Friday, February 01, 2008

Don't Let This Happen to You

Some of you know that one of my favorite hobbies is genealogy. I've been researching my family tree for over 15 years, and it's been a fun and fascinating journey. Several of my lines settled in North Carolina, some in Wilkes County and the surrounding area, and others in Sampson County and the surrounding counties. I've been fortunate to live in the middle of the state for a number of years, so I've been able to take numerous research trips to local libraries, courthouses, and cemeteries, as well as to the State Archives and State Library in Raleigh. I've also met several cousins I first met online, and have been included in an annual reunion in Sampson County, which has been fun.

Computers and the internet have really expanded my ability to search for and organize my family tree. I've tried several genealogy software programs, and my current favorite is one called RootsMagic. I've had a lot of success lately with a website called, which has a section called WorldConnect, where people can submit their family trees to share with others. The quality of submitted research varies, so I consider shared research as nice leads, and it's up to me to verify the information as I see fit.

Well, a few weeks ago, I decided to download a file (someone's family tree) from Rootsweb that was a treasure chest of information about one of my lines. I had had a lot of luck extending a number of families in that line in my database, as well as adding extra information about some of the ancestors and cousins I already had in my family tree. I'd been typing all the new information in manually, but I figured I could create a separate database for this file, and in usual Windows fashion, do some dropping and dragging. Doing that individually, one by one, was successful, but I could tell it was still going to be time consuming, and I was getting a little impatient! Next, I decided to start dragging family units over and connecting them to my own, and that was a hit too. I was excited! Next, I found someone in the other database whose ancestors and descendants I wanted to add to my database, so I clicked on the option to add everyone in that person's family tree (both up and down) intomy database. Well, that was the wrong thing to click, because it added that WHOLE DATABASE into my own! I suddenly had an extra 30,000-40, 000 names in my database, some kin to me, and many not! Of course, a good number were duplicates I'd already added to my database, but there were still thousands of extra people I didn't want mixed in with my information! It had been way too long (several hours, maybe even a day) since I'd backed up my database. I should've backed up just before I did that, but I assumed it was an innocent click. Ugh!

So, I decided to start cleaning up my database, bit by bit. A lot of the early deleting was easy. I was able to delete some families pretty quickly, others after doing some double checking. I'm also having to clean up some data fields, mostly the place notes. For some reason, the occupations field in the other person's database came over into the occupations PLACE field in my genealogy software. So, a person who was a cotton mill worker in the other database looks like he did an occupation IN Cotton Mill Worker (some place). So, I'm fixing all of those by hand, which is fun, fun! I'm glad to say that I've made a lot of progress, and am almost done with getting rid of the extra people in my database. Cleaning up the place names will take a little longer, but I'm making progress on that too.

Meanwhile, this has given me a chance to do some clean up from the conversion of my old database (from another software program) to RootsMagic. It's also given me an opportunity to learn my greater family tree a lot better, and that's a great thing, considering the fact that I've taken a 2-3 year break from this hobby. It's fun to be back in it, but I didn't expect this big bump in the road so early on.

Worse things have happened, though! It's a lot better than having deleted the whole thing without any backups! And now I take the time to back up my data a lot more frequently! I also keep backups on different drives, including a flash drive, and another online periodically.

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