Monday, February 24, 2014

To Merge or Not to Merge...

Last week at my local genealogical library I was helping a member of the society with her genealogical software program. She is using Legacy and to be honest, I don’t know Legacy. When I tried using it in the past, I found it to be difficult and not the way my brain works. With that said, I do know that many people LOVE Legacy and would not use anything else.

Because I didn't know how to use Legacy, I struggled a little but one major challenge I had was that many years ago, this member started a merge. She was trying to merge another database into her database and for whatever reason postponed the merge. Now when she opens her database, it prompts her about this merge, however she just keeps postponing the merge. Personally, I don’t think this was the correct move. I know in Family Tree Maker, if you start a merge and finish it, you do have a small window of opportunity to undo the merge and go back to the way things were.

So I had to tell this member that would not be an option for her because she has done too many changes, updates or whatever to her database. I also explained that I would just bite the bullet and continue the merge. She proceeded to say that she didn't want to continue the merge, could she just cancel it. I wasn't sure if that was an option either, because of all the changes that took place between then and now. She then stated that she wanted to view her database as it was merging. I explained that might not be an option either. She explained that is what another person told her she could do. I explained that she would have two copies of the database open at the same time, and one copy would be changing. I then asked her "What copy would be saved when she closed both databases?"

Now I am only speaking based on my programming background and perhaps Legacy works different. But my thought here is she would have one “original” database open and then a duplicate copy of the database open. When the merge was done on the “original” database, she can close it and it would save.  Then when she closed the other database, one of three things might happen. 1.) It would close and do nothing since nothing was changed on that second open database. 2.) It would close and save as a duplicate copy of the “original” perhaps with a (2) behind the file name. 3.) It would save over the existing database and she would lose all her merge changes.

Well I managed to convince her to continue with the merge. At first I liked the feature that identified the two similar people as child of the other one. However, my question is why even show us, if you know that the one on the left is the child of the one on the right. Just skip it. To me, it is a waste of my time and confusing to say the least. Second, when I did find to similar people who were the same but the death date was off. It looked like on the left we had Aug 9th and on the right we had Sept 8th. So someone put the date in wrong. But the option was to pick one. My question is what happens to the other one? In FTM, I can choose a preferred fact, let us say the left one, and keep the other as an alternate fact or I could discard the other fact. I did not find that option with Legacy. Again, perhaps what I was choosing was the “Preferred fact” and perhaps it would make the other fact an alternate fact but the member didn't want to chance it and kept both people as separate people.

When all was said and done, I advise her to never merge someone else’s database into her own. My reasons are many.  First; many times you end up with extra non-relative people to you in your database. Second, clearing up duplicate people can be confusing, may cause numerous alternate facts to events such as five different birth facts.  I have found that the other person’s sources get added to your file and appear to be sources you used when in fact you have never examined these sources. When you merge someone else’s tree into yours, all their facts and people that get added to your database should be sourced back to their tree, not to their sources.

My recommendation, even though it does take longer, is to manually enter each new person or fact/event. This way you control what is being entered into your database. You are able to source the new information properly back to the person who gave it to you. If you have their database opened on the right and your database on the left, you can even review their sources and perhaps track them down and evaluate them.  

I speak from personal experience; all it took was merging in one family member’s tree into my own tree and resulted in my whole file to be royally messed up.  I never was able to clean that file, but luckily I created a backup before I started. I did not undo the merge, but reverted back to my backup. But I wasted so much time on the merge and on trying to merge duplicate individuals. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to find living relatives?

A woman came into the Genealogy Library today looking for help with her Ukrainian ancestry. I explained to her that my research has been limited to my American ancestors. She went on to say that she wants to find living relatives and wants to find out how to use Facebook to find living relatives. She stated that her parents were the first generation immigrant.

Well, I tried to explain to her that Facebook was designed for you to connect to people you know, not to people you don’t know. I explained that Google+ is designed for you to connect to people you don’t know but might share common interest. So she asked how to use Google+ to connect to people with the same surname as her genealogy interest lies. I explained to her that perhaps she doesn’t want to use Google+ for this purpose because these people might not be interested in Genealogy. She asked then why are they using Google+. I tried once again to explain that all kinds of people with all kinds of interest use Google+ to connect with people who have their same interest. Not all people’s interest is genealogy.

I decided to explain it this way. Remember back in the 70’s and 80’s when those surname books were coming out that claimed to have all the answers to your genealogy? When in fact those books were just generic text about how people moved or migrated from you ancestor’s homeland to America and then they included all the addresses of people with the same surname in American, Canada and sometimes other countries. I explained how my maiden name had such a book that my parents purchased and I wrote to all 136 names in that book. I requested basic genealogical information from them and included a self-addressed stamped envelope. I even offered to share what I found with them. I received 3 replies.

I further explained that in this digital age, when people received friend request or emails from strangers, they will just simply press the delete button.

I explained that perhaps she might want to start by using Ancestry’s trees. She could find others who are also searching her desired surname and contact them with her information and offer to exchange information. I stated she might have better success since these people are already showing an interest in Genealogy by having these trees on-line.

She also told me that she has written foreign vital records offices and asked for all the information they have on living people with one surname. I tried to tell her that is too board of a request and how was the clerk going to know who is still alive. She promptly told me “those that don’t have a death certificate.” I asked, if she really expected someone to look for a person’s death certificate every year between their birth and today’s date and then how was the clerk going to know this person’s contact information? I explained that she might really want to hire a professional genealogist to do some research in the foreign country.
She also explained that she has contacted an elderly cousin but due to communication problems, she hasn’t been able to get must from her. I wonder if she ever asked this woman if she had a list of people who are still alive in the family and their addresses. Or maybe this was too obvious.

Well when she left I wondered if she was as flustered as I.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Roots Tech 2014

Well the talk of the week is Roots Tech 2014. I wish I could have been there, but lack of money and other commitments kept me away. This is something I have added to my bucket list and I definitely will find a way to get there in near future. I better start saving money now and I should be set for next year or the year after.
But for those of us who didn’t make it to Roots Tech still can take advantage of some of the classes they offered. I even managed to view a few live as they were happening.

I saw Thursday presentation with Ron Tanner for FamilySearch Family Tree: What’s New and What’s Next.  I had recently viewed the Roots Tech 2013 presentation on the same subject and yes some was similar but Ron is such a good speaker you don’t even notice. My goal was to learn more about FamilySearch Family Tree.

I am one of those he spoke about that have a hard time sharing. In my case, my actual tree, I must have a control issue because I need full control over my tree. Really my problem is what I call “Looky Lou’s” who look at my tree, take my information and never share what they have on their branch. How am I supposed to grow my tree this way? So I have a private tree on Ancestry and if you want my information, the secret is to tell me how we are related or how you are related to the person in my tree. Quite simple and you are then given access to my tree!

However, I see the value in FamilySearch Family Tree. I look at it as a place to record my proven facts about my ancestors. Facts that I can source and thus others can see the value in the information. There are a few downfalls but there are in any tree you have on the internet. I explained mine with using Ancestry. I know I am duplicating my recording of this information on FamilySearch along with Ancestry which is linked to my Family Tree Maker software. The advantage I see by this duplication is that I can make sure that my information is properly sourced in my software package. I plan on having it as my reference point when I am adding people into FamilySearch FamilyTree.  Okay this is going to take a while, but as the saying goes “Nothing worth having comes easy!”

The next presentation that I saw was James Rader’s Intro to DNA for Genealogist.  Another great speaker and the time went by so fast because he was very easy on the ears. I just received my DNA results back from Ancestry and James shared his results from four major companies. Each came back slightly different. What I really took away from this talk was how testing siblings is not a waste of money because we are all unique and we get different percentages of DNA from each parent along with slightly different DNA. Once he said that, I was like “duh!” because he stated the obvious and of course I didn’t think of it myself! He explained the different types of test which I kind of knew the differences but he made it so much clearer. I loved his diagram on ways to find people with the Y-DNA you are in search of.

Finally I found time to watch Genealogy in the Cloud with Randy Hoffman. This was one of those talks that I was really interested in learning more about. I am a tech geek but I like to learn other ways of explaining things to people. I don’t want to come across too critical but I could not stand hearing him say “Umm”. He was saying “umm” so many times that it was distracting to me and took away from me learning anything from his talk. I end up turning it off after 15 minutes but I know I will need to go back and finish the talk. Hopefully he has less “umms” in the remaining minutes of the talk. So Randy, I am no expert or experience talker, however, you need to practice your speech and have someone listen and every time you say “umm” they should hit a buzzer, throw paper at you or something so that you become more aware of saying it and stop doing it.

Well, I see the remainder of the videos are now on like and I am ready to learn more!

Thank you Roots Tech for offering these videos for people like me!