Saturday, May 11, 2013

Changing the Way I Create Facts in RootsMagic

Now that I am well on my way to organizing my paper files and making sure all my sources for my 16 great-great-grandparents are properly cited in my database, I am changing up the way I create Facts/Events in RootsMagic. Back in February 2012, Randy Seaver over at GeneaMusings started a discussion about evidence-based vs. conclusion-based genealogists. Essentially, Randy defined an evidence-based genealogist as one who would create five different facts for the same event given five difference sources. A conclusion-based genealogist would create one fact for an event and cite one or multiple sources for this one fact. Basically, a conclusion-based genealogist comes to a conclusion based upon all the sources and only records one fact, rather than presenting all five facts as an evidence-based genealogist would.

The discussion started to make me think about whether or not I was evidence-based or conclusion-based. Until now, I was mostly evidence-based. For my great-grandfather Bienvenue Trahan's birth, I have the following sources:

  • Baptismal record dated 12 Dec 1908: Born 26 Oct 1908
  • 1910 U.S. Census: age 1 - born about 1909 in Louisiana (note: age supports birth date of 26 Oct 1908)
  • 1930 U.S. Census: age 20 - born about 1910 in Louisiana (living with in-laws)
  • 1940 U.S. Census: age 33 - born about 1907 in Louisiana; his wife, Beatrice, is marked as the informant
  • Death certificate dated 18 Mar 2006: Born 26 Oct 1908 in Scott, Louisiana; informant is son, Benford M. Trahan
  • Obituary dated 20 Mar 2006 published in Lake Charles American Press: age 97 - born about 1909 (note: age supports birth date of 26 Oct 1908)
  • Gravestone at Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Scott, Louisiana - Born 26 Oct 1908
  • SSDI Entry: Born 26 Oct 1908
  • Marriage record of son, Benford, 02 Feb 1955 - Father born in Louisiana
  • Delayed birth record of son, Benford, 08 Nov 1988 - Father born in Louisiana
  • Death certificate of son, Benford, 06 Sep 2009 - Father born in Vatican, Louisiana; informant is Bienvenue's daughter-in-law, Merlene (Mertena) Trahan
  • Interview with Bienvenue published in Vinton News, 04 Jun 1998: listed as age 89 and a "native of Vatican...7 miles north of Scott"
In my genealogy database, I had several facts for Bienvenue's birth (sorry, I did not do screen shots before changing it):

  • Birth: 26 Oct 1908, Vatican, Lafayette, Louisiana (sources: baptismal record, 1910 census, obituary, gravestone, SSDI entry, marriage record of son, delayed birth record of son, newspaper article, death certificate of son)
  • Alt. Birth: 26 Oct 1908 in Scott, Lafayette, Louisiana (source: death certificate)
  • Alt. Birth: abt 1910 in Louisiana (source: 1930 census)
  • Alt. Birth: abt 1907 in Louisiana (source: 1940 census)
Note that when a source only listed a birthplace, such as his son's marriage record, I matched it up with the preferred fact rather than creating a new alternative fact for just the birthplace, provided the birthplace was the same as the one in the preferred fact.

When all of this discussion was going on back in 2012, I read a post over at Genealogy by Ginger's Blog, in which she discussed how she is a hybrid of the evidence and conclusion-based genealogist. She stated that she only puts one fact into her RootsMagic database, but she cites all sources and discusses the alternative facts in the Notes section of the event. This creates less duplication when creating narrative reports in RootsMagic. I really liked Ginger's idea, so I decided to try it on my own. Now for Bienvenue, his screen looks like this:

Now there is only one fact for his Birth and whenever I print a narrative report, I can see the Birth Notes explaining all the discrepancies in his birth information:

Many thanks to Ginger for giving me this wonderful idea!


  1. Hi, Jennifer. Before you made the change in your database did you have "Birth" listed more than once for your grandfather? I guess I'm not sure I understand what you were doing before....

    1. Hi, Nancy! Yes, before I had multiple birth events. Unfortunately, I did not do screen shots of Bienvenue before I deleted the multiple events and just put one event. However, I still have some people in my database with multiple events, so maybe I will do a screenshot of one of them instead. Might clarify things.

    2. Hi Jennifer, I'm so glad you found something that works, because that's really all that matters, right? I have been using FTM a little bit too, only because my cousin is using it and she wanted to put her tree online so she can share with her other cousins.

      We noticed that every time you add a source (historical record) with conflicting information, automatically adds an alternative fact. This became quite annoying, especially since 1) the alternative fact(s) are not shown to the tree viewer on the profile view (you have to look deeper) which means that 2) they are usually not included when someone copies this profile to their own tree. I think we did find a workaround (you uncheck the boxes on the left but keep the "add sources" boxes on the right checked). Which works ok for us.

      In the end I keep all my research materials in Rootsmagic and all the "records" attached to the online tree (for quick reference) and ability to share with others.

      Nancy, if you want to see screenshots of the before, you can look at my blog post that Jennifer graciously shared above. You will see what the multiple facts look like in a narrative report - quite annoying!

      Great job Jennifer and I hope it continues to work for you!

    3. Ginger,

      Have you and your cousin tried FamilySearch's Family Tree yet? I just started playing around with it today. So far, I like it a lot because you can always change the facts that are incorrect and put a note about why you are changing it. You can also add sources. No alternative facts necessary :). I think it will promote dialogue among researchers, whereas with Ancestry, you can just copy someone's info and move on without ever having a conversation with them. You can even set it to Watch an ancestor in the tree so that next time someone changes a fact, you will get an email notification.

    4. Thanks for the clarification, Jennifer. And thanks, Ginger, for heading me to your blog post. I saw multiple births on a person or two in my own RM files. I changed those quickly. It just doesn't make sense to me to do it that way.