Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amazing What You Find When You Do a Little Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning in the Vondelpark; source Wikimedia Commons.


Like so many, I have been anxiously awaiting the upcoming release of Family Tree Maker 2017. Having been a Beta tester for several library software products and revisions, I know that it can take time for all aspects of new or revised software to work consistently and in the intended manner so I don't mind waiting until FTM 2017 is 100% (or at least 99%) ready to go before my copy is ready to download.

I agree with Russ Worthington that the waiting period is a great time to do some neglected database clean-up. His post on 14 April 2017 presented a number of areas we can look into and steps we could each do to improve the quality of our database before we tried to sync it with an Ancestry tree. If you use Family Tree Maker, his post is definitely worth reading. A clean-up like Russ suggests is what I've been doing the last two weeks, and each day I am amazed at what I find in my personal clean-up.

My first round of clean-up involved looked at FTM sources that were not attached to anyone in my FTM tree. Probably 95% were for a source which, upon closer reading, turned out to not have information related to any one in my tree. These had come about because I have gotten into the habit of creating a new source when I find a record or other information that seemed, at first glance, to belong to someone in my family tree. Then, as I read the entire record or document, it was clear that the record involved someone who was not connected to my tree. Some of these sources remained like dead leaves on my tree as I tried to see if the information applied to someone else in the family; some remained because I just forgot to delete the source at the time. Now, after reading a lot of source records and following the web link in the citation, I was able to delete all that didn't belong in my tree. The great part was finding those few sources that did belong but somehow I had not actually connected them to the specific person. Who knows why, the phone rang, time to cook dinner, my phone buzzed that it was time to leave for an appointment. But now, all those previously unattached sources are either attached to someone or else have been deleted. I also have a new resolve to study a document more thoroughly before I consider it as a source for my tree, saving creating a source citation for when I know the source actually provides information about someone in my family tree.

Next I turned to looking at people in my database who had no source attached to them. Again, I was chagrined to realize that I had about 40 names attached to my family tree with no supporting documentation. Just a name, and that was all.

For example, in trying to find documentation (beyond personal knowledge) for the husband of a second cousin, Alice Northcutt Dean Felton. I stumbled upon a treasure trove of family information in Alice's obituary.(1) I had documentation of her death through an e-mail I had received, but this obituary found online from a small, local newspaper provided information about her husband, children, and something I had never heard before, that Alice had polio as a child. This one fact added another dimension to her rich, full, active life.

Another just-a-name-cousin became more real to me just be googling his name. I found information about his college years at Davidson College, an address for him from the 1960s through an alumni directory, and a record of his marriage to the previously named Joan xxx (my method for recording an unknown part of a name). The college information supported what I already knew about this first cousin once removed and where he had lived for many years, but now I had something besides a family directory from the 1970s that I had never bothered to cite as a source for him.

Other names without a source turned out to be very removed from my family tree. That included people people like George Glasscock, the brother-in-law of an 8th Great Uncle, and living in the 1600s. Looking at the information about my 8th Great Uncle, I could not find any connection to George (beyond that of being the brother of his wife), so George was among the names I decided to just delete from my family tree.

Then there are people like William Good, the husband of Sarah Solart (about whom I will be posting later). All I can find are the numerous statements in books that refer to William as the husband of Sarah, nothing more. I had early on added him as her spouse but never sourced it, hoping to easily find a record of their marriage. After several months, I still have found nothing more than William Good's name, but at least I realized that I needed to document that it was recorded in several books. After all his life was a large part of Sarah Solart's story.

The real thrill came as I tried to find a source for Weldon Perkinson, a 4 Great Uncle, the son of my 4 Great Grandfather David Perkinson. I had found sources to verify that David had a son William and a daughter Phoebe/Phebe, just no source to connect Weldon beyond having seen his name written somewhere, some time. There were a number of online trees that listed Weldon as the son of David, few with birth or death dates only Union County, South Carolina as his place of death, I knew I had to approach this from a different angle. David Perkinson's death was listed in many online trees as occurring about 1807 in Union County, South Carolina, so I spent an hour looking at unindexed probate records for Union County on FamilySearch.(2) Finally I find a link between David and Weldon. David had died intestate, so his son William was appointed by the Union County court as administrator of his father's estate on 17 Aug 1807. Pages later in the packet, the final payments from the estate were made to the Martha Perkinson (presumably a daughter), Weldon (presumably a son), Phoebe Perkinson Bevis, Polly Perkinson Dickens (presumably a daughter) and Elizabeth Perkinson (presumably a daughter), the amounts to each person being essentially the same amount as is frequently the case with children in an estate. This certainly started chipping away at a brick wall.

Lessons learned: All in all, my Spring cleaning has kept me busy while I wait for the actual release of Family Tree Maker 2017. During this time, I was able to find sources for several relatives, possibly poke a few holes in a Perkinson brick wall, and locate helpful information using online obituary and college sites. Plus I removed a few people about whom I found nothing. It also became clear that I need to tweek exactly when I create a source and attack it to an individual. Maybe I need to do Spring cleaning a little more frequently than every four or five years.

(1) "FELTON, Alice Dean", Tribune Ledger News, Canton, GA, 24 Jan, 2017; http://www.tribuneledgernews.com.
(2) South Carolina, Probate Records and Loose Papers, 1732-1964, Union, Probate Court, Probate records 1777-1961, Box 5, package 24, estate of David Parkinson/Perkinson; accessed www.familysearch.org.

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