Yes, I finally did it! I posted my GEDCOM files to FamilySearch!! I have been worrying about my kids throwing out all my good genealogical research data when I die, so it is a real relief to know that my personal database will be preserved forever. This has been quite a learning experience.
You’re probably shaking your head and saying, huh? What is that? Well GEDCOM is an acronym for Genealogical Data COMmunication. It is a program created originally by Personal Ancestral File to move genealogical data from one program to another, i.e., from Personal Ancestral File to Legacy Family Tree, Ancestral Quest or Roots Magic. It is a simple program to use and is built right into the File menu of most genealogy software programs. Now, you can share your personal database with FamilySearch for the whole world to see!
My first task was to find my Legacy Family Tree database file in Windows 10. (I haven’t heard many favorable comments from users of Windows 10, and having been away from computers for a couple of years, finding my data file was no small task.) I eventually found a mostly-current copy of my Legacy file in Drop-Box and moved a copy of it to my desktop computer. Then I opened the file and saved it as a GEDCOM file. (The process is something like creating a .pdf file in a word processor.)
Next, I opened FamilySearch (not Family Tree), clicked on the Search drop-down menu and then on Genealogies. I scrolled all the way to the bottom of the screen to “Contribute your research to the FamilySearch.org community” and clicked Submit Tree >Add > GEDCOM > Choose File > Upload and then waited while the file was transferred. Small files are uploaded rather quickly, but a GEDCOM of 35,644 people will take a little longer–about an hour or so!
When the upload was complete, the file status changed to READY. I could then click the blue View button, download the file, or delete it. FamilySearch then compared my file with Family Tree and displayed a report like the one below. This can save a lot of time checking each and every record against Family Tree. Name and data for living individuals is not displayed. You may even want to remove the living from your database before making and uploading your GEDCOM.
|Add to Family Tree||1,341|
|Already in Family Tree||19,296|
|Invalid and Living||8,276|
Click the red Review Results button to walk through the results one by one to decide whether there are matches or additions that should be added to Family Tree. No one else in the whole world can change your submission; but you can delete your GEDCOM file at any time and replace it with another updated copy.
My GEDCOM file was added to the Pedigree Resource File, so I can search only that collection to see what I already have in my database without having to open my personal database. How about downloading copies of your database for your siblings or cousins?
I found it is not necessary to be signed in to FamilySearch with a username and password to search 1) the Historical Records, 2) Genealogies, 3) the FamilySearch Catalog, 4) family history Books, and 5) the Family History Research Wiki; but you still need to have a username and password to use Family Tree. Why? Because FamilySearch wants to follow your tracks to make sure you are being nice. 😉
A trip to the temple in St. George Utah from the Mormon Colonies in Mexico as told by a distant relative.
“My parents wanted to be married in the Temple for time and eternity, so in August 1900, they sold what little they had accumulated, bought one-half interest in a team and wagon with my mother’s brother and started for St. George, Utah. Another couple joined them, making three couples, two teams and two wagons. I was the only child along, and Mother has told me that I never lacked for attention.
“They passed through St. David on Christmas Day 1900. They had many hardships and setbacks on this journey but never lost sight of their goals. They were snowed in in the mountains near St. George for several days; food gave out, and they were starved. The last half loaf of bread was kept for me, and my Dad (a very fussy eater) was so hungry he would eat the crumbs I dropped. Finally they decided to leave the wagons. The men walked single file to break a trail for the horses on which the women were riding. I was tied on as my mother was too weak to hold me.
“We arrived in St. George in the middle of February 1901 and were taken care of in the home of an uncle of my mother’s. My parents were sealed for time and eternity, and I was sealed to them.
“On their way back to Mexico, my parents stopped in Mesa, Arizona so my Dad could work in the hay fields to get a little money to see them home. Not being accustomed to the heat, he had a “sunstroke” and became very ill. [An LDS Church member] told Dad he would rather give him money to get back to a cooler climate than buy the lumber to ship him home in a wooden box. He and Mom went back on the train.”
by Vera Pauline Hansen Johnson
The swollen river boiled up around us. The horses swam frantically against the pressure of tons of water bearing down on them. I had never ridden a swimming horse before in my life, and, indeed, I don’t believe my horse had ever had to swim before in his life. We were being swept downstream by the raging current. The thought flashed through my mind, “No one will ever know what became of us!”
I no longer remember our destination. My brother George, my sister Esther and myself had set off in the morning for an overnight trip. We were teenagers, and it wasn’t unusual for us to travel on our own to visit relatives or friends in other towns. Bounder [Utah] was a very isolated town in those days. There was no road suitable for automobile travel to Bouder then, so we rode horseback.
We may have been going to a church conference in Escalante, or to visit with relatives in Richfield. But to get there we had to ride horseback for hours, first through the Claude V. Baker cut-off, then on through the wild, beautiful country of Esclante River canyons. Our brother Omer kept an automobile in a garage on the outskirts of Escalante. When we reached the garage, we would then exchange our horses for the car and continue our journey.
We were still on horseback when we got down to the Baker wash. It started to storm and rain, and I said to George, “I think we better go back!” But he said, “No, no, no.” The wash was beginning to flood, but we made it through. When we got down to the Escalante River, however, it was high—it was really high—and just boiling! It looked dangerous. Normally you could wade easily across the Escalante at our usual crossing, but now the river looked dangerously flooded. I said, George, we can’t cross the river!” And he said, “Sure we can, sure we can. I will go across first to show you.” He took our suitcases—Esther and I had our things in one suitcase and George had another—and he rode across that river, his horse swimming bravely. He left the suitcases on the other side and then he came back.
Next he took Esther across. I don’t know if she was as frightened as I was. I think she was. The river was still rising, and the current seemed to grow faster and faster. I begged George, “Leave our suitcases. Forget our suitcases. Let’s go back!” But he and Esther plunged into the river swimming the horses directly upstream to fight the current. This was the first time I ever remembered riding a swimming horse. Our horses never had any need to swim, and I marveled that they could just plunge into the water and swim by instinct. George rode on the downstream side of Esther to protect her from being swept past him, and they made it to the other side.
Then he traded horses with Esther, because by now his horse had made two trips across the swollen river and was getting tired. He mounted Esther’s horse and returned for me. Again I pleaded, “No George, please, no!” But into the river we went. Again he rode on the downstream side, next to me, and the horses swam what seemed like directly upstream to keep us from being washed downstream by the river’s now raging current. The river bubbled and boiled up around us. We were losing the battle against the current!
But our horses swam valiantly, and George bravely shouted encouragement to me and the horses, and we finally, barely made it across. We had been washed the distance of a good city block downstream from where Esther waited for us. Our horses clambered up onto the river bank, exhausted.
We were all exhausted and frightened. When I finally got my breath back, I looked at George and said, “George that was the craziest, most foolhardy thing we’ve ever done in our lives. Nobody would have ever known what happened to us!
by Ileen Johnson
[Although this was written nearly 20 years ago, it still brings back pleasant memories. Pick up your pencil, pen or iPhone and start writing. Write the way you talk and about common, every-day things. Your posterity will love it!!]
I hope I live long enough to get my photographs in albums. This has been an ongoing project through the years but somehow never quite finished. At one time I started albums for each child and attempted to place copies of all the “good” pictures
therein. The children loved to look at their books, and this was a good activity, but it required constant monitoring to preserve the photos from the ravages of little fingers. “Is this me?” they would ask as they pointed to each baby picture. These albums were quickly outgrown and became much too expensive and time-consuming to maintain. “I’ll finish these when I have more time,” I rationalized, “and give them their albums when they get married.”
Only our first six children had photo albums; the younger three only knew manila envelopes. That was the makeshift method to sort out and store the photos until we could get them properly placed. More than once I tried arranging the contents of the envelopes in chronological order. Some progress was made, but usually I had too much “help,” from those who wanted to just enjoy looking at the pictures. Once again the photos went back into envelopes and on the closet shelf.
I wonder if teachers know how much stress they cause by asking students to bring a baby picture of themselves for this or that activity. Finding the “right” picture always meant sorting through every picture in the envelope. There is also the problem of
protecting the photo from damage during its trip to school and, hopefully, back. Too often this results in a blank spot in the album where a picture once was. I don’t think teachers will change in the future, but if I had it to do again, I think I would have copies made of those babies to use as loaners.
I found school pictures to be the biggest challenge. They come around with regularity, thanks to the person who created this tradition, and also multiply by
children and years. Add to this the issues of hand-me-down clothes and similar genes, and a problem of identity arises. “Is this Brian, or Mark in Brian’s old
shirt?” More than once we had pictures of the same child in the same favorite outfit for two years running. “Was this Ann’s fifth grade picture, or her fourth?”
One summer Jennifer and I tackled the school picture problem once and for all. We put up a folding banquet table in an upstairs bedroom and laid them out, children on the Y axis and years on X. Careful scrutiny of 30 years of school pictures ultimately revealed correct years and children. That was a productive summer resulting in every photo being placed neatly in albums!
The cycle continues, however, and now in the autumn of my life I feel a pressing need to get my life in order–including the photos. They really need to be taken
out of the sticky albums and mounted on acid-free paper, under acid-free plastic sheets, and properly labeled. That’s my current project. I began by purchasing several three-ring binders, a ream heavy, black, acid-free paper, and began
punching holes. That was my first mistake. Now we need a new paper punch. Hindsight would suggest one have a copy center do the holes. Next, I bought three
boxes of photo corners and began pasting. It seemed I had barely begun when they were all gone. So, I went back to the store and bought ten more boxes. If
that doesn’t do it, I will have to put corners on my Christmas wish list.
Computer file folder labels were used for the labels. I had labeled perhaps 8 or 10 pages of photos when Kristen said, “I didn’t know Howard’s middle name is
spelled R-e-i-d.” “It’s not,” I replied. “Well, that is what it says here.” Sure enough there it was, typed with my own fingers! “Oops! This is not right. This
is Jennifer in the cupboard, not me. Just remember, Jennifer in the cupboard, Kristen in the fireplace.”
I admonish you not to procrastinate properly organizing, labeling, and storing your precious family photographs, an essential part of your family history. I plan to use my albums to help construct the journal I never kept. I think this year at Christmastime I will gather the children around the kitchen table, bring out
the albums, turn on the tape recorder, and sit back and listen.
The contents of the family photo album can have a profound effect on later generations and help answer the gnawing questions of “Who are we?” and “Where do we come from?” I remember how much fun it was as a child to look at
my mother’s albums. They were stored in her cedar chest under lock and key, and carried with them a nostalgic cedar fragrance. I hope our children and
grandchildren will remember our family albums and the people whose likenesses they contain with similar fondness.
by Ileen Judd Johnson
I have always been interested in family history. As a child I remember with fondness the times relatives stopped by to visit. I was fascinated with their talk of home and family.
After I graduated from high school I attended business school in Salt Lake City. That’s when I discovered the Genealogy Library housed in the basement of the old Montgomery Ward Building on Main Street. There were shelves and shelves of big binders containing family group records submitted by Church members. Only one binder could be checked out at a time, relevant data carefully copied by hand, then promptly checked back in. I was delighted when the Library acquired a photocopier. With this new invention I could instantly copy an entire family group record for only five cents!
My marriage and move to St. Paul, Minnesota, far from home and far from the Genealogy Library, put a stop to the photocopying; but then ensued correspondence with relatives. This became my connection to “home”. I could not visit the Library, but I could type, and I had a typewriter. So in between typing theses for my husband Freeman, I typed family histories.
Eight years and four children later we moved to Northern Minnesota and the first real job! Over the next 10 years five more children were added to our family. There was little time for family histories. A new cash crop developed and Freeman was kept busy breeding hybrid oilseed sunflowers. The Europeans, especially the French, loved sunflower oil. This crop later took us to South Texas near the Mexican border to take advantage of the warm climate and extended growing season. Even though I studied the Spanish language, and attended bilingual church services, I could not carry on a conversation in Spanish. Then, after only two years in South Texas, the death of Freeman’s boss made it necessary for us to return to Minnesota.
As soon as we got “back home” I was asked to help staff the new Family History Center in Fargo–just across the Minnesota/North Dakota border–where I worked two days a week for the next nine years. During my sojourn there, I worked mostly with non-LDS patrons, organized and cataloged the Family History Center holdings and prepared patron how-to helps. Freeman now had an office in our basement with a photocopier, computers, and lots of filing cabinets. I have always liked filing things, and I love anything genealogical, so I enjoyed collecting and filing genealogical stuff and producing books about my own ancestors. When Personal Ancestral File 1.0 came into being in the 1980s, I jumped right in and started entering my family data. This occupied most of my evenings for nearly three years.
The French company Freeman worked for eventually decided they preferred producing their sunflower seed in France rather than importing it from the United States, but to do this they would need to hire someone who had worked with the crop and knew something about plant breeding. Freeman was offered the job, and rather than be unemployed, he accepted. Since he didn’t speak French, but did speak Spanish the company located the sunflower research program at a company-owned branch in Zaragoza, Spain.
In August of 1990 we called the movers, packed up household goods, arranged for transport of company equipment and automobiles, and visited relatives in Utah before leaving for Madrid, Spain. We left two boys (now young adults) in Fargo and took two girls 16 and 17 with us.
We couldn’t rent a vehicle at the Madrid airport that would accommodate four people and all our baggage, so we had to drive two cars on to to Zaragoza. The two girls were in one car with me, and Freeman followed us in another car with all our baggage. That was a hairy ride for a novice driver (me) who couldn’t stay awake. Freeman didn’t tell me we had to pass over a range of mountains. We nearly ran off the road, but not because I fell asleep. This big truck behind us wanted to pass, so I tried to drive as close to the shoulder as I could. He pulled out to pass just as another big truck came rolling around the bend towards us. The passing truck laid on his horn and I had to move over some more! I could feel the right tires of the car going off the shoulder twice, but fortunately our guardian angel was on duty, and we made it! I might mention too that this was a two-lane highway with no guard rails, and we were close to the summit. Pretty sharp drop off too. I still get scared remembering this 24 years later.
We did have a rental house near the U. S. Air Base in Zaragoza, and military families were kind enough to help us get settled and enroll the girls in the U. S. high school on Base. It was November, three months later, before our household and company goods arrived.
Plans were already under way to close the Air Base in the near future, and reduction of military personnel had left a vacancy in the local church district presidency. Freeman was called to fill this position and oversee the developing family history center. The District President was happy he could speak Spanish, albeit the Argentine/Uruguayan dialect.
The branch of the Church on the Air Base closed at the end of the school year, and we started attending the branch downtown Zaragoza on a regular basis. Our daughter Kristen, a senior in high school, returned to Minnesota to graduate from her previous high school and attend attend college. Jennifer, our 16-year old, continued high school on Base, and by taking additional correspondence courses she had enough credits to graduate a early at the end of her junior year when the Air Base closed.
President Javier Amigó had been researching his family genealogy and traveled every year to the Frankfurt Temple to perform the ordinances. He had prepared binders of family group sheets organized by year when temple ordinances could be performed. He knew the District needed a Family History Center and had commenced remodeling the church building in Zaragoza to accommodate it. The first time we entered the building downtown there were cabinets for microfiche and microfilm readers–custom built in Portugal–in the foyer ready to be installed. The only thing they didn’t have was someone who knew how to operate a family history center.
According to Freeman there was no discussion as to who should be called, only the declaration by President Amigó that “it’s about time we put Sister Johnson to work.” The start-up supplies were ordered. Thankfully there were English-speaking missionaries at the Frankfurt Distribution Center who could answer all my questions. Once the physical structure was finished and the start-up kit arrived, I spent two days a week at the church getting the reference microfiche and microfilms organized. The things I had copied from the Fargo Family History Center and my personal research experience were helpful, but what we really needed was a way to train the Family History Center staff. All my supplies and instructions were in English.
A way, however, had been prepared to overcome this problem too. A young, single adult sister in the Zaragoza Branch, Corporales Fernandez, had recently completed three years of school in the States, and her English was as good as mine! Even though she already had four or five church callings, she kindly agreed to help me translate an older out-dated English staff training manual to Spanish. Each Sunday I took her a few pages of the original English version and also my attempted translation using double or triple line spacing. With the English version in hand she compared my translation with the original and corrected or re-wrote words and phrases as needed. I don’t remember how long this took us, but in the end we had about 200 pages.
Using chapters from the book we had translated as a guide, training sessions were held with those who would staff the family history center. “Corporal” became the Family History Center director. I taught these sessions with Freeman translating. I couldn’t speak the language, but I knew enough that I could understand what he was saying. He liked to tell stories and add embellishments whenever he could, and sometimes I had to say, “no, that’s not what I said. . .” and have him correct his translation.
The high councilor over family history, Hermano Angel Del Solar lived in our branch, and as soon as supplies arrived he could be found at the family history center night and day researching his ancestry. He jokingly asked if he could move his cama (bed) over there so he wouldn’t have to go home.
We held an open house for members and invited the press. I wore a sign around my neck that read “Yo hablo Genealogia, Inglés y un poco de Espanol” (I speak English, Genealogy and a little Spanish). Announcements of our opening were in the local newspapers. Slowly word got out and we began to have patrons visit the Center. I worried about how I could help people with my poor Spanish, but I soon found that Spanish-speaking patrons enjoyed an opportunity to practice their own English.
I was in the process of formatting the final version of our new staff training manual when we learned that Freeman’s employment contract would not be renewed as we had expected; so we started packing up to return to the United States. The house we had been living in was quickly rented and the new tenants were happy to buy our appliances.
We printed five copies of our staff training manual and sent them out to the two or three existing family history centers in Spain and to Larry Jensen at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City literally as we were loading the truck the end of May 1992.
As I look back on this experience in the year 2016, I can see that we were sent to Spain for a purpose unbeknown to us at the time. Things just fell into place precisely when needed. They could not all be attributed to happenstance. Heavenly Father definitely had His hand in the timing of these events.
by Ileen Johnson
I looked forward with anticipation to the completion of the Mount Timpanogos temple, as this would be my first opportunity to attend a temple dedication. After I married and while we raised our children, we lived in the Midwest, great distances from any temple, so our temple trips were usually combined with infrequent visits to family members in Utah.
I was both surprised and delighted when my husband and I were asked to assist with security at the temple for an entire week during the open house. About a dozen brethren, young and old, and two sisters made up the group from our stake. We met at the Stake Center parking lot at 6 a.m. each morning for prayer and then car-pooled to the temple.
We sisters did not have specific duties, just be watchful and help anyone who may need our assistance. So I began my day in the waiting room just inside the temple
entrance; the other sister went upstairs near the Celestial Room.
Visitors gathered in large tents next to the temple, and at precisely 7:05 a.m. they stepped through the temple doors. In a steady stream, throughout the day and every
day of the week, came thousands upon thousands of visitors.
President Hinckley greeted the guests via video recording in his kindly and personable way. “Welcome to the temple,” he began. “We are pleased to have you join us today. For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is the House of the Lord, the most sacred place on earth.” He explained briefly the purpose of temples and added his testimony. “I bear witness of the living Christ and pray you will feel a special closeness with him while you are here today.”
I had worked a late evening shift the previous day, and with nothing in particular to do, I had great difficulty staying awake that first day, so the next day I brought my scriptures. My eyes obediently moved over the pages, yet my mind comprehended nothing. I tried to read, but I could not ignore President Hinckley’s voice repeating over and over again, “Welcome to the temple. . . Welcome to the temple.” Hour after hour his words thwarted my concentration until I finally gave up trying to read.
I began again to listen and observe. “Welcome to the temple. . .Welcome to the temple. . .” He really means that I thought. I was struck by the realization that Heavenly Father loves all his children and wants nothing more than to welcome them to His temple. How diverse are our Father’s children! They came in all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and backgrounds. They came as families dressed in their Sunday best; mothers walking hand in hand with sons; big brothers carrying little sisters; big sister leading little sisters, all in look-alike dresses; and fathers bouncing babies. Some came out of curiosity. A few were obviously tourists. All were respectful. Some walked quickly, gazing straight ahead; others lingered, casting eyes about, attempting to absorb everything.
Most notable were the children. One little girl about 2 or 3 years of age, with very blonde, almost white hair, stepped along fairly bursting with confidence and
energy. An 8 or 9-year-old boy had obviously outgrown his suit coat, for the cuffs of his new white shirt extended a good six inches below the suit completely covering his hands.
A wiggly little boy was so full of energy he was all over the floor, feeling and exploring everything within reach, but as soon as he entered the Celestial Room and
without prompting, he jumped up, folded his arms, and proceeded reverently.
For part of each day I welcomed the handicapped to the Celestial Room and was greatly impressed by the number of wheelchair visitors–the elderly, the handicapped, the infirm–all escorted by radiant young men and women. On they came, the halt, the lame, the blind, the dumb. Elderly couples came holding hands or pushing spouses in wheelchairs. Others carried canes or steadied themselves with walkers. A few trailed oxygen tanks.
I shall never forget the young man about 10 or 11 who passed by with his mother. He carried a white cane. How could he, I wondered, appreciate the beauties of the temple without the gift of sight? Yet I could see the Spirit had touched his heart. He was crying as they left.
We worked security at four of the temple dedicatory sessions, and each time I received a witness that temples and family history work are a great blessing to both the giver and the receiver. I thought maybe after four sessions I could make it through the hymn, “The Spirit of God,” without getting emotional, but I couldn’t stop
crying, much less sing.
“Welcome to the temple. . . the House of the Lord, . . . the most sacred place on earth.”
by Elder Boyd K. Packer
Genealogical work [including personal and family history] has, I fear, sometimes been made to appear too difficult, too involved, and too time consuming to really be inviting to the average Church member. Elder John A. Widtsoe said on one occasion: “In many a science, the beginning courses are so taught as if the whole class were intending to become candidates for the Ph.D. degree in that subject. Students fall out in despair.” Brother Widtsoe concluded, “It took some time to make them understand that a good teacher does such work as to enable his students to pass, with ordinary diligence.” (In a Sunlit Land, pp. 150, 90.)
There is a way that it can be done. And there is a place to begin. You don’t need to begin with the pedigree charts or the stacks of forms, or the blank spaces, or the numbers, the procedures, or the regulations. You can begin with you, with who you are and with what you have right now. It is a matter of getting started. You may come to know the principle that Nephi knew when he said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Ne. 4:6.)
If you don’t know how or where to start, start with yourself. If you don’t know what records to get, and how to get them, start with what you’ve got. There are two very simple instructions. Here’s what you are to do: Get a cardboard box. Any kind of a box will do. Put it some place where it is in the way, perhaps on the couch or on the counter in the kitchen—anywhere where it cannot go unnoticed. Then, over a period of a few weeks, collect and put into the box every record of your life: your birth certificate, your certificate of blessing, of baptism, of ordination, of graduation. Collect diplomas, all of your photographs, honors, or awards, a diary, if you kept one, everything that you can find pertaining to your life—anything that is written or registered or recorded that testifies that you are alive and what you have done.
Don’t try to do this in a day. Take your time with it. Most of us have these things scattered around here and there. Some of them are in a box in the garage under that stack of newspapers; others are stored away in drawers or in the attic or one place or another. Perhaps some have been tucked in the leaves of the Bible or elsewhere. Gather all of these together; put them in the box. Keep it there until you have collected everything you think you have. Then make some space on a table, or even on the floor, and sort out all that you have collected. Divide your life into three periods. The Church does it that way. All of our programming in the Church is divided into three general categories—children, youth, and adult.
Start with the childhood section and begin with your birth certificate. Put together every record in chronological order—the pictures, the record of your baptism, etc., up until the time you were twelve years of age. Next assemble all that which pertains to your youth, from twelve to eighteen, or up until the time you were married. Put all of that together in chronological order. Line up the records—the certificates, the photographs—and put them in another box or envelope. Do the same with the records on the rest of your life. Once you have that accomplished, you have what is necessary to complete your life story. Simply take your birth certificate and begin writing. The Lord will bless you once you begin this work.
This has been very evident to us. Since the time we decided that we would start where we were, with what we had, many things have opened to us. Things began to emerge once we got to work. We still are not, by any means, experts in genealogical research. We are, however, dedicated to our family. And it is my testimony that if we start where we are, each of us with ourselves, with such records as we have, and begin putting those in order, things will fall into place as they should.
There is an expression common among non-members of the Church when some unusual good fortune befalls a person. They respond with “Someone up there likes me,” and credit to some divine providence the good thing that has come into their lives. You won’t get very far in putting together your own records and writing your own history until you find things put in your way that cannot have been put there by accident, and you are compelled to say, generally to yourself, “Someone over there wants this work done, and he is helping me.”
Ensign, January 1977, pp. 8-12.
To Merge or Not. Or What!??
I remember 1986, the year we got our first IBM compatible computer. At last I could use Personal Ancestral File software. I spent every spare minute for three years hand-entering data on my ancestors, finally emerging with a database of over 5,000 names!
About that same time I decided to write a family history about my great-grandfather. The first thing I did was to make a GEDCOM (transfer file) of Great-Grandpa’s families and put it into a new computer program called RootsIII. Then over the next three years I collected Great-Grandpa’s descendants–more than 3,000–and added those to RootsIII also. Well, the book was wonderful; and the family loved it; but now I had two databases. What I really wanted was all my family in one file, so I could share it with my kin and submit it to Ancestral File.
Attempting to combine these two databases has been a real adventure. I went back to my friend GEDCOM and transferred all those descendants from RootsIII back to PAF. All went well except for one tiny problem–the notes. My beautiful documentation did not survive the transfer (but that’s another project). I have always considered myself fairly adept with computers, that is until I met my match. . .er, ah, merge.
My first mistake was trying to fix my place-name abbreviations using Don Snow’s WordPerfect search and replace technique. Just load your GEDCOM file into WordPerfect as a DOS file and replace all the two-letter state abbreviations with the full state name. I found it takes a fair amount of time to do a replace in a GEDCOM of 4,000 plus records, however. Add to that the fact that a separate pass through the file is needed for each change, and you can count on at least a couple of hours. If you have relatives in several states you’ll see what I mean. You might want to go get a snack or keep something handy to read while you are waiting for WordPerfect to do its work. (In retrospect it’s probably wise to work with smaller files.)
Finished at last. Now to put this corrected file back into PAF. All went well at first, then PAF stubbornly stopped on record 132. Back to take a peek at GEDCOM. Don’t see anything wrong. Back to PAF. Stopped again on record 132. Maybe I should go back and take a look at my notes from Don Snow’s class…. Of course! Make sure you set your margins to zero before loading your GEDCOM into WordPerfect. Back to GEDCOM. Sure enough, record 132 had a long note which had wrapped.
Once the margins were fixed, everything went smoothly.
I was feeling so successful at this point I thought, “While I’m at it, why not merge this file with the one a distant cousin gave me last summer?” He had downloaded everything there was on this line from Ancestral File and combined it with the data he had from his branch of the family. Although this would mean another evening of searching and replacing in his file, which was nearly as large as mine, it would be worth a little extra time, I thought, to have everything I know about this family in one place.
Now the fun begins–matching and merging those 8,000 records. It wasn’t long until I realized that my searching and replacing was coming back to haunt me. I began to see some rather unusual names in my data base, names like TALABAMACOTT and MCBRIDAHOE. Hmmm….
Of course, why didn’t I think of that? Replacing AL with ALABAMA replaces AL inside names too. I should have replaced AL space with ALABAMA. When WordPerfect asked me if I wanted to confirm all those changes, I had a feeling I should answer ‘Yes,’ but I didn’t. Do you know how long it would have taken to press ‘Y’ 8,000 times? Now what do I do? I already have considerable time invested in this project. I can’t stop now.
With renewed determination I set about changing names–GREGOREGONY to Gregory, WILLINOISLETT TO Willett, BRIDAHOGUM to Bridgum, ALABAMAEXANDER to Alexander, and CROOKLAHOMAER to Crooker. What a mess! I’m not a quitter, though. Week after week I dedicated Sunday afternoons to correcting names and merging records. You get a big family like the BENEDICONNECTICUTs extending over several generations, and the maze never seems to end. The fact that every family had 10 or 12 children didn’t make it any easier either. I was sure I had all of them corrected, yet BENEDICONNECTICUTs kept popping up over and over and over again.
Maybe I should forget the BENEDICONNECTICUTs and concentrate on merging. That might eliminate some of them. I had been told that Ancestral File numbers were a pretty safe match; but much to my dismay, I found that even those numbers are not sacred. They change from one edition of Ancestral File to another! Okay, how about merging individuals who have spouses with the same RIN? That worked. It also helped to look at the parents or the children of the principal, but most of the time there simply wasn’t enough information to make an intelligent decision.
I thought I’d be able to tell which records came from my cousin’s file by looking at the RIN numbers. It seemed reasonable to assume that if I had 4,000 records and he had 4,000 records, and I added his file to mine, RINs above 4,000 would be his and those less than 4,000 would be mine. Not so. When adding records to a file, PAF uses up all the deleted records first. I must have had a bunch of them, because the end the result was the same as if I had dumped all the records from both files in a bushel basket and stirred them up.
With each new endeavor, I seemed to be getting in deeper and deeper. Would I ever be able to clean this database up to the point where it would be “worthy of all acceptation?” The prospects looked pretty dim. Maybe a good night’s sleep would help.
I hated to admit it, but I was licked. I had to give up. There is more to merging than pressing ‘Y.’
Thank goodness for tomorrow–and backups!