Everyone has an opinion about what is best. Here is what is working for me now. This has changed over time and I'm sure it will continue to evolve!
Genealogy Database Programs
I use PAF (Personal Ancestry
File) 5.2 as my database format exclusively for research, because this
database is very portable and meets my needs. However, I use the program PafWiz 2.0
for all data entry because it's much better at handling the database
entry and generating reports, especially with source images. It is fully compatible with my PAF database, and, after several
years, I trust it not to corrupt my database. PafWiz has a much
nicer "Individual View" which is more like a family group sheet of the
person (both as a child and as an adult). This allows you to move more
rapidly around between members of a family, adding all the common
sources very rapidly. Source image attachment is now much easier
because PAFWIZ 2.0 has implemented a very nice source copy and paste
function that actually includes the source images. This was something
missing (or broken) in PAF 5.2. I helped with the best testing of this
Database Fields I Use
Here are some additional specific ways I use PAF and PAFWIZ database:
Custom ID Numbering: Everyone in my database has a unique number that relates them to my children. I use a modified Dollarhide numbering system
and put this in the Custom ID field of PAF. I have created a brief tutorial on this numbering system.
I enter a source for every fact entered into PAF on people or marriage
page. I include a source for every note I enter into PAF in the notes
section. PAF doesn't support this directly so I just state: Source:
such an such document, pxxx (See source list and other citations for
Citation Text: I enter the transcribed citation text
for every source. This is a lot of work but pays me dividends when I start looking into confusing or conflicting data sources. I have developed templates for sources I commonly transcribe as well as some guidelines and a style for source transcription suitable for computer programs.
Source Images (Scans): I attach
the image to every source (even it if is just a jpeg copy of a web
page). I use an HP5500C scanner for large items and to scan stacks of
photos and 35mm negatives. I use a HP 5500 for many other documents. I
usually ask a friend to scan large format negatives for me.
Source & Photo Data File Numbering: I
start all file names with the Custom ID I have assigned in PAF
(although some character transliteration is required since Windows
doesn't like all the Dollarhide characters). Then I describe what the
file is and finally I include the person's name. However, all my large
source collections that I scan I simply denote by the source name and
User Specified Fields: I try not to put new user defined special
fields into PAF. However, I have found two useful: Social Security
Number and Confidential Sources. Both are marked as confidential so
that I may restrict publication. To define a new special field. you
must run PAF directly. PAFWIZ doesn't create new fields. However, once
special fields are defined in PAF by yourself then you can manipulate
them with PAFWIZ.
1. Run PAF 5.0
2. Open your database.
3. Select Edit menu sub-item Edit Individual List
4. Select New button
5. Enter information for special field (see below)
6. Click OK
7. Save database
8. You may now add this special field using PAFWIZ to anyone in your database.
Social Security Number -- Click on the image to see how I setup this special field.
Confidential Sources -- Click on the image to see how I setup this special field.
Unsubstantiated data from other researchers: I
enter this into PAF but I don't include a source. I am still looking
for a good way to include the researcher into the database without
adding what looks like a definitive source. This is not to state that I
don't believe other researchers. This is to respect them and not
republish their work to the web without adding any new sources. It is
amazing how fast your own data gets copied on the web without any
General Searches: I use google.com as my search tool usually. But I love USGenWeb.org county and state sites that include searches.
Paid Subscription Searches:
I currently rely on ancestry.com "hints". I have a full subscription and have
been very satisfied with the recent improvements they have made. I helped with the beta testing and features of
their new Family view. I think it's great. You can now also get a list
all all the people in your tree for which Ancestry has "hints". And
finally, you can now link records to all family members at one time for
most records, saving a lot of time and confusion.
Research Assistance Programs: This is a new category that seems to have recently emerged. I have purchased a tool called GenSmarts
that I love. I helped with the beta testing. This program reads my PAF
file directly and makes suggestions for any records that I have not
found for primary info like birth, marriage, death (date and location).
It puts together a sketch of every persons, estimates any missing dates
or locations, and then gives you suggestions. It knows how to access
many of your paid subscriptions so I just double click on an
ancestry.com research suggestion it and does the search for me. I found
lots of missing records this way. GenSmarts also helps me cleanup my
database by seeing people who have impossible time lines, showing me
locations that it cannot figure out, etc.
I also like to use
ancestry.com for research recently. This is because they have greatly
improved their "hints" feature by combining familiy members into a
group and search for family related records. I worked with the
programmer their to show hints on the new Family view and to add
usability features to this view. This is a great way to find all
records in a family group. This is a very valuable research technique
to break down brick walls, by finding every record you can for every
person in an extended family group.
Mapping programs: I
like to make maps of where each ancestor or family group journeyed to
help me understand their migrations across the US. This helps me know
where to look for records that I'm missing. I use Family Atlas.
It's not perfect but it gives me the ability to create migration maps
to aid my research as well as the ability to look up where just about
anywhere is. It does not have historical mapping capability. I have
made suggestions to the programmer to improve usability but no progress
Time line programs: I like to create time lines
for family lines that shows my direct ancestors across time. I
highlight manually the census records that I have found. This helps me
focus in on gaps and find them. I use Genelines
(the universal edition which reads PAF databases). The most important
use I made of this is to create a research aid that I call the group
census tracker. I print out a family time line for ancestors in a line
or a time line for all members in an extended family. I then mark each
census record that I find on the time line. This helps me find the
gaps. I actually use the annotated images in my published gift books. I
use this to create timelines of individuals for special reports, also.
Web Publication and Reports
I use PAFWIZ to create my web site and to create reports with source images and photos.
export names only on living. I filter all my export looking for people
for whom any source exists. This prevents me from publishing my
speculations and copies of other people's work on the web, unless I
have my own sources to add as well. I also run GEDMARK
on the GEDCOM file before uploading. This allows me to sometimes see
when people have imported my own data into their databases more easily.
I don't mind this at all, I just like to know it is my own data and not
actually a new corroborating source.
I use mapping and time line programs for reports, as already mentioned in the research tools. They are both great research tools and good report elements.
I like to make family line books for family members on special occasions. After trying several different things over the years, I really like the ancestry.com publish feature
for this. I use their on-line book publication editor to make the pages
and download them to my own computer for printing. In particular, I
used their trees, their time line, their family group pages, their
military pages, as well as their source pages. I have never tried their
printing service, but I'm sure it's nice. I upload my own map and group
time line images to add to my book, as well as lots of photos and
I create the group time line and map images
by first printing a PDF using the programs described above. Then I crop
and save the PDF as a JPEG using a PDF file editor. I use Adobe Acrobat
Pro but many others are available today.
Eye on the Future
I'm really keeping on two projects: the eventual release of Family Search 2.0
for the general public, and the improvements ancestry.com might make
that would allow me to stop using a local database altogether. I would love to have an account for Family Search 2.0! I
correspond with ancestry about the limits that prevent me from doing
this today. They say they will work on those items, but it's not ready for me yet!