Given Name(s) Last Name

from the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 1/29/2003

Inputting My Conclusions

Last week's article discussed a series of birth registrations that were located for a family in Hansbeke, Belgium. This week we generally discuss entering the information from those registrations into a genealogy database.

Entering the Data
I prefer to start by entering only what the documents tell me. I will double-check my initial entries for accuracy. After the specifics have been entered, I'll go back to analyze the information to enter approximate dates of events that are hinted at by the records.

What If There is Just One Charles?
The birth registration entries discussed last week contain entries for Charles Louis Mortier and Charles Mortier. It was initially concluded that these Charleses were two distinct individuals. They will be entered as separate people in the database. When there is any doubt about two individuals being the same person, it is best to enter them as separate people in the database.

If it is later determined that Charles Louis Mortier and Charles Mortier are the same person, their records in the database can be "merged" together using the merge feature in the software package. Merging though, must always be done with great caution. Merging two individuals should only be done when there is clear and overwhelming evidence the individuals being merged are in fact the same person -- clear and overwhelming evidence. Merging typically cannot be undone and for all practical purposes should be considered more permanent than marriage.

For now, I'm going to enter the data using the family groups that are blatantly clear from the records. After I've viewed additional records (particularly marriage and death records), I'll be better able to perform a more complete analysis and perhaps enter in additional information regarding the family structure. Last week, we noted several family Mortier family groups. I will create no relationship among the Mortier men whose children appear in the Hansbeke birth registrations until other records have been obtained and analyzed.

Make the Data Entry Easier
Sorting the birth records by family group made it easier for me to enter the data, one family group at a time. We'll look at just the family of Charles and Rosalie Mortier, my wife's third great-grandparents. Data entry on the other families is similar.

From the birth registrations, Charles and Rosalie DeMeyer Mortier were the parents of the following children:

Frederic, born 29 May 1851
Amelie, born 25 December 1852
Jan Baptiste, born 8 May 1854
August, born 3 July 1856
Camillus, born 2 [or 1 or 8?] March 1858
Petrus, born 14 July 1859
Eduard, born 13 March 1862

Before I enter in data willy-nilly, I need to think about where the information was obtained.

What is My Source?
Tracking sources is an integral part of genealogical research. Fortunately, most genealogical software programs will allow the tracking of sources without repetitive data entry for the source citation. There are things one can do to learn about tracking and citing sources within your specific software package:

--- Review the help section of your genealogical software package
--- Post messages to software-specific message boards
--- Ask fellow users of the software
--- Attend lectures on the software at workshops and conferences

My Source
We'll look at the source first before we begin any data entry.

It is helpful to think of sources as being composed of two parts, the title and the precise record citation. The title of the source should provide enough detail to help me relocate the series of records that were used. While it may seem that the title and creator would be sufficient, I'll also include the Family History Library information (including microfilm number) to make the citation as complete as possible. Most genealogical software programs have the source structure set up so that the title (which may be repeated numerous times if numerous events are sourced from the same book or series of records) only has to be entered once.

In my case, the title will get me to a roll of microfilm, but it will not get me to a specific record on that film. The title will be the same for all the birth registrations that I cite from this series of records. The second part of the citation will get me to the specific birth registration being used as my source. This second part will be different for each birth registration that I use.

Putting in Some Names
We'll start from scratch. I began by entering the names of the parents in my database. No dates, no places of birth, just the names and a relationship between the father and the mother. A relationship between the two parents had to be created in order to later create the parent-child relationship indicated by the records. I did not enter a date or a place of marriage, as that information was not contained in the records.

I then entered in each child, using the birth date obtained from the records and listing the village of Hansbeke, East Flanders, Belgium as the place of birth. Of course, I cited the source of each entry as I did the data entry. We'll use Petrus as an example.

Petrus' birth registration is the 26th one for 1859. There are no page numbers in the records, so I'll have to substitute something that will allow me to get to that same exact page in the records. The easiest way to do this is to provide the year and the registration number of the birth within that year. This amount of detail, coupled with the title would allow another individual to view the record themselves.

My rough citation:

Register van Geboorten 1843-1870, Hansbeke,[Family History Library Film Title: Burgerlijke Stand Geboorten, Years 1843-1870, Family History Library Film Number 776399]; birth year, entry number.

No Date?
Camillus' precise date of birth is not legible, but the month and year can be determined. I entered in the month and the year and made a comment in the source citation that the exact date of birth was not legible. I indicated in my notes what the precise date of birth of date appeared to be. I also could have scanned my copy of the document and included that graphic as additional documentation.

Something On the Parents
There are currently no events or dates for the parents in the database. It may be desirable to at least approximate this information so some year of birth and marriage can be entered. Based solely upon the registrations of their children's births in Hansbeke, I estimated Charles and Rosalie's year of marriage at 1850 and their years of birth as approximately 1830. These are estimates. They are guesses. I used twenty-one as their approximate age at the birth of their first child. I know other ages could have been used and that the age used could be incorrect. I'm not going to spend hours fretting over whether they might have been twenty or twenty-five when their first child was born. I will make an exception and analyze the typical age at marriage in more details if it later appears crucial to a research conclusion. For now, though I know the approximations are likely going to be off by at least a few years and at this point I'd rather do more digging into records that might provide a specific date of birth.

But Explain the Estimate
When I enter the approximate dates of birth, I make certain to not enter in just the year, but to enter in the notation my software uses for an approximated date of an event. This is crucial.

"Abt. 1830" -- not just "1830."
"Ca. 1830" -- not just "1830."

My entries in my database for Charles and Rosalie indicate they were born in approximately 1830, not 1830 precisely. Some source is needed. In my source for their dates of birth, I have indicated that I guessed the parents were approximately twenty-one at the birth of their first known child, Frederic in May of 1851 in Hansbeke. Even in this case, I have a source . . . not an official record of the event, but my inference from another record. This inference needs to be recorded as the source for their approximate dates of birth and marriage. It is essential that if that if I estimate a year for an event, I make a notation in my database as to how I arrived at that approximation.

Don't Like the Way I Enter Data?
You can enter in the approximations and suppositions as you enter in the actual data from records. I prefer not to. However, as you enter in these suppositions and approximations make certain to include your rationale, your reasoning, your train of thoughts as a part of the database. Something as simple as "husband estimated to be 21 at birth of first child in 1851" is better than nothing. This will later allow you to compare the estimated date with information obtained from other records.

Finding information is only part of the job. Entering it into a genealogical database is another part of the process. Putting it off (as many of us do) does not make it any easier.

Suggested Reading:
Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historians"
by Elizabeth Shown Mills
(An excellent reference for citing sources.)

Board of Certification for Genealogists Standards Manual
(Another excellent reference with information on citation and analysis.)

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2003, Inc.

Used by the author on his website with permission.

Other Links on Rootdig.Com:

1930 Census Online

Genealogy Section of Ebay

---type in your surname or county and state in the search box that comes up on the left hand side of your screen. I've found and purchased several books this way!