What I Learned Watching My Computer

There are a number of free genealogy webinars offered, and in the spirit of my goal of doing more education I have been watching some of them. GeneaWebinars and the Legacy Family Tree Webinars have been particularly useful. I have learned about labeling digital pictures on the front from Dear Myrtle as well as about using Facebook from her, preserving old photos from Maureen Taylor and several things about using RootsMagic from their roster of presentations. The nice thing about many of these is that they are available after the original presentation free, for at least a period of time, so if you can’t catch it the first time you can still watch it later.

Recently I had a particularly eye-opening experience. Ok, I admit it. I just learned something that I’m ashamed to say had never occurred to me. At the moment, I am feeling like I need to turn in my “credentials” as a genealogist. You all knew this information already of course and no one ever told me.

I was watching a Legacy Family Tree webinar of Geoff Rasmussen adding a death certificate he had recently gotten into his database. This was, I thought, not likely to teach me much but maybe I’d pick up a tidbit or two. Sounds pretty basic, right? The webinar was a last minute idea at Legacy Family Tree and not advertised very far ahead of time. I did not get to watch the live one, but it was still available free on the website (only listed as available free until the end of 5/16/2011 but it looked like it was still up this morning). Geoff is doing another one, on entering a marriage certificate, this week.

Of course, Geoff is using the Legacy Family Tree software, so none of the specifics of how he does things will apply to me. I use RootsMagic. However, I found that watching and listening to him made me think about other ways to use my software, and possibilities to look for in my software. Two specifics come to mind. The first is his use of something called the source clipboard. What that allows him to do is completely fill out all the sourcing information including a note that contains the actual information from the certificate, before he started adding to the person in his database. With the source information on the clipboard, he could add the source to every piece of information he already had as well as use it to add information that was new. The second was his use of “alt birth” or “alt death” as an event to record information that varied from the information he already had (or to decide that the new information was better supported and to make the old information “alt”). This seems like a useful way to put conflicting information into the database and make it easily visible. I have been using Notes to do this and think I may have to change how I do it, since the information in Notes isn’t fully visible on the screen. Likewise, Geoff also adds every variation on names from each source, as AKAs. These show up differently in his software than in mine, but it reminds me that close isn’t the same as identical. I don’t think I need to do AKA for a spelling difference like Fanny v Fannie, but finding an initial or a nickname or a slightly different name (e.g., my grandmother Carrie shows up as Delia C., Carrie D., Dellie, and Dillie, so far in different sources) does seem like it should be recorded.

The biggie for me, though, was Geoff discussing using a death certificate as a source for the parents of the individual. In his example names were given for both father and mother (including a maiden name) and places of birth. It had never occurred to me to use information from one individual for another in that way. I must be really dense!! Now, presumably this information is rarely primary since the informant for a death certificate is not one of the parents of the deceased. Nevertheless, it provides one more source of that information, and if I don’t know the parents’ names it might be a very useful suggestion of who to be looking for.

So, the bottom line is that watching or listening to, a webinar or podcast or YouTube may advance my thinking about how I do the research and about how I analyze it. I guess I really learned something.

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