of them. (2) If I don't have at least a say date for a person in my database, I'm not interested in that person.

My census candidates research focuses on those people for whom I have both birth and death groups tags. Note that either date may be estimated, but there is a tag for the individual. Census research is family research, not individual research. I've discovered that when I find one known person in a census, his or her family usually includes individuals for whom less information has been found. To illustrate this statement, I created an 1850 census candidates list for a current project. That list included 25 names for whom both birth and death dates are known or estimated and 27 names for whom only birth group dates are known. I worked through the list of 25 names, and when that research was complete, the 27 names on the second list had shrunk to only eight.

My census candidates report uses (1) Book Manager, (2) three sequential reports that set my Temporary flag values, (3) the creation of a Focus Group that includes only those individuals included in a current research project, and (4) the Project Explorer filtered for those Focus Group individuals with a designated Temporary flag value. The next post details the process.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Returning to Reports

Many years ago, when TMG was just a baby genealogy program, our Maryland TMG Users Group decided that if you really wanted to understand TMG, you had to become proficient with its powerful reports. Of course, this is almost a chicken and egg situation. Becoming proficient with TMG reports requires knowledgeable data entry practices and vice versa. The Tri-Valley TMG Users Group frequently returns to report writing, and that's where most of the members' questions have focused for the past few months. Studying TMG reports is not as easy as it seems. We all have different research problems and different ways to approach and solve those problems. Research methodology classes require teachers who can generalize from the specifics - and students who can apply these generalizations to their specific problems. Becoming proficient with TMG reports requires that same process. Let's see if we can generalize some TMG reports specifics.

Like many genealogy programs, TMG offers a long list of report types; in TMG's case, this list includes ten different "List of..." reports and twenty other report types. "Which report should I choose? There's so many options!"
Rather than make a choice based on this long list, select a report based on your purpose for that report. For me, TMG reports fall into five classes.
  • Publication reports. As far as my research is concerned, these are the TMG Journal reports. I'm not interested in using any other reports for publication purposes.
  • Charts. If I want a chart, I usually opt for the graphic and beautiful Box Charts, the Family Group Sheet, or the Pedigree Chart.
  • Research analysis reports. These are the report types I choose most often, and they are usually one of the List of... reports. I usually export these to Excel, so I can filter, sort, and query with them.
  • Research preparation reports. Are you good at preparing for your research trips, whether real or virtual ones? If so, you probably already have a good selection of reports you routinely use in these preparations. For me, the most frequently used reports for research prep are the List of Tasks, the List of People, and the Family Group Sheet reports. I also write an accompanying research plan, but that's a Word report, not a TMG report. I do have a special Individual Narrative report that details all research and proof arguments for a given individual that is often included in this research preparation.
  • Database cleanup reports. Most of our users like filtering TMG's Project Explorer for these reports. This way, you can simply progress down the Project Explorer, editing the relevant individuals as you go. Is this the way you like to work? If so, you should become very familiar with the List of People report. Those are the reports that allow one to filter the Project Explorer.
That leaves a lot of unused report types! A few of these I never use, for example, the Statistical report and the Project Information report. I do run the Audit report occasionally, maybe once a year. I almost never run Ahnentafel reports, Compressed Pedigree reports, or Distribution of People reports, and Kinship reports and Relationship charts are for-fun-only reports, from my point of view. Of course, my point of view isn't necessarily yours, and that's what makes writing how-to articles about TMG a little difficult. But let's try, shall we?

The most frequent report request I receive is this. "I want to make a list of people for whom I don't have 1850 census information, so I can go through the database and update those records. How do I create that list?" Let's investigate the process in the next post (or two).