Sunday, June 10, 2012

Record Your Data Entry Rules

Using a computer database program such as Family Tree Maker or Roots Magic certainly eases much of the effort involved in keeping relationships straight and in keeping all of our data in order. But stop to think a bit about the process you use when entering data. It is not done automatically…you have to do it, and when you do you are constantly making decisions about how you enter that data. Once you make a decision about you data entry process, you want to enter similar data in the same way every time a similar situation occurs. For instance, perhaps when you find an immigrant ancestor who arrived at New York on the ship called the New Amsterdam, you choose to enter the place information for that event as “New York, USA on the ship New Amsterdam.” I’m not saying that is how everyone should enter that information, I’m just saying if that is how you do it, then you would want to make a similar entry for all of your immigrant ancestors. But, if you are like me, you will forget that format and enter the information differently for the next immigrant. In this case I may forget that I included "USA" or that I used the word "ship" or that I italicized the name of the ship.

To prevent this inconsistent data entry, you can start a document in your word processor that records those data entry rules you set up for yourself. That way thay are all in one place and you can refer to them any time you wish. If you want, you can record them in some generally accessible place right inside of your database program. The point is, you need to record those self-imposed rules so you can be consistent through time as you enter data.

Here are some other instances where you may have made some unique data entry decisions you should record: How do you handle name changes? How do you record alternate names? How and where do you record conflicts in information between two sources? How do you record complex family relationships like illegitimacies, adoptions, non-married partners, etc. You get the idea.

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