Recently I read a post on the dearMyrtle.com blog about ‘Pinball Genealogy’, a general description of which is the quick ‘bouncing’ from one source to another, attaching the obvious data and facts without taking the time to explore the document to fully investigate all the information available.
An example of such a document is a census, which contains the listings of the individuals living in a household, their relationship to each other, gender, age, place of birth, etc. There is valuable information available elsewhere in the document, including neighbours, street addresses and house numbers, etc. that would be easily overlooked.
I bring this up as I’ve only just realized the importance of her philosophy as it relates to the fun, new, automated methods of mining genealogical data online using the latest generation of software.
Up until recently, I’ve entered everything manually when cataloging and entering data in my genealogy software. I would save the image (or other document), open it and size it to the right half of my screen, then open my software, and resize it to the remaining left half of the screen. The side-by-side windows make it easy to quickly transcribe the data from the image of document to the appropriate individuals, sources, etc. in the database. I have noticed that I have to struggle to resist the temptation to move quickly, saving the image and moving on to the next without transribing the data, fully intending on returning to it. This, however, never seems to happen and I’m left with an individual showing as unsourced even though I do have sources in my collection that have just not been entered. I do now continually work to finish entering these sources and try my hardest to completely exhaust all data from each and every document I use now and in the future.
A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided to switch to the Family Tree Maker 2012 software from Ancestry.com and I’ve been working steadily familiarizing myself with the software and it’s features. The most intriguing feature is that of the ‘shaky leaf’ hints. This refers to the shaky leaf icon appearing at the top right of the individual’s cell in the pedigree window. Clicking on this leaf opens a browser window in the center of all the other windows neatly fitting on the screen and lists all ‘hints’ it has found for the person in question. Initially I started using it by only merging the data directly and quickly, but upon closer examination, I realized that this system only harvests the most obvious information, ignoring all extraneous information on the document.
In order to avoid the ‘quick and easy’ habit (ergo ‘Pinball Genealogy’), I have instead worked on making a habit of opening the image in a separate window after completing the merge as structured with Family Tree Maker 2012. Then I systematically go through the document and transcribe any additional data that was useful or may be useful in the future and enter it as well. This is especially important for the ‘hints’ from scanned publications, books, etc. as, although they are searchable, it is not possible to automatically merge the data into one’s database. In these cases, it is essential to manually enter the data from the document.
Perhaps there should be a 12-step program for those of us prone to ‘Pinball Genealogy’ to assist and support us in our efforts to change our ways…