Community Family Trees
Community Trees ProjectCommunity Family Trees
Syllabus for class taught by Raymond W. Madsen, AG® from FamilySearch, presented at the FGS 2010 Conference.
What are Community Trees?
They are locality-based, sourced, lineage-linked genealogies from specific geographical communities and can be from anywhere in the world. Community Trees can be of a small village or of several villages comprising the whole parish; it could be for a county or even a country. The focus may even be on a specific collection of records. The size of the Community Tree may be small or very large.
Why create a Community Tree?
There are two main reasons:
- First to preserve the heritage of the community
- Second to share the information for others who share an interest in that area
Are projects only done by experienced genealogists?
Are Community Tree projects only done by experienced family historians and genealogists? A Community Tree project can be created by anyone or any group – a small grass roots village or township working together to form the family trees of all known residents is a perfect project.
Scope the Community Tree project
It is important to define the scope of the project by locality, time period and sources used.
- Locality – a local genealogical and historical society may focus on the whole county, a small village may focus when the first inhabitants arrived and come forward to the modern time period. Often the genealogies of the village extend to surrounding villages, so the scope may extend to include all of the villages in a parish.
- Time Period –most projects cover a wide time period – usually as far back as the records go back.
- Sources – It is very important to document, by citing the sources used for indentifying individuals, forming families and extending the pedigree. Use the Note Field to enter large and personal information about the person.
- Living Memory, Primary and Secondary Sources - as with any personal genealogy the first step is Living Memory – starting with one’s self. In a local Community Tree project, getting the community involved by creating their own genealogies by entering their information, using a record manager like Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is a good start. Any record manager will do, as long as it can create, export and import a GEDCOM file. The key is to use proper data entry protocol and cite the sources. Living Memory is simple; because you start with yourself, add spouses, children, siblings and parents, then go back to the next generation. Talk to older generations – parents and grandparents – capture the information as far back as possible. Keep in mind, memory sometimes will provide some false information or lack details. That’s where original research of primary and secondary information comes in.
- Secondary Information – may be from a family Bible or letters or from the back of an old family picture. A good source of secondary information can be from extracting the genealogies from local histories.
- Primary Sources such as vital, church, census and probates will provide the quality you want for your Community Tree project. Primary sources need to be accurately cited in your data. They will correct mistakes, provide full and additional information to the Living Memory information.
Standardize the Information
It is very important to enter the full information – no abbreviations and to follow correct methods of data entering information. Here are some important things to ensure for quality.
- Names – for females, always use their Maiden Surname not their married name. Spell out the names completely and as found in the original primary source – like a birth or christening record. Even if the person went by a “nick name” their whole life, record their name as found in the earliest source created for them.
- Dates – standardize by being consistent. Do not use numbers only for the dates - like 3/11/49. Start with the day, then spell out the month (in this case you can abbreviate the month such as Mar) and the full year. If you do not know when a person was born – either calculate or estimate the year. This is important – because, even though this person may have been dead for 200 years, without a birth year, the information may not be displayed as some publishing sites will display a record as LIVING when there are no birth or death years. Some guide lines for estimating birthdates from a marriage year would be 25 years for the husband and 21 years for the wife. One year for the first child after the marriage year and two years between each child.
- Localities – spell out beginning with the lowest level of the locality to the highest. Do not abbreviate any place:
- - The wrong way – Millville, NB.
- - The right way – Millville, Southampton, York, New Brunswick, Canada [Millville (village), Southampton (parish), York (county), New Brunswick (province), Canada (country)].
- Sources – generally contain both general and specific source citation information. The general information is the name or title of the source. Once entered in your record manager you can recall the source from the list. The specific information is like the film or page number of the work. Also include the extracted information to enhance the value of your Community Tree.
Working with the Community
Working with the community is fun, but every project needs a leader. The members of the local community become the “local experts.” They know the names of the people, the history and places. The project leader provides the motivation and organizes meetings, gathers together the completed genealogies. It is good to have periodic meetings – perhaps once month – to provide instructions, teach and update the progress of the work. The project leader should share the workload.
Merging many to form the Community Tree
The Community Tree is the result of merging the collective genealogies and merging duplicates records. If the collective trees are small enough the Match/Merging feature of the record manager like PAF may be sufficient for use. There are commercial merging tools available for larger projects like GenMerge. There is a difference between the record manager version of merging and the GenMerge tool. PAF merging for instance does a “destructive merge”. GenMerge preserves the alternative names, dates and places. GenMerge works across multiple databases so it can merge duplicates from within a single source and across several databases.
Community Trees on the Internet is the best way to share information. There are two ways to publish the data: Public and Private Trees.
- Public Tree -To protect the rights of privacy careful consideration should be taken to publishing information on the Internet of living individuals. A popular site publishing tool, The Next Generation (TNG), provides the option to display living records as LIVING with no information about a living record, but still maintaining the genealogical links of family and generations.
- Private Tree – The owners of Community Trees however will desire to see and have access to all of the information. TNG provides access by User Name and Password to see data in a Private View, including Living information.
- Living – what constitutes a living record when publishing? Using TNG site building tool – there is a setup option that treats all records with a birth year of less than 110 years and no death or burial date as living. Likewise if there is no birth or death year the record will also be treated as Living. Thus an “end of line” individual, even if that person lived and died several hundreds of years ago but where often no birth or death information are known, that record will be treated as living. That is why it is important to calculate or estimate the birth year.
Administrative rights are important needs for publishing Community Tree data on the Internet. The owners of the data may choose to share it by viewing and printing individuals, families, pedigrees and descendants but they may not choose to allow GEDCOM downloads in a Public View. Owners may also choose to restrict edits to the data to Private Access only.
Bookshelf approach to publishing data
The bookshelf approach to publishing data is the ability to easily replace the whole data set. This is an important requirement for publishing on-going Community Tree projects especially when massive new sets of information is added to the database or when individual and ongoing small corrections are not sufficient.