Showing posts with label gedcom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gedcom. Show all posts

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to Handle the Unrelated People in Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

They probably belong in your family tree, right? Those families with your name, from your town. You have every reason to believe they're related to you.

But you haven't found that connecting ancestor yet.

So you've got these disconnected families floating in your family tree file. They sit there, waiting for you to find the connection.

How easily can you find those families you added long ago, so you can work on finding out more about them?

Here's a solution I hope you'll try.

A graphic like this helps you find disconnected people in your family tree.
Use an image like this to identify unattached
people in your family tree at a glance.
I've written three times in the past about a software program called Family Tree Analyzer. I was astonished when I discovered this free program. It does exactly what I'd been struggling to write a program to do. But it does it better than I could ever have done. And it does much more than my program ever would have done.

Get the latest version of the program at http://ftanalyzer.com (for Windows only at this time). You may need to uninstall the previous version before you can install this one.

Here's the feature I want you to look at. First, export a current GEDCOM file from your family tree software. Then run Family Tree Analyzer and import the GEDCOM.

Click the second tab, labelled Individuals, to see a line for every person in your tree. Go all the way over to the Relation column and click it to sort your people by their relation to you.

You'll see:
  • Blood relations
  • Relations by marriage
  • Direct ancestors
  • People married to your direct blood relations
  • The root person (presumably you), and finally,
  • Unknown
These are the people in your tree who are not attached to you—whether by accident or on purpose.

If you can print to a PDF file, go ahead and print this relation-sorted view. You can refer to it again and again, taking advantage of the search function of the PDF file. Don't print to paper! It's going to be a lot of pages. Mine is 1,358 pages.

Click back to the first tab for a second; the one labelled Gedcom Stats. Beneath the "Loading file" messages you'll see how many of each type of relationship you have. My file says:

Direct Ancestors : 189
Blood Relations : 1456
Married to Blood or Direct Relation : 543
Related by Marriage : 12480
Unknown relation : 4959

That last number, 4,959 unknown relations, comes as a big shock to me. That's a lot! How many families have I collected on speculation? Further inspection shows me that very distant, convoluted relations are labelled Unknown. That includes father-in-law of cousin of sister-in-law of me.

Now you've got the list of unrelated people. Forgive me, but I can't remember where I heard this next tip. I wrote it in a notebook that makes me think I saw it on a YouTube genealogy video. And I subscribe only to Ancestry.com's Crista Cowan, so this tip may belong to her.

Here it is: Create a graphic image (or borrow mine from this article) that says something like "No Relation". Attach this image to each person on your list of unknown relations from Family Tree Analyzer. Make it their profile picture.

Now, the unrelated people will be easily visible. Better yet, in Family Tree Maker I can select an image from my tree's image library and see a list of who it is attached to.

The goal now is to focus on these unrelated families. Do the legwork. Find out all you can about them, keeping an eye open for that missing link to you.

After some research, you may decide to remove some unrelated people from your family tree.

And one day, you may find that your "No Relation" people, are no more!


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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How to Find Errors in Your Family Tree

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

The mission of this blog is to encourage genealogists to improve their family trees. To fortify your family tree means to:
  • Use the best sources for your facts.
  • Locate as many pieces of documentation as possible.
  • Analyze your tree for errors and fix them.
  • Add thorough, consistent, provable facts throughout your tree.

This one report shows me how many great grandparents I've found for my family tree.
This quick report lets me see the oldest direct ancestors in my tree.

The more your tree grows, the harder it can be to find its errors. Maybe you added lots of facts when you were first building your tree and didn't add any sources. Maybe you borrowed from someone else's tree and later realized they were wrong. Or maybe you accidentally transposed the numbers in a bunch of birth years.

Family tree errors can happen to a professional genealogist as well as an excited newcomer.

How can you find the errors when your tree is big and you've been working on it for years? How do you find a handful of needles in a haystack?

Reporting Software

Reporting tools can point out all kinds of family tree errors, showing you exactly where to jump in and start fixing.

I've written about the free software tool called Family Tree Analyzer (FTA) twice this year. (See Why You Should Be Using the Free "Family Tree Analyzer" and Run This Genealogy Report To Help Clean Up Your Dates to download the software and see what it's about.)

Get the latest version from the source: http://ftanalyzer.com. Go to the Software.Informer website for free GEDCOM analyzers that work on Mac or Windows.
I knew I'd barely scratched the surface of what FTA can do. Now I'm using it to identify a variety of errors I can fix in my family tree.

The first step is to run your family tree software and export a standard GEDCOM file. This is the agreed-upon standard that makes your family research transportable and sharable.

Then run FTA and import your GEDCOM. The first thing you'll see is a long summary of the types of facts found in your tree. My favorite part is this list:
  • Direct Ancestors: 189
  • Blood Relations: 1,451
  • Married to Blood or Direct Relation: 541
  • Related by Marriage: 12,452
Click the Data Errors tab. You might see a long list of errors. Some are more important than others, so click the Clear All button. Now click to select one type of error, such as Birth before father aged 13.

My tree has nearly 20,000 people, and I discovered the majority of them in old Italian vital records. Some of the documents had errors. Others had conflicting information. In tons of cases, I had no age or birth year for parents, so I chose to make them 25 years older than their oldest child.

For Maria Giuseppa Verzino, shown in this error report, I have evidence that she was born in 1799. But her father Paolo has a birth year of "About 1791".
An example of an error report showing something that's easy to fix.
Error report for seriously under-aged fathers.

I try to be very consistent in my family tree. Whenever I see "About" for someone's birth year, I know that I subtracted 25 from the birth year of the person's oldest child. But maybe I found more of their children later. Maybe when I found Maria Giuseppa and her birth year of 1799, I forgot to update her parents' birth years. Maria Giuseppa probably has a sibling born in 1816. When I recorded that sibling, I subtracted 25 from 1816 and marked the parents as being born "About 1791".

This is easy for me to fix. I can go to Paolo Verzino in my tree and see if I've found any children born before Maria Giuseppa in 1799. If not, Paolo and his wife's birth years should be updated to "About 1774".

That's one less needle in the haystack of errors.

Now uncheck that error and select another one, like Marriage after death. I have one of these errors. My family tree says that Giuseppe Antonio delGrosso was married on 11 December 1859. But I have his death recorded as "Before Dec 1859". That needs to be looked at.

Work Through the Errors

You can work your way through the errors and correct them one by one.

FTA contains a lot of tabs and menus. Click them to see what may be useful to you. The Facts tab can show all of your direct-line ancestors in a list. Choose only Direct Ancestors in the Relationship Types section. Then choose any fact, such as Birth. Click Show only the selected Facts for Individuals.

The resulting table shows me at a glance that I've identified two sets of my 9th great grandparents born in the early 1600s! I can click any column to sort by relationship, last name, date of birth, etc.

That isn't an error to fix, but it is a way to double-check my ancestor chart where I'm keeping a list of all direct-line ancestors. (See How to Visualize Your Ancestor-Finding Progress.)

So take a break from finding new ancestors, and make the time to fix the errors in your family tree. After you've fixed a bunch of them, export a new GEDCOM. Open it in Family Tree Analyzer and see how much shorter your errors lists are.

Fixing errors is every bit as important as finding that missing census file or death record.


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Friday, August 25, 2017

How to Make Your Family Tree Fireproof!

My family didn't pass down any paperwork. There were no birth certificates. No marriage certificates. No citizenship papers.

digitize your paper family tree documents
If it isn't digitized, it isn't safe.
That's why I'm amazed at the photos other genealogists post of their slumped-over piles of color-coded folders. Their stacks of plastic bins filled with documents. Their rows of acid-free archive-quality storage boxes.

I have one fat folder of paper documents related to my family tree. It rests comfortably in my two-drawer file cabinet along with every other piece of paperwork associated with my life.

So, wag your finger at me if you must, but I'm here to urge you to digitize your family history!

Our goal as family historians is to preserve and share every fact and document of our ancestors' lives.

That requires making their birth certificates, death certificates, and precious photographs:
  • fireproof
  • accessible
  • safe from obsolescence
This seems like an overwhelming task to many family tree researchers. But isn't every aspect of building a family tree overwhelming? For goodness sake, you have 64 great great great great grandparents alone!

Like any other genealogical task, you have to set your goals, divide, and conquer. Choose a branch and dive in with these tasks:
  • Scanning: A good scanner is not expensive. But if your budget is tight, consider borrowing one for a few days. Or get a free scanner app for your phone.
  • Saving: Your family tree software should have the option of exporting your work as a GEDCOM file. A GEDCOM is a highly compatible format that any family tree software can open and use. Save your work as a GEDCOM regularly.
  • Storing: Remember 3½-inch floppy disks? Computers can't read them anymore. A CD drive isn't even standard equipment on many new laptop computers. So practice redundancy:
    • Burn your digital files to a CD or DVD.
    • Copy them to an external hard drive.
    • Store them on one of the many clouds available to you: GoogleDocs, Dropbox, OneDrive.
    • Use FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, or another genealogy website to hold your family tree and its document files.
As genealogists, we love living in the past. We treasure each scrap of evidence of our ancestors' lives.

But we've got to plan for the future and the longevity of our hard work.

When it comes to one specific ancestor, like your maternal grandmother, you only want one. But when it comes to preserving her documents and photographs, redundancy, redundancy, redundancy!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Run This Genealogy Report To Help Clean Up Your Dates

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

I've written before about my indispensable Document Tracker (see Haven't I Seen You Before?). It's a spreadsheet that shows at a glance which facts or documents I've collected and which I'm missing.

I've also written about Family Tree Analyzer (see Why You Should Be Using the Free "Family Tree Analyzer"). It's a program that does what I was struggling to write a program to do. And it does it so much better than I could have imagined. (Get the latest version.)

Now I'd like to show you how Family Tree Analyzer can quickly produce a document tracker for you.

Step 1: Export a GEDCOM

Export a standard GEDCOM file from whichever family tree software you're using. You may need to click File / Export in your family tree software. You can also download a GEDCOM from Ancestry.com if that's where you work on your tree.

Step 2: Open GEDCOM in Family Tree Analyzer

Launch Family Tree Analyzer and open your new GEDCOM file. Click the Individuals tab to view a grid of every single individual in your tree. My tree has 19,341 people at the moment, and that's not a problem. There is no delay at all in displaying the information.
The Individuals view in Family Tree Analyzer

Step 3: Export a Spreadsheet

Now click Export in the menu across the top and click the first option, Individuals to Excel. The program will ask you to name your file and pick a location for it.
Exporting your Individuals report

The file will be in CSV format. That stands for Comma Separated Values. You can open a CSV file with any spreadsheet software at all—not only Excel.

Step 4: Work with Your New Report

Now you have a spreadsheet of everyone in your tree and several basic facts about them. You can hide or delete the columns you don't want, and add some that you find more helpful.

Try some creative formatting: Find every cell with the word UNKNOWN and highlight it in yellow. Now you can spot these items quickly.
With all your people in one file, your imagination is the only limit.

I can review all the yellow-highlighted UNKNOWNs and work on filling in approximate birth, marriage and death dates. Entering an approximate birth date, such as Abt. 1900, makes it easier to distinguish people with similar names in your tree.

You can enter an approximate birth year for someone based on what else you know about them. For example, subtract 25 from the eldest child's birth year to approximate the parents' birth years. Or, if you have the mother's birth year as 1900 but not her husband's birth year, you can fill in Abt. 1900 for him.

Be sure to use the standard abbreviations of Abt. for about, Bef. for before, Aft. for after, and Bet. for between, if you're giving a range of years. (Note: Family Tree Analyzer prefers that you don't use a period—Abt instead of Abt.—but Family Tree Maker puts it in automatically. You can change this in Tools / Options on the Names/Dates/Places tab. Look for "Fact labels".)

How many ways will you use this Family Tree Analyzer report to fortify your family tree?



Monday, April 17, 2017

Why You Should Be Using the Free "Family Tree Analyzer"

Update: Family Tree Analyzer is now available for Mac.

In 2012 I had an idea for a genealogy program. I created a simple program called Census Taker to analyze your tree and produce a list of every person likely to be found in the newly released 1940 census.

It worked great for me, but it was limited. I studied Java programming, hoping to make the program better. I began rewriting my program, but time after time I ran into problems.

Then, suddenly, I found something in a Google search. A free program called Family Tree Analyzer that does everything I wanted my program to do—and a million times more. Goodbye, my fledgling programming career!

Programmer and genealogist Alexander Bisset makes it easy to analyze your family tree.

Family Tree Analyzer analyzed my 18,946-person tree without blinking. It provides a detailed table of each individual's facts in a flawless format that looks eerily like what I was struggling to do with my program.

The "Individuals" table helps you see what you're missing and plan your genealogy research accordingly.

It found every possible data error in my file. It found potential duplicate people. It let me export everything to a spreadsheet so I can fix the problems.

One small piece of what it does is like my Census Taker, but way better.

The Treetops button shows you the eldest person (or people) in your tree with a given surname. I entered my maiden name of "Iamarino". The Iamarinos at the top of 2 branches were born in 1640 and 1710. Awesome.

The Locations, Occupations and Sources tabs show how many people are associated with a particular source, place or job. I'll use it to find typos or places where I want to make the wording more consistent.

I've barely scratched the surface, but I strongly recommend you try this program. Family Tree Analyzer can provide you with all kinds of analysis to help you fortify your family tree.