If you can't beat 'em....join 'em!

Soon after I started this blog, I focused my writing on a set of templates I created in Bento for  managing my research.  That came to an abrupt halt when FileMaker discontinued support for the Bento database program.  They were probably right... computing has changed so much that databases are becoming things of the past.  Powerful search engines, the ability to tag data, the cloud -- Evernote -- have all made the old fashioned database obsolete.

But there was still that nagging desire to have all my research in one place, easy to retrieve, yet organized around some basic principle, which nothing but a family tree-oriented software can achieve. The problem with family tree programs is that they don't do a great job of tracking ongoing research, unproven conclusions, and complex sources.  As far as I can see, they still don't quite hit the mark, but I've come up with some work-arounds that I'm fairly sure can be adapted to whichever family tree program is being used.  Certainly, the convenience of keeping all your work in one place makes it worthwhile to give it a try.

First of all, I've set up imaginary, unlinked "people" in my family tree, with the first name "RESEARCH," the middle name corresponding to the first name, and then the surname of interest.  I attach to this "person" any item I find in my research that I cannot conclusively attribute to a known individual in this family.  It's kind of like Ancestry's Shoebox, but with a little more focus and precision.

If I have some data that I believe might pertain to a known individual in my tree, but still need more evidence to confirm an identity or relationship, I will attach that data to a custom event called "RESEARCH."

I add my source for this information in the usual way, but when I add the detailed citation I also include a reference to "research."  As we all know, many types of evidence -- useful,worthless, and everything in between -- can exist within a single source.

Another custom event I've added is "Link to another generation;" I use this to identify at a glance the evidence proving relationships.  Family tree software doesn't do a great job of letting you explain why you have placed a child in a particular family or assigned a wife to a particular husband.  I want to be able to see at a glance what proofs I have for these conclusions.  In many cases, these conclusions are not based on any one piece of direct evidence, but on a number of things that together point to this conclusion.  In such cases, I write an analysis and cite this as I would any other source.

One of these days, I'm sure the software developers will catch on to the fact that documenting family ties is not a "one and done" proposition, but rather an ongoing process that must be managed in the same environment where we record our conclusions.  One of these days....