My name is Kathleen, and I have been researching my family history since I was a child. I love to go into county courthouses and smell the old books and paper... or is it dust? This blog will focus on the stories I've heard over the years and the research methods I follow. I am particularly interested in data management and cloud genealogy.

Some of my personal areas of interest include Southern Maryland and DC (Robie, Rhodes, Grimes, Lindsey), NY state (Hill, Cookingham, Flynn, Rhodes, Skinner, Wheeler, Mead, Havens, Trotter), NJ (Parcell), North Carolina and Eastern TN (Lynch, Seabolt, Spears), MO (Wilcox, Kiddell), and CA (Simi, Grady)

I am always happy to compare notes or share my experiences, so please leave a comment!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Related Data fields in Bento

I want to write a bit about how Bento works, and how I use the Genealogical Research System templates in my research.  Today, I'm focusing on related data fields:  in my opinion, this is the main reason Bento is such a useful program for my genealogy research (...that is, until the day comes when genealogy software developers realize that users want family tree programs to accommodate serious research, and not just to fill out pretty charts.)

Bento is a semi-relational database because records in one library contain pointers to related records in a different library -- and stop there.  A true relational database, however, is a much more sophisticated program that automatically links related data.  It joins two libraries by comparing a key field and generating a new data set from records that meet some predefined criteria.  Bento cannot do this;  instead, links to related data are created through look-up tables, which give Bento most of the functionality of a relational database except that the burden is on the user to maneuver through the data on their own.

In the example below, from the entry for Dickerson Naylor in my Genealogy_people library, Bento won't automatically remember that he is linked to the listed pieces of evidence (nor will it automatically remember the sources from which they were extracted).  I have to physically move my cursor to the library containing the related information, using the icons located on the lower left below every related data table:

Once you figure out how to move around from one library to the related records in other libraries, then the fun begins and you can start using the data interactively.

For example, say you are entering data in your Evidence library and you want to link it to specific individuals.  You go to the related data table called "evidence related to whom" (linked to the Genealogy_people library), and select the appropriate person from that table.  Looking at that person's entry in the Genealogy_people Library, you might realize that this individual is also linked to an entry in the Correspondence library.  That record describes a letter you received two years ago containing information that was meaningless at the time but now makes sense in light of the present piece of evidence.  Without a system for recording related data, you might never make the connection between a new piece of data and a snippet of information filed away in a letter.

By linking your data in one library to the related records in other libraries, you can keep track of how much you know about all the data points you are following at any given time -- and this is what the Genealogical Research System was designed to do.

Related data tables in each of the libraries in the Genealogical Research System

Sources library:                                                      Repositories library:
Repository                                                              Sources                     
Online Database                                                    To Do List                                             
To Do List                                                               Online Database library:
Evidence library:
Sources                                                                    Genealogy_People library:
Hardcopy Lookup                                                 Evidence
Genealogy_People                                                To Do List
To Do List                                                               Correspondence
Assertions                                                               Genealogy_Photos
Assertions & Proof library:                                  all Census years
To Do List                                                              Correspondence library:
                                                                                 To Do List
To Do List library:
Sources                                                                   Genealogy_Photos library:
Evidence                                                                Genealogy_People
Assertions                                                              To Do List
Repository                                                             Genealogy_Artifacts:
Online Database                                                   Genealogy_People
Genealogy_Artifacts                                           To Do List

all US Census libraries:
To Do List

*The Evidence library does not contain reciprocal related data tables for the US Census libraries because there are so many of them.  I just make sure that any census evidence I add includes the relevant year and head of household, so I can easily look it up in the US census library.


  1. Fantastic! Keep those instructions about how you use your system coming. I love it.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Marscha!

  2. Hi Kathleen, this looks like a very interesting system and Bento happens to be on sale this month ($29.99 in the App Store) so I think I'm going to give it a try. And thanks to Marscha for recommending it on another blog, that's what brought me here. To echo Marscha's comment, keep the instructions coming!

    1. Thank you, Dave! I hope my templates will be helpful to you. I'd love to hear how they work out. Bento is certainly a good deal right now (I like it for non-genealogy uses, too) -- the ipad app is half price through the end of the month as well.

    2. Can you use the templates on the iPad as well? Would you store the database in the Cloud so it would be in sync from both devices or is it really desktop/laptop only?

    3. Yes, I use the templates on the ipad -- the smart lists and the fields that are aliases for data on my hard drive don't show up on the ipad, but all other fields seem to work fine. As for the Cloud, that might be a question for Apple. I don't have an answer since am still on snow leopard and the cloud isn't yet fully functional for me. I had no problem adding data to my ipad and syncing it to my computer using a cord, though.