OneGreatFamily Subscriber Newsletter
July 21, 2005

The Importance of Documenting Your Family Tree

In This Issue:

The Importance of Documenting Your Family Tree

Why is it important that I document my family tree?

When many people think about documenting their research, they assume they are primarily helping others. In fact, the experience of many long time family history enthusiasts shows that the primary beneficiary is...themselves!

Are you confident that you will remember 5 years from now that it was your aunt who told you your great-grandmother had a half-brother named Harold? Is there any chance you will forget either that the birth date of your great grandfather was estimated from information on muster roll, or where you can find it again? The spirit of documentation is encapsulated in the wise old saying, "I have a great memory as long as I write things down".

Furthermore, it is true that getting the names, dates and locations of your ancestors is the first, most important part of genealogy work. But those things only provide a sketch, the merest outline of who those people were, how they lived their lives and what was important to them as individuals.

Documentation captures the details that color in the outline and breathe life into a dry list of facts. For example, noting that a birth location was discovered from a ship manifest opens the door to studying more about the specific ship and what life aboard was like.

OneGreatFamily allows you to preserve a complete record of your ancestors, encompassing facts like names, places and dates as well as add to that record as more details become available to you. You can also add enriching elements, like photographs, videos, sound clips and scans of documents. Most importantly, OneGreatFamily also allows you to document all of your information.

Many of us haven't taken the time to document the lives of our ancestors.
OneGreatFamily not only makes such efforts simple, but it will be preserved for future generations as well as instantly being available to other members of our OneGreatFamily.

OneGreatFamily Tip: Adding Documentation to OneGreatFamily

What types of documentation information can I add to OneGreatFamily?

To add documentation to an ancestor's record, simply open an Individual Record in the Genealogy Browser. On the left side you will see buttons for the different types of documentation features:

Citations: Citations are references to the specific evidence that you have found on an individual during your research. Citations are very important for establishing the credibility of information, but they can also help others in their research. The information you save in the citations becomes part of OneGreatFamily and is available to others to help with the collaborative effort.

Citations are stored with each specific individual's information. When you click the citation button, you are presented with the citation window containing listings for Individual Sources, Birth Sources, Death Sources, Christening Sources, and Burial Sources. These five categories help to group citations for quick access. Be sure you name your citations with a title that is explanatory and easy to understand at a glance.

Biography: Open the Biography window by selecting the Biography icon. This section allows you to insert files of three different formats: text (txt), rich text format (rtf), or hyper-text markup language (html). By allowing these different file types, biographies on individuals can be simple or stylized. You are also not limited to just one file; you can make as many files as you would like to include.

Notes: The Notes section is where you store those extra bits of information that don't seem to fit anywhere else, but are important enough to keep. When editing an individual's information, click on the notes button on the right, represented here in the spot shadow. The notes window will display, and you can add information as needed.

Research Log: Research notes can be extremely helpful to you and others working on the same areas of genealogy. While doing your research, leave yourself memos on recent information you have found, where you have left off, or anything that will help in the process. These memos will be helpful for you, others in your family group, and any others in OneGreatFamily that are trying to further the collaborative effort on research for that person.

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Lisa Lights the Way

Mortality Schedules

by Lisa South, Certified Genealogist

Mortality schedules can be very interesting. I worked mostly in the South and saw disease listed as the cause of many deaths. When I began checking mortality in the western states I was a little taken aback by the number of times a bullet wound was listed as cause of death – no wonder they called it the Wild West!

Mortality schedules were made in conjunction with some of the federal census records. Individuals who died in the twelve months before the census date (usually June 1) were enumerated. The information you will find in a mortality schedule is usually the name of deceased, month and cause of death, age, sex, color, marital status and birthplace. The later schedules record parents, birthplace and how long the deceased had resided in the county of his/her death.

The first mortality schedule was taken in 1850 and continued until 1900; however the 1890 schedule was destroyed by fire and the 1900 schedule was destroyed by order of Congress after they had compiled all the statistics. A transcription of the 1900 mortality schedule of Minnesota was discovered at the Minnesota Historical Society and is the only known 1900 mortality schedule in existence for any state. Mortality was also part of the Federal census in 1885 for Colorado, Florida, Nebraska and the territories of South Dakota and New Mexico (see OGF archives “Federal Census Records” article).

Be aware that deaths were under-reported, some believe by as much as 20-40% and that the recorded information, just like any other census, is not always complete or accurate.

Mortality schedules can not only provide you with a death date, but can give you valuable information about your family’s health history. When an unusual cause of death is listed it may lead you into other records, such as court records etc.

One Great Genealogy Site Award is a free genealogy biography database with biographies for your genealogy research. The site also offers links to other online biography sites to help you find your ancestors and surnames. The links directory includes thousands of online biography sites. You will find links to sites with collections that contain numerous biographies in each collection. You will also find links to individual biographies as well. You can search for your ancestors by entering a name or location, or you can see a list of all genealogy biographies in the database. The free genealogy database of biographies is growing rapidly, so check it out today!
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Managing Editor: Heather Matthews
Contributors: Heather Matthews, Lisa South and Rob Armstrong
Editor: Tracy Armstrong

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