17 April 2020

Make Consistency King in Your Family Tree

Run this program to clean up typos and boo-boos in your family tree.

I've been a webmaster or web content producer since 1997. I've always believed consistency makes a website a look professional.

When I started building my family tree, I realized consistency is critical there, too. I wanted my tree to be as professional as possible. That includes recording and documenting facts in a consistent way.

Once in a while, I like to use the free Family Tree Analyzer tool to give my tree a consistency checkup. There's a new version of the program out, so visit their website for the download.

You need to export a GEDCOM file from the latest version of your tree. Then launch Family Tree Analyzer and import your GEDCOM. Choose the Export menu at the top and select Facts to Excel. This generates a spreadsheet you can save. Now you can sort and filter the information as you wish.

Use Family Tree Analyzer to export your facts to a spreadsheet. Now inconsistencies are easy to find.
Use Family Tree Analyzer to export your facts to a spreadsheet. Now inconsistencies are easy to find.

I want to check the consistency of the occupation and location facts in my family tree.

Consistent Treatment of Foreign Words

When it comes to Occupation facts, my family tree is full of Italian-language job titles. Two years ago, I used Find and Replace in Family Tree Maker to add the English translation to these Italian words. For example, I searched for "sartore" and replaced it with "sartore (tailor)". But I wonder if I overlooked any Italian job titles.

Let me find them in the Facts spreadsheet I created. I can either Sort or Filter the FactType column. (I prefer Excel's Filter function, but you can do what's comfortable for you.) Now I can scroll down the spreadsheet with my eyes on the FactComment column. I'm looking for Italian words that have no translation.

I see a few that are words I still can't translate. I also see one common word that I left untranslated by accident. It's contadino. That's the most common occupation in my family tree. It means farmer or peasant. The spreadsheet tells me this job title belongs to Francesco Iampietro. I'll go to him in my family tree and make the fix.

Paging Francesco Iampietro. Holy cow, look at this crowd!
Paging Francesco Iampietro. Holy cow, look at this crowd!

It figures. I have 12 men in my tree with this same name! But this is an 1817 fact, so that narrows down the list a bit. After viewing the facts in my tree for almost every man with this name, I can't find this 1817 fact. The spreadsheet tells me his GEDCOM individual ID number is 12869. So I'll resort my spreadsheet to show more of Francesco's facts.

He turns out to be older than I thought, born in 1740 and died on the date in 1817. When I view his facts in Family Tree Maker, I can see that I updated his source citations, but I overlooked the missing translation of his job title. I'll fix it now.

The spreadsheet shows me one blank occupation fact. I had added a year and place, but no job title. I'll have to view the original document to find this person's missing occupation.

I may want to revisit the records with untranslatable job titles. I'll bet the documents have bad handwriting. I hope they'll make sense to me now because I have more experience.

Consistent Treatment of Place Names

Next I'll turn to place names. I like to include the word County in U.S. addresses. For exanple, Burgettstown, Washington County, Pennsylvania, USA. I find it makes some place names easier to understand. I can sort the Facts spreadsheet by the FactLocation column. Then I'll scroll down the list looking for places missing "County".

I quickly found a Brooklyn, New York, address missing the word County. It was the home of a family named Abbate. I can:
  • go to the Abbate family in Family Tree Maker
  • update the address, and
  • choose to update every instance of the original address at once.
I'll continue checking for the missing word County. I'll also see if anything else looks like a possible typo. For example, if an address shows up many times, followed by a different spelling, I'd bet that lone address is wrong.

Family Tree Analyzer is a great tool for finding inconsistent place names.
Family Tree Analyzer is a great tool for finding inconsistent place names.

I see one place name listed as Unknown. When I view that person in my tree, I see I forgot to add her address to the Residence fact for the 1940 census. Easily fixed.

It's a pretty quick process to find errors and inconsistencies in your tree's facts. Why not make this a regular checkup? How often you should perform a checkup depends on how often you work on your family tree. I find that I'm reminded to have a checkup each time Family Tree Analyzer releases a program update.

How's your consistency looking?


  1. DiAnn, I notice an apparent inconsistency in you dates. Some are right justified some are left justified. Is this because of a different century? (I.e. the inability of Excel to handle pre-1900 dates)

    Also do you show a four digit year in FTM?

    Thanks, Steve

    1. That's how the spreadsheet exported from Family Tree Analyzer is displaying my dates. In Family Tree Maker, I am strictly 17 Apr 2020 or 13 Jul 1885. The spreadsheet also put initial caps on my Occupation facts. I don't. Bottom line is, I wouldn't use this tool for date inconsistencies. But I don't think inconsistent dates are possible in Family Tree Maker anyway.

  2. In case you haven't figured it out, the left-justified dates are probably trxt strings and not data of type "date."

    Change hou you present your dates, and see of those don't convert.