When we acquire large databases, I wonder how many times we are like the three monkeys
But, far too many GEDCOM files (and our own databases) are rife with errors and if we ignore them, we’re like another animal. One with feathers, a long neck, and likes to stick it underground!
The first step to having reliable genealogy is to check our files for potential problems.
The most common problems in our databases are:
1. Age-Related Errors
Can a woman give birth to a child past the age of 50? With few exceptions, the answer is no.
Can a woman give birth when she is 5? Even that’s a bit too young for puberty to kick in.
Can a man sire a child 3 years after his death in a time before artificial insemination? Nope. A child generally has to be born within 9 months after his father’s death pre-AI.
2. Living After Death
Property remaining in a deceased person’s name can occur, until their estate is settled and new owners scrawl their names on deeds. That’s not the same as being listed as residing in a specific location after an ‘apparent’ death. If you have a relative appearing in a census several years after their death, you have to go and re-examine the census record and the death record to determine which one is valid.
3. Siring Children Before Birth
It’s biologically impossible to create offspring before someone is alive. And yet, family trees shared online or stored in computer databases, have a plethora of these errors. Someone may become a step-parent or a guardian of someone born before them, but they are not their biological parent. As such, we want to make sure our trees do not have these obvious errors.
RootsMagic is a wonderful tool that can help us analyze our trees or those trees shared with us by others. It does not evaluate any of your online trees, only files you have imported into RootsMagic. With that said, RootsMagic searches for the following potential problems:
- Individuals without sex entered
- The proper order of events
- Birth before parent’s birth
- Birth after father’s death
- Birth after mother’s death
- Age at death should be less than xx years
- Age at marriage should be between xx years and yy years
- Father’s age should be between xx years and yy years
- Mother’s age should be between xx years and yy years
How are you going to access this helpful tool? Follow these steps:
|Select Tools, Problem Search, then Problem List|
|Use default settings or customize|
|Review Your Results|
RootsMagic analyzes your database based on your search parameters. If you’re lucky, your problem list will be small.
Notice there are results such as “Child Webb” with Unknown sex. I know that the Webb had a stillborn child but I’m not certain of the gender. I can mark this result as “Not a Problem” and RootsMagic will remember not to show that to me again.
However, I have a lot of parents marrying after their children’s birth and someone ‘residing’ after their death. I need to examine the details to determine what was going on. These situations might have explanations or might demonstrate someone else’s (or, *cough, cough*, my) mistakes.
Few researchers want errors in their tree. Instead of being like the monkeys above and ignoring the possibility of errors, use RootsMagic’s problem search feature.