Thursday, January 17, 2019

Genealogy Research Conventions

Oh, would that time travel be possible! What I wish I had known when I first started my family history research was the conventions used in genealogy. It would have made my life much easier, so I hope to help my blog readers out as well. These conventions keep other researchers and family members from misinterpreting your data.

Dates: Be consistent with how you write out dates. The convention is to use the date month year format, such as 11 January 2019. This will alleviate the confusion over dates from another country where, instead of writing the numerical date of 1-11-2019 as people who live in the United States do, they may write 11-1-2019. Writing out the date, or an abbreviation such as 11 Jan. 2019, will really help you keep your dates straight.

Place Names: Locations are listed from smallest to biggest entity. So, my hometown is listed as Kansas City, Jackson Co., Missouri, USA. I put the “Co.” in there as a service to readers of this blog. When I put that place name into my RootsMagic genealogy software, I list it as Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri, USA, for brevity’s sake, as well as for convention. For folks who don’t use genealogy software, one thing that is nice about it is that the software guesses or predicts the rest of the location once you start typing so you don’t have to type it in repeatedly. Saves time, frustration and really cuts down on the typographical errors!

People’s Names: Just type them in as their name is given; for example, Christine Jane UNDERWOOD.

Nicknames: If a person used a nickname, put it in quotation marks after the first and middle names. As an example, my great-grandfather Stephen Alexander UNDERWOOD always went by “S.A.” in every source I can find for him, so I list him as Stephen Alexander “S.A.” UNDERWOOD to differentiate him from the other Stephen Alexander UNDERWOODs in my tree. Likewise, I am Christine Jane “Christy” UNDERWOOD.

Surnames: It is correct to list me as Christine Jane Underwood, but I prefer the convention where last names are listed in all capital letters, such as Christine Jane UNDERWOOD. For my name, it’s not a problem knowing which one the surname is. But I have an ancestor named Smith Jones. The only way to keep him straight is to notate him as Smith JONES. Likewise, my friend’s father is George Martin. Names can get scrambled, so having him listed as George MARTIN helps a lot. Plus, it helps the surnames stand out in a long paragraph or in charts and forms.

Maiden Names: Women should be listed in genealogy software as the name they were born with. So, my mother is always listed as Corinne Jane McCORMACK. Sometimes I refer to her as Corinne Jane (McCORMACK) UNDERWOOD with parentheses surrounding her maiden name, and that is okay, too. But the important thing is to have that maiden name. In print, I refer to my great-grandmother as Estella (ELLIOTT) McCORMACK BARR since she took the name of her second husband, but in my genealogy software, she is Estella ELLIOTT. All surnames are capitalized. Note on Estella’s example how a second husband’s name is just tacked on to the first husband’s name (and third, in the case of my great-grandaunt Tealie!): Tealie (UNDERWOOD) BARKLEY GRIFFEY DeWALT.

Aliases: If someone has another name that they were known by, list them as follows, like my great-great grandfather, Hein Pieter STAP (aka Henry Peter STAPP).

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Coming Up Next: Genealogy SoftwareGotta Get It Now!

Coming Up Soon: My Philosophy regarding GEDCOMs

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