Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

To split or not to split? That is the question!

A question comes up periodically in the various genealogy groups I belong to: whether to keep a single genealogy database, or separate databases for husband & wife, or maybe a separate database for unverified information, or... well, there are endless possibilities here, and I must admit, I've tried a few! On my own computer, I have just had Legacy create a list of available databases for me to open, and I am appalled to see that there are 32 (!) databases in the list. A few, it appears, may be duplicates.

A few are databases which were created by other people and shared with me in their entirety. For example, there are a couple iterations of my cousin's database which includes our common grandparents, and everyone else in her tree. I would never consider adding this to my own database, but it's handy if I want to see whether her data includes anything for our common ancestors which I don't already have. I'm not sure I've actually done so more than once or twice over the years.

Another is a database for one of my lines--a very voluminous line, indeed--which I was able to download from a website. I haven't added this one to my own database either, mainly because a lot of people in it were already in my database, and I don't feel like going through the Merge process for so many people. Sometimes I add individuals manually from that database to my own if, for example, I want Legacy to figure out that Person X is, say, my seventh cousin, once removed.

One database is the family tree of a friend, made when I was trying to interest her in genealogy.

The rest are an assortment of my own lines which include a few separate surname databases and various versions of my main database. Honestly, at this point, I can't tell you which of them are still useful and which are obsolete.

The fact is that I really use only one of these 32 databases on a regular basis. That is the one which contains all of my lines, all affiliated lines that are interesting to me, and all data that pertains to my children and their children (and thus includes whatever I have on spouses past & present). It would be a swell example of revisionist history to remove my ex-husband from my database and put his tree in a separate database, but we were married, we had kids, and consequently he and his relatives are in my children's family tree, and thus they are in mine for better or worse. That's how family trees come into existence in the first place, isn't it?

One tree... so much simpler! I, for one, would not want to waste my time switching between databases all the time. The extra annoyance of that would diminish my enjoyment of the pursuit. And, as others have observed, sometimes you find something unexpected--one lineage being connected to another several generations back, for example, and that adds considerably to the fun and interest value of research.

My personal database is not synced with any online tree, as I regard online trees as an entirely different matter. On Ancestry, I've set up 24 different trees, most of which are marked Private and were set up solely for the purpose of exploring shaky leaves for a particular individual or surname. Any important data found as a result has been added manually to the database on my own computer, and I could probably delete most of those trees at this point without a backward glance.

If I add something questionable to my database, I leave myself a note in the Notes section. I discovered a long time ago that perfectionism takes the joy out of doing stuff, and pretty soon, if you can't be perfect, you don't even want to play anymore. So I have let go of the idea of database perfection, and I just aim for 'as good as it can be right now' and make notes.

I do genealogy. How many times have you heard someone say, in response to that, "ours has already been done." Translation: "There's no reason for me to look into it." That's too bad, because looking into it is the fun part! I'm perfectly happy to say that my database is never going to be the ultimate answer to the world's genealogy, or even to just my kids' genealogy. I think of it more as a tool for my own use in doing my research, and if there are unanswered questions in the Notes field, maybe someday my kids will discover how much fun it is to go looking for their own answers to history. I would hope my database is only the beginning. In other words, it's the road map, not the trip.

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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