Saturday, April 30, 2011

Satruday Night Genealogy Fun - Problems in your Genealogy Database

Tonight's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings is another software challenge - by far my favorite type of Randy's challenges. So tonight's challenge is to find the data error or problem report in your genealogy software, create the report, and describe the number of problems and types of errors, as well as any surprising results.

My usual genealogy software is Reunion, and I have to say I had a fair amount of trouble finding a way to produce these reports. I found nothing easily in browsing Reunion's menus, nor did I have any better luck searching the help file for keywords like "problem" or "error". So I turned to the ReunionTalk online forums and finally found an avenue to an answer, one I never would have found on my own.

The date feasibility report gives common date errors such as birth, marriage, or divorce events occurring after death, births occurring before or after particular ages, or marriages before certain ages. This report is nicely hidden under "Reunion preferences --> Dates" not listed amongst Reunion's other report options.

I ran the report using the default options. Output is a plain text file. Mine contained 9 various date errors, combinations of:
  • child born after parent died - 3
  • child born before parents' marriage - 3
  • child born before parent was age 12 - 2
  • child birth date is after death date - 1
Most of these merit a second look at the data entry and sources consulted. One of the "errors" reported is in fact, not an error. My grandmother's eldest child was indeed born after her first husband died in World War II. And I expect at least one error in the "child born after parent died" category may be a similar case.

Reunion does have other error-type reports I've used before: unlinked people and duplicate people, which I run on a semi-regular basis, especially if I do any Gedcom importing.

But I had hoped for a report that would deliver a variety of different errors in one place. One of Randy's other respondents tonight was Caro from Caro's Family Chronicles who reviewed Family Tree Maker's Data Errors Report.

Since I have the Mac version of FTM on my laptop, I decided to try this report in FTM. I don't use FTM regularly, but do have an older Gedcom of my database there so I can play with different genealogy software. So I easily found and ran the Database Errors Report, doing as Caro did excluding "birth date missing" and "marriage date missing". I also excluded "children out of order". The resulting report listed 25 problems, including date errors and a few unlinked people. But by far the most common error FTM listed was women who were entered using the same surname as their husband. I know I have the tendency to make this error, but was surprised to find quite so many (7). I don't easily see a way to find women entered with the same surname as their husband in Reunion, but I'll keep poking around.

At a glance, many of FTM's errors look different from the Reunion errors, so clearly I have some work to do to check these and correct them if they exist in Reunion. I'll also import a new Gedcom into Mac FTM once I get the errors cleaned up. I guess none of the errors really surprised me, but I'm surprised at the number of them. This was a great challenge, and I'm glad to have a few more tools to help me keep my data clean.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's Child - Finding the Lost Biddle Children

Several Christmases ago, some old family photographs were circulated amongst the family, and in my possession I found a digital photograph of my great-great grandmother, Christine Williams Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900) as a child. She was photographed with her parents, Jonathan Williams and Emily Skinner Meigs Biddle, and two younger siblings.

(Since I have only the above digital copy, I have no idea what form the original photograph takes.) Knowing that Christine was the oldest, born in 1847, I hypothesized that the photo was taken after 1850 and tried to identify the other children. The 1850 census listed the children in the household as:
  • Christine - age 3
  • Charles M. - age 1
  • Williams - age 1/12
Presumably Charles and Williams are the two other children pictured in the above photograph. But by 1860, the children listed in Emily Biddle's household (Jonathan died in 1856) were:
  • Christine - age 14
  • Thomas - age 6
  • Emily - age 5
But where were Charles and Williams, the two little boys pictured with their parents and older sister? I presumed they had died, but really wasn't sure where to go to find more information about the deaths of two small children in the span of 1850 to 1860.

So last week, I was wandering the church cemetery looking for more family graves when I found the Biddle family plot, not far from where Christine Biddle Cadwalader is buried with her husband and unmarried children.

In the Biddle family plot were three small graves, in a row.

Also in the plot was a large horizontal slab, listing the family members, among them three children.

There were Williams, who died in 1852, and Charles, who died in 1853, along with little sister Mary, who died in 1851.

I've come across child deaths in my genealogy before, and given the times, I shouldn't be surprised by it, and I'm not. But heartbroken, though, at the thought of this family losing three children in three years. I'm also a little haunted by the photograph of the children, which had to have been taken before Williams died in January 1852. The likelihood of having a photograph of two little boys who died in 1852 and 1853 seems remote, but I do have it, and can see their faces, and am glad to know where they're buried.