Become a Better Researcher

Our research problems are unique and our genealogy software, to be useful, must be flexible enough to match our respective problems and our respective methods. The Master Genealogist is that software, but power and flexibility has a down side. The more options a program has, the more decisions the user must make. This year, the Tri-Valley TMG User Group will explore those options and make some of those personal decisions. Would you like to play along with us? Do each month's assignment, and if you like, e-mail it to us at: We'll post some of the completed assignments on this blog each month. Let's hear it for choices!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Puzzle for Readers

Ever since I discovered that there was more to genealogy research than simply entering names, dates, places - and source citations - in a database, I have puzzled over how to track those background references I read, but never used in any TMG events citations. I would (usually) enter them in the TMG database, but how would I find them if I needed them for another project? How could I easily create a bibliography of all the sources used in researching a person, whether cited in TMG, cited in an article, or used only for background understanding? I came up with two possibilities, and I've used both, but I'm not sure if I'm completely satisfied with either. Do you have other ideas?

Individual Detail screen overlaid with Tag Entry screen

  • The first solution adds a non-printing note tag used simply to attach all background references, etc. to the person being studied. Note that this example also has two Research tags used to track references in which no relevant information was found, as well as those in which the information required a lot of analysis before it could be handled in TMG. This is a fine solution for one person, but it still made some of the background references difficult to find when needed for another person.

Source Definition screen - Supplemental tab

  • In the second solution, I designated Memo3 in the Source Definition's supplemental tab for keywords. Some keywords I've used include: War of 1812, privateers, Growler, Navy, pensions, spotted fever, postpartum depression, final payment, and federal land laws. This way, if I have a question about pension laws, for example, I can search for any background reference in my TMG database with the keyword pensions.
I can combine solutions one and two, and may decide to do so, but even then, creating a bibliography is not automatic. Take a look at these two bibliography possibilities from my June assignment.

  • This screen shows the "List of Sources" report associated with the Growler events entered in my TMG database. Ho, hum.

  • This screen shows the bibliography created when I combined all sources associated with my Growler "person" and all sources with "privateer" in my source keyword field. Those highlighted in blue were used only as background references. They were not cited in TMG, nor were they cited in the report I wrote for the June assignment. It's a much more complete bibliography!
It's not totally complete, though. Several other sources were used to write my article, but those sources didn't have keywords in my database, and they weren't listed as citations for my Growler person. Oh, well. Nothing's perfect. New ideas are always appreciated!

Remember this year's goals.

  • We want to develop the habit of analyzing each record we use, and not just enter each information bit without thinking about its meaning.
  • We want to make conscious decisions on what data we want to enter into TMG, how we enter that data, and how we will use that data in our research.
  • We want to develop the habit of writing research reports and real family histories, not just printing out pedigree charts and family group sheets.
  • We want to make TMG fit our research needs and goals. We don't want to make our research practices fit TMG.

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