Friday, July 19, 2013

I is for Incomplete, C is for ...

Someone asked how my family tree database could possibly have men with no surname. We expect to have missing surnames for women, but never for men.

I discussed the problems of patronymics in the last post. But there were four other men in my database without a surname. In each case, the first name came from someone else.

Have you ever chatted with a family member who said that a cousin had married, but they couldn't recall the full name of the spouse? Maybe you received a partial name when someone shared a tree with you. Perhaps you received a Christmas letter that mentioned someone by first name only. These are the ways the gaps popped into my tree. You may be able to think of other ways that names are missed.

B for GenSmarts

When I asked GenSmarts for clues for the four mystery men, no clues were available. I'll accept that's realistic. So I asked for the clues on the wife or mother of the mystery men. In two cases, the clues were absolutely correct and the surnames were easily found and added to the tree.

In two cases, I knew something that GenSmarts didn't know. The clues were good, but I knew the women had moved away from their birth states. I don't fault GenSmarts for that, since I hadn't entered any clues into the database. I rate GenSmarts less than A mostly due to a census analysis flaw described later.

W for Withdrawn: she/he who dies with the most names does not win the genealogy jackpot.

I followed all clues from GenSmarts and my own knowledge and was entirely unable to find a name or even determine that one mystery man was actually a husband. From the letter, he could have been a son or cousin.

It's more important to have a correct tree than to collect names. I decided the right move was to remove the name for this distant relative. I removed the man and added a note for the woman who was the focus of the letter.

C is for Census

The fourth name served as an important reminder. All the missing names were from old information that I'd had since 2001 or before. The 1930 census was released in 2002 and the 1940 census was released in 2012. I use them in new research, but had never considered that I had gaps that could be filled with these new records. Again, the right records led me to the right information and I closed the fifth and last male surname gap via census research.

If you have been researching for a few years, you also may have old data that could be improved by finding a new census record.

Tell me RootsMagic, What's Missing?

I'm going to keep emphasizing that reporting on your database is an important tool. I'm going to continue to focus on RootsMagic as the most cost effective program, if you don't have a tool already. So let's see how I can find where newer census records can fill my gaps.

Again, I don't want to look at too much at once -- it's overwhelming. So let's see who was born in 1921 that I should be able to find in the 1930 and 1940 census.

In RootsMagic, I choose from the top menu Reports, then choose Lists ...

I want a missing information list.

After I click on Create Report, I need to select the missing information that I want to look for. Let's start with people who have a birth date without a birthplace. The 1930 and 1940 census should help me find the birthplace and give me a look at the person's entire family in those years.

I need to use a selection list to find the target people. As soon as I click on select from list, the select people list pops up.

To mark the people, I choose Mark Group and Select people by data fields.

Finally, I choose to search for people where the birth date contains 1921.

There are only 14 people in the entire database with that birth year. That's a nice little size.

I keep clicking OK until I get back to to the Generate Report button. Clicking that, the report appears and only five of the 14 are missing a birthplace.

One very sweet thing that I didn't mention before is that RootsMagic will pull suggestions from GenSmarts, if you have both programs. However, the RootsMagic display from GenSmarts is not as complete and flexible as using GenSmarts alone.

Let's see what GenSmarts recommends for Robert Z Heepke. It is more useful to look at the entire family than just one person, but here's the one-person view from inside RootsMagic.

Because Robert was a child during the 1930 census, it is not suggested by GenSmarts. I believe that's a flaw in the analysis. The indexing is very extensive now that the census records are online. It's as easy to find a child as it is a head of household. There's another, more conservative way to look at this analysis choice and maybe I'll write about it later.

So what does GenSmarts suggest for Robert's father, William R Heepke?

Now the 1930 and 1940 census records are suggested, specifically the Ohio census.

Exiting from RootsMagic and opening up GenSmarts, I can ask for suggestions for the family of William R Heepke.

Now a wide variety of suggestions are made for the entire family, along with a legend showing what's online, what's free, and what will fill in gaps.

While I go fill in some of my missing data, I challenge you to think about your own database. How can the 1940 census help you fill in your own gaps?

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