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Do you keep a Master Database?

I just realized it’s been a month since I wrote my last blog. My goal was to cut back from every week, to every other week. It’s been a busy couple of weeks while I work on the arrangements for the October research trip. At the same time, I’ve been working on my own genealogy, a new experience for me! I haven’t done much since the late 90’s. Over the past month I have added or updated over 150 people!

I’m a strong believer in “owning” my genealogy, which means having the master database in software on my computer. I’ve likely mentioned in the past that the problem with my online tree is that early on, I would accept a hint, but never get around to adding it to my master (Reunion) file. That changed a number of years ago, and now, it goes into my master file first, and may (or may not) make it into my Ancestry Tree. I thought at some point I would be able to sync my files, however that would require I change my software. I waited (and waited) for a native Mac version of RootsMagic and when it finally arrived, I found I didn’t have the time (or patience) to learn a new software program. I’ve been using Reunion since the early 1990s. My process now is to view hints, verify they are the correct person and add them to my master file. I also love the ability to have my database on both my iPad and iPhone. When I'm in Ireland, I usually leave my computer in my hotel room and carry my iPad (and iPhone) into the repositories. I have full access to my database, can add notes in my database, or write up summaries in my word processor which I can transfer to my database in the evening. I can also take photographs of any documents I need on my iPhone.

I’m currently focused on families I’ll be researching in October. I’ve been able to collaborate with other researchers who have done a lot more work on the families (thank you❤️). When I add information to my database that came from an online tree, my source citation is just that…[Name of family tree] at (or other online service) submitted by [Name]. To confirm the information I might verify dates at or some other source and add additional sources to my file. Hopefully you know this, but your source citation reflects the location where you found the information. If another tree identifies the source as a birth record, your source must be the person’s tree, not the birth record unless you have personally viewed the record. If the hint came from an online tree, I will always source that first, then continue with my own research. It’s only right to give credit to the person who provided the hint.

I also have been adding all of the collaterals to my database which is helpful when I get a DNA match. If the match has a tree (with more than 1 person😀) I can compare names in my database to see if I can determine where the match might fall. Last year I wrote about the one name study I am doing in Leitrim on the Johnston family. I was able to identify all of the Johnstons in Rossinver parish and have been attempting to connect them. It’s been difficult as there are no church records prior to 1877. Last October in Ireland, I made copies of all of the Revision Books for the townlands in Rossinver Parish where I had identified Johnston families. By following the land, I’ve been able to put some of the families together. Wills or Administrations frequently give relationships. Newspaper articles including some obituaries is another way to match the families. I’m continuing to work on the relationships and have also expanded into parts of Fermanagh. At the time of the partition in 1922, some of my family moved to Fermanagh as it was still part of the United Kingdom.

Last week, a hint from the online tree showed a passenger list with two single male Johnstons traveling together from Londonderry to Montreal in 1914. One was my first cousin 3x removed and this was the first time I was able to connect him to another Johnston from a different townland. The other Johnston was in my database as part of an unconnected island. The method of researching everyone in the family (rather than just looking at your direct ancestors) is referred to as Cluster Genealogy and it can be important in resolving brick walls. Perhaps your ancestor didn’t leave the information you need, such as mother’s maiden name, but one of his siblings did. Identifying siblings that remained in Ireland might provide the connection you need. Your Ireland cousins may have the information from oral history. My connection last October to a cousin in Fermanagh added additional information on my GG grandmother’s sister. This year we’re going to visit the area in Leitrim where the family lived.

If there is a topic relating to Irish research that you would like me to write about, let me know with a comment on the website, or on the social media post.

Happy Hunting!

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