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!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Adding names to Bento from Reunion

Before you can start using Bento to record your research, the first thing to do is to establish a library of people you are researching.  The easiest way is to transfer all the names you have stored in your family tree software into the GRS "Genealogy_people" library.  I've had a few questions about how to do this.  It isn't difficult, but it does involve a few steps, so I thought it would be a good idea to show you how to do it.  I use Reunion for Mac, but the process should be similar for other products.

Reunion allows you to export data on all the people in your file or just a few specific individuals, but to keep things simple, I will explain how to export all people.  Since the "Genealogy_people" library primarily serves as a look-up table, it only contains enough data to distinguish one person from another:  that is, names, birth/death dates, and the unique "Person ID" number Reunion assigns to each individual.  It makes sense, then, to limit the data you export from Reunion to just those fields.

In Reunion, you export a text file by going to File=>Export=>Export TXT.  Select the people you want to export ("all people") and select "comma" as the field separator.  Click the + "Add Field" button to select the fields you want to export from the drop down menu:

  • Under the heading "Names," select "Last Name" and "First and Mid Name"

  • Under "Events," select "Birth-Death"

  • Under "Numbers," choose "Person ID #"

When you are finished, click "Export."  A window will open to select your destination file, which will be in a .txt format (even though you selected commas to separate the fields in your export!)  Note that Bento will not import files with a .txt extension.  However if you change the .txt to .csv (comma separated values), Bento will import the file without a problem (and it won't affect the integrity of your file). 

To add this file to Bento, open the GRS and click on File=>Import=>file and follow these steps:
  • Choose the file (the .csv file you just created)
  • Choose a target library ("Genealogy_people")
  • Set up the import (make sure that the data fields you are importing are the same as the ones in the Bento library, so the data maps to the correct field), click "import" and your "Genealogy_people" library is now populated.

As you use Bento in the course of your research, you will inevitably come across new people to include in your family tree.  It would make sense that you could reverse this process and seamlessly export new people from Bento back into Reunion.  

You can, but it isn't easy or seamless, so I'd better tackle that another day.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Use the smart collections!

So all your research data is recorded in Bento -- how do you get it out?

I love the basic search function, which quickly retrieves any word or word combination you enter into the search box (located in the upper right corner of the page).  This actually takes care of most queries, and will easily locate all the entries that include the search term somewhere.  You can search on word fragments, too, which allows you to pull up spelling variations.  Here, I entered "lind" to pull up both Lindsey and Lindsay.  When I enter data into Bento, I try to be consistent and include both spellings in the keyword field, but sometimes I forget, and using truncated search terms covers me.  To tell you the truth, Bento's search feature is so useful that I've stopped using the keyword field entirely.

Sometimes, though, you want to focus your search with more precision.  Command F will bring up the advanced search option, which allows you to pinpoint the field(s) you want to run your search in. You can specify if all search terms must be met ("and" search) or if the term can be present in any one of them ("or" search).

And....then there are the searches that you run all the time.  Smart collections are a great feature in Bento, allowing you to save the queries that you use most often.  The "smart" part comes when you add new records to your database.  If they match the query you've set up -- they are automatically added to the data set you see when you open it.  Smart collections are very easy to set up, too.  Just select Bento > File > New Smart Collection, and type in the search parameters you wish to use and give it a title.

One important note:  it may seem obvious, but a search in Bento (or any other database) will only return the information you put into it.  In other words, if the smart collection queries a particular field and you haven't entered information in that field, that data will not show up in your search.  This is why I have put all the various checkboxes in the data entry pages!

Now for a rundown of the Smart Collections I've set up in the Genealogical Research System:

I.  Sources Library
  • Finding Aids:  returns any record that I have identified as an index (via a checkbox on the source entry form).  I think it is very helpful to keep copies of all indexes that I transcribe, even after I have found the records they keep track of.  You just never know when something that once seemed irrelevant suddenly takes on a different meaning in light of new information.  I just like to have a quick way to retrieve my finding aids.
  • Online Sources:  returns sources (of any kind) that are found online.  I like to use this as a research log of my online activities.  If you use the GRS, you can do this by setting the smart list to sort by date of search (when you are in the "online sources" smart list, click on the small downward arrow to the right of the "date of search" field header in the spreadsheet view, and click on "sort descending;" this will order your data set with most recent on top).
  • Hardcopy Sources:  this smart list was designed to serve as a research log for trips to libraries or other repositories, and is already set to order the data by date of search and name of repository.
  • Sources without Evidence:  returns all sources that do not have evidence linked to them.  This is a good way to double check your work.  I don't know about you, but much as I want to, I can't always devote full time to my research.  Sometimes I'm on a roll -- I find wonderful sources, and download or transcribe them into Bento, but then run out of steam somewhere before I get around to thinking about what it all means.  I don't want to rush at this stage; it's so important to give the evidence a lot of thought.  But all too often my attention is shifted to something else in my life before I get around to it.  The "Sources without Evidence" smart list is so helpful when I am able to get back to my research.  I just open it and I'm instantly reminded of what I was working on last so I can turn my full attention to the work of evaluating the evidence (this is another smart list that you might want to click on "sort descending" in the "date of search" field).
II. Evidence library
  • Census evidence:  returns all evidence that comes from the census (assuming the appropriate data was entered on the "evidence citation" form in the Evidence library.)  A great way to see at a glance all the census evidence you have for a particular individual or family is to run a secondary search on the name from within the Smart Collection.
  • Flagged evidence:  I use this as a way to quickly identify the records that I want to re-examine or re-evaluate in some way.  It functions much like the "sources without evidence" smart collection in the Sources library.  
  • Need to find non-derivative sources for this evidence:  returns all records that are not original sources.  I use this list as a tool to identify weaknesses in my data and find better quality versions of these sources.
  • Uncertain connections: returns all evidence that I am not yet able to attach to a known person in my family tree.
  • Need to enter data into family tree software: returns data that I feel confident is "proven" sufficiently to include in my family tree (how this is done and whether I do it will be the subject of a future post!)
  • Needs further definition of research parameters:  returns records that have been identified as "needs further research." 
  • Evidence that relates to a current research theory: returns records that have been identified as "relevant to a current research question."  
  • Export text:  identifies records that I have entered text in a field called "export text."  This tells me that I have prepared data in these records that I can cut and paste and add to my family tree software in the notes field for a particular individual.  If this sounds a little cumbersome.... it is. 
Next time I will write about tasks that I find Bento to be.... well, less than useful.