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Entering data into your program

Today we explore the basics of genealogy software. We need a place to store, organize and reproduce the work we have done. Using pencil and paper can get complicated and messy, and unless you have a Xerox machine in your house, it’s hard to make copies for anyone.

We talked about the basics of using genealogy software in the last column and most genealogy software programs are pretty similar. Each one does specific tasks that differ and the screens don’t look alike, but for the basics the screens are pretty close. I will use Family Tree Maker as my example software because I am a 20 year user of this program.

This is a sample of the screen for Family Tree Maker (FTM) 2006 version. The most recent version of Family Tree Maker looks quite different.

In both cases, you have a father (Pietro LaManna), mother (Marianna Lombardi) and their children. You may notice that both have the number 13 next to the word “Children” and you may also notice there are only 6 of them on the screen. To the right of the children, there is a scroll bar and arrows, and you can scroll form the oldest to the youngest that way.

In the older FTM, the father and mother dominate the screen (as well they should!) but you should look above them. Above the father, there is a button to take you to Pietro’s parents. By clicking that button, Pietro is now just one of the eleven children in that family. Above the mother, there is a similar button that takes you to her parents. If you have not added the parents to your file yet, that button will take you to a screen where you can add the parents and all the information you have gathered so far.

One note about the place names, specifically birth place, place of death, and place of marriage. You should use a standard format for these, because you may trade data with other genealogists and the data should be standardized so people can use it easily. For example, do not just put “Bellwood, ILL”. You should always use the format: City, County, State, Country. Put “USA” as the country for all American place names. If your place name is in Italy, use Comune, Province, Regione, Italia. You will discover there are multiple places in Italy with the same name so you should list the province and region to show which one is yours. One benefit to using the standard place name is that when you are typing the same place name for another person, it will automatically fill in the rest of the name as you type it. This will save a lot of typing as you go along.

To the right of the father’s name, birth place and death place, there is a S-shaped little scroll. This is the button you click when you want to add sources for each of those pieces of information. If there is a little black arrow in the corner, it means that a source has been entered.

Keep in mind that a single source (a birth certificate for example) may contain many pieces of information. So instead of entering the same source over and over again, these programs allow you to enter the source once in a “Master source list” and then you can pick that source again and again when it gives you multiple pieces of information. Under the “Master source” is the citation page and citation text. You can list the master source as “Triggiano Civil Registrations, Birth Certificates” and the citation page as “Year 1854 page 152”. You can also click on the “Images” button on the right to scan or select a copy of the actual page of the source.

You will see four other buttons below the father’s information. “Edit” takes you to a screen where you can enter custom facts.

The name, birth and death automatically show up here so you do not need to enter them again. I added his burial information and his occupation. You can create any type of fact you need, especially if you want to keep track of that fact for many people in your file. Other examples of facts I keep track of are: School, Home Address (people can have many over a lifetime), baptism date/place, Census data, death notice (date and newspaper), godparents’ names, military service, and naturalization information.

The second button is “Spouse”. There can be a number next to the button which indicates the number of spouses a person had. So far nobody in my family has had more than 4, and I’m not related to Elizabeth Taylor OR Mickey Rooney! Click on that button to manage adding another spouse to the father (or mother depending on whose spouse button you clicked).

If you have more than one spouse, you have to choose a “primary” spouse. If someone was married 50 years, had 9 kids, and the married again at age 80, you probably would pick the first spouse as the primary. Click “create a new spouse” to add another spouse. You can also add children to that spouse. You can also attach children who are already in your file to the second spouse. Let’s say a woman is widowed young, with children, and she marries again and he adopts the children and raises them. You already have Mike Brady with sons Greg, Peter and Bobby. You can now attach Marcia, Jan and Cindy as adopted siblings who were raised in the same wacky household.

The next button is Scrapbook. If you have photos in this person’s scrapbook, a number will appear next to the button. Click the button. The entire screen changes:

If you have no photos, there will be one empty “slide”. You click on the little button on the lower right of the “slide” to add a photo of the person. It is best to pick a “head-shot” or crop just the head from another photograph. This first photo of the person is automatically the “primary” photo and will be used when you print charts later.

Next month we will look at the reports and charts you can print now that you have entered your data in the software!

Write to Dan at italianroots@comcast.net and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject line.

About Dan Niemiec

Dan Niemiec has been the genealogy columnist for Fra Noi since 2004. For the past 25 years, he has researched his genealogy back 17 generations, plus tracing descendants of his ancestors, yielding 74,000 relatives. His major focus is on civil and church records in Italy, Chicago vital records, Chicago Catholic records and most major genealogy web sites. He has given dozens of presentations to many local and some national genealogy societies on topics such as cemetery research, Catholic records, Italian records, Ellis Island and newspaper research, among others.

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