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Data Discipline

I was trained to record information clearly, in a way which would be easily understandable at some point in the future, should I need to refer to it..

That was many years ago, and long before I ever imagined building large genealogy databases.

My interest in genealogy began at about the time desktop computers entered our homes for the first time, though I really didn’t foresee how they might help me. I began by making extensive paper files of my ancestors, with a few documents, photographs and artefacts attached. At some point I began entering these details into computer files, but again, without any real understanding of the power of the new technologies to help me search and research at some future date.

As visitors to this site, and my others sites will know, those few names, with an assortment of attached records and linked information now extend to more than 40,000 individuals. The number of facts recorded for each individual grows with each passing year, and so of course do the number of source documents.

I have been aware for some time that my original record structures were not sufficient to permit effective queries of the huge volume of data on these sites. An example is places of residence. I had recorded them as I transcribed them (and sometimes not as carefully as I would have hoped) So a search for all those who had lived at a particular address was only as accurate as the data I had entered years previously. I now realise that I never foresaw that I, or you, would want to make such a search. Subtle variations didn’t seem important, and there was no reason to believe they ever would be.

How wrong I was! I now find myself making more and more complex searches of data, sifting through increasingly detailed and extensive records. The power of the database is limited only by the quality of the data it contains.

The only sure way to ‘future proof’ the information I have collected is to be disciplined about the way it is recorded. Consistency, accuracy and completeness. Today, I am paying for the lack of forethought all those years ago, and my only solution is to spend time verifying and updating information with these disciplines in mind. There were more than 16,000 place locations recorded one of my sites alone. I am now in the process of verifying every single one, correcting spelling and punctuation errors, and ensuring that the mapping links are as accurate as possible. At the time of writing, I have completed around 25% of all the place records, but it will take several more months to correct my past shortcomings.

Rest assured that the information you find here is accurate. I have simply learned the hard way that data discipline is crucial to getting the most from years of hard work.

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