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Oct 2022 Research Tip of the Month: Using Consistent Terminology

10/28/2022 2:21 PM | Ron Gallagher (Administrator)

Topic: Using Consistent Terminology

2022, October (Vol. V, No. 9)

Contributor: Marlene Englander, JGSC Member

If you are like I am, you are thrilled when you find information from an online resource relevant to someone on your tree. With enhancements to technology, combined with the fact that most of us likely are keeping our trees somewhere on a computer, the thrill of just clicking the information right into our tree can be exhilarating. How often, after you do that, do you look to see exactly where that information went? Did the resource from which you took this information put the important details in the same place where you would want them? Did they spell, or otherwise name or abbreviate, information the same way you do? It's always good practice to slow down and see what happened and to make any editing changes at that time. Also, if you are syncing your tree to another place, you may want to see how it looks there, too (e.g., Syncing a desktop Family Tree Maker tree to

Whether you are copy/pasting data into your tree, merging, or uploading someone else's tree into yours, you want to be sure your data is consistent. If you find you later want to run a report on a specific detail, you will be happy you took the time to do this. As good as "googling" is, results are usually better if you have used controlled terminology.

For example, how do you cite Cleveland? I have seen many variations, including:

  • Cleveland, OH
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States of America
  • Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio, USA, etc.

Which one are you using? Do you check that newly entered data matches your preferences?

I recently visited a cemetery and wanted to bring a list of everyone in my tree who was buried there. Since my burial terminology is consistently formatted, I was able to create a list and further sort it by Section, Row and Grave number so I could easily find the graves I was interested in. Without this consistency, my family tree program would not have been able to create a list quite as precisely.

Take a step back from entering data, and “clean up” your fields. You will be glad you did, and people who later use your information will be glad you did, too!

Next month's tip: Finding a Lost Branch of the Family

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