Sunday, December 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes: The Best Laid Databases...

Screenshot of the 1820 Census

In August, I started what I thought would be an easy project, one that would get my collected data on Scotch Settlement all ready for fresh analysis, one that I could complete in the evenings after the Board of Elections. This easy project was to match up the individuals I had in the Access database with those that I had in the genealogy program.

From the beginning of my research on Scotch Settlement, I have kept track of the data I've collected in an Access database and a genealogy software program. The former is designed to analyze data, the latter to keep track ancestors. To facilitate analysis in the Access database, I created a central table with the names of all the individuals I had identified with standardized spellings of surnames, unique identifying numbers, and vital statistics. I always knew that I had people in the central table that weren't in the genealogy program and that wasn't a big deal. But I have recently realized there were people in the genealogy program who weren't in  the Access database. This was a problem. Actually, many of these individuals were accounted for - as a tick mark in a pre-1850 census, but not in that census or any other document I had transcribed into Access.

Itis now the end December and I'm only a little over half done. Of course 12- and 13-hour days at the Board of Elections didn't help. But what I realized, after I started is that most of the families I had known about were the ones that had been well-documented in county histories or by other family historians. There are many other families in Scotch Settlement that didn't leave much of a paper trail. So the matching project has actually turned into a giant genealogy puzzle. Can I figure out to which McGillivray family the three single Daniel McGillivrays recorded in the 1840 census belonged? No, I can not. Are the Johnstons who married in 1839 part of Scotch Settlement? No, they are from Ireland and live in Franklin Township. And why oh why do I keep finding more John McDonalds every time I turn around. All I can say is "Thank God" for online databases like FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Find-a-Grave!

The ultimate aim of this matching/family history project is to shed further light on migration networks and on out-migration from the parishes near Inverness. Families and neighbors are key to all migration networks, especially during this time period. And focusing more on these individuals, utilizing various online sources, and taking a second look at documents I've had for ten years has shed light on family relationships and the Scottish origins of several of the families. While this project is deepening my knowledge of the residents of Scotch Settlement, the new findings haven't changed what I know about their origins: almost all of the immigrants came from the parishes near Inverness and Nairn and the parishes that sent the most immigrants are still Moy and Dalarossie and Daviot and Dunlichity.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...