11 October 2019

2 Ways to Find the Loose Ends in Your Family Tree

You know all those things you left unfinished in your tree? No you don't.

With so many branches in your family tree, how can you find all the loose ends? How can you find every spot where you didn't finish searching for facts?

I have countless branches in my family tree. That's what happens when you piece together everyone who ever lived in your ancestral hometowns. Researching one of my grandfather's towns added 15,000 people to my tree. And now I'm working on the other grandfather's town.

Sound crazy? Think of it this way. I'm so familiar with every family name and street name from my grandfather's towns that the worst handwriting doesn't slow me down a bit. Plus, I had to work out every relationship in town to take Grandpa's branch back to the 1690s.

The whole time I was working on his town, I was dreaming of doing the same for all my ancestral towns. But before I add another 15,000 Italians to my family tree, I want to take the time to tie up some loose ends.

Here are 2 great ways to quickly see which birth, marriage, and death facts you're missing. These are loose ends you may be able to tie up.

1. Use Your Family Tree Software

I use Family Tree Maker, so you'll have to see how you can do this in your program. The idea is to sort your index of people by birth date, death date, or marriage date.

If you're reasonably sure of the year, you can search for the exact date.
If you're reasonably sure of the year, you can search for the exact date.

In Family Tree Maker, your index of people is probably showing names and birth dates by default. If so:
  • Click the pull-down menu next to the word "Sort"
  • Choose "Birth Date"
  • Scroll through your index and look for estimated or incomplete birth dates
If you want to look at Marriage Dates or Death Dates instead:
  • Click the icon to the right of "Index" that looks like 3 vertical bars
  • Choose "Marriage Date" or "Death Date"
  • Click the pull-down menu next to the word "Sort"
  • Choose "Marriage Date" or "Death Date"
  • Scroll through your index and look for estimated or incomplete dates
With the list sorted, you'll easily see where you have:
  • an estimated date (such as "Abt 1818"), or
  • an incomplete date (such as "1836" or "May 1817").
On my computer I have vital records from my ancestral Italian hometowns for a certain range of years. If someone from one of my towns has "1863" as their birth date, I should be able to find their birth record. Then I can change the birth year to an exact date. Loose end tied up!

2. Use Family Tree Analyzer

If your family tree software doesn't have an easy sort feature, or your tree exists only online, have no fear. The must-have free program Family Tree Analyzer has got you covered.

Launch Family Tree Analyzer and:
  • Load your latest GEDCOM file
  • Click the Individuals tab
  • Click the top of the "BirthDate" or "DeathDate" column to sort the facts
  • Scroll through the list and look for estimated or incomplete birth or death dates
To examine marriage dates in Family Tree Analyzer:
  • Click the Facts tab
  • Select all "Relationship Types"
  • Select only the "Marriage" fact
  • Click the "Show only the selected Facts for Individuals…" button
  • In the new window that opens, click the top of the "Fact Date" column to sort by marriage date
  • Scroll through the list and look for estimated or incomplete marriage dates
You may find that you have a long list of incomplete dates. Whenever I have a big task to do, I like to whittle it down by going after the easy stuff. Pick that low-hanging fruit and shorten that list as much as you can.

If your family tree software can't handle this project, Family Tree Analyzer can.
If your family tree software can't handle this project, Family Tree Analyzer can.

For this project, I would first work on the dates that are a bit more certain. "1818" is more certain than "Abt 1818". I must have a source for that "1818", but the "Abt 1818" is an educated guess or guestimate.

Tackle the missing months and dates first. Then you can work on the harder-to-find estimated dates.

You won't find them all, so don't beat yourself up about it. But I'm sure you can shorten that list of loose ends. Most of them are loose simply because that wasn't your focus at the time.

For instance, let's say I was entering an exact marriage date for a couple. The marriage documents included birth records for the bride and groom. That gave me a source for each of their parents' birth years. Because I was focused on the marriage facts, I didn't take the time to chase after the parents' birth records. The result is 2 loose ends.

Before you begin your next research project, take some time to see what you've overlooked. Go back and tie up as many loose ends as you can. Those exact dates will help your research in the future.

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4 comments:

  1. I received my 2019 copy of Family Tree Maker last week. Still exploring all the new features to do precisely what you address in this blog. The Family Tree Analyzer software was unknown to me until I read this blog. It is really useful. Thank-you for showing us how to use its features.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't gotten my FTM email yet! Once I do, I'll be sure to work some tips into my articles.

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  2. Hi DiAnn,
    Can you use Family Tree Analyzer with Windows 10? Thank you

    ReplyDelete