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Double Dates

January 13, 2011

I have noticed recently, while preparing the ‘On this day…’ posts, that sometimes several things happen on the same date.

Many years ago, when I had first started researching my family history, I was a young mother working weekend night shifts as a nurse.  One night I took some of my research in to work with me and spent the time sitting around between ’rounds’ making a hand-written list of dates.  I wrote down every date in a year, from the first of January to the thirty-first of December.  And then I went through my card index, and wrote notable events – births, deaths and marriages (mostly) next to the date on which they occurred, noting the year.

What I found was that there were alot of dates with nothing noted next to them.  And there were alot of dates with multiple entries next to them.  Things happened on the same dates, sometimes decades or a century apart.  And they happened on both sides of my family tree – the maternal and paternal sides, which only have the happy accident of my birth (and that of my siblings) in common.

There are 364/5 days in a year.  There are hundreds and hundreds of ‘events’ in a double sided family history spanning up to eight generations.  And yet there were gaps where nothing happened, and dates where lots of things happened or bunches of dates where things happened, close together and bunches of dates where nothing happened at all.  They were not evenly spread.

This could be partly explained by such things as births happening nine months after Christmas or such significant dates/events.  It could be further explained by deaths happening in the colder months or the hotter months of the year.  These days, where I live, at least, weddings tend to happen in Spring and Autumn, more than in Winter or Summer.

But when bundling all of these events and recording them across the dates of the year, I would still expect them to be evenly spread.

I have recently started a spreadsheet, recording (electronically this time) all the significant events in my family history.  I began doing this for a few reasons.

When I started picking up my family history research again, after many years of barely looking at it, all my information was still stored on a card index, with a card for each person and divided alphabetically by surname.  I started by entering all of that information into a GenesReunited tree.  And that made me happy.

But then as I began finding more and more information online, and storing it on my computer, I was recording it into the online tree, as well as onto the old cards of my card index, and initially into a notebook.  So I needed a filing system on my computer to make things easy to retrieve, my notebook which is a bit of a day by day shambles – purely for note taking on the spot – and then into the online tree as well as onto the cards.

My card index box was already full.  So I had a decision to make.  Either I get some genealogical software or I get myself some new index boxes and cards.  I spent some time pondering this decision and decided to go with the card indexes for now.  Years ago, in the early 1990s, I had entered all my information into a software package, whose name I can’t remember.  It was loaded onto my computer (which is about five computers ago) on five of the old floppy 5.25 inch floppy disks.  They are gone.  And so is the information I loaded into it and the computer with the drive to read those disks.  Luckily, I still had my card index.

I also had charts and forms and files of information.  Some of them got lost and/or damaged in one or other of our various house moves or in storage.  But my one box of cards has gone with me throughout.  And luckily, all of the most important information was stored there, along with a thick file of certificates.

So although I may at some stage decide to try another software package, I will not rely on it solely.  Because I am just not that reliable. And nor is software, or technology – it keeps advancing on  us.  One day when I’m not here any more, someone will want that information.  But they  may not want it straight away.  Hopefully someone will care enough to store it – but if its on my computer – who knows?

So I went out and bought a couple more boxes and a whole heap of cards.  And I’ve been rewriting the cards for my dad’s side of the family.  Most of my research has been on my dad’s side.  I have alot of information for my mum’s side, but most of that has come from my mum’s sister.  So mum’s side will stay in the old box for now.  The new boxes are for my paternal grandparents side, and my maternal grandparents side.

In the process of rewriting the cards, I decided to simultaneously build a spreadsheet.  It’s searchable, its sortable by any of the columns  – year, month, day, surname, first names, event, source information and comments as well as the places, state/county and country that the event took place in.

A portion of my spreadsheet

So if I want to know what happened in  Brighton Victoria (lots did) I can sort it that way.  If I want to know what happened in a particular month I can sort it that way.  And if I want to make a timeline, or chronological sequence, to see what the various branches of my family were doing during a particular time period, I can do it that way.  But best of all, I can see at a glance where the gaps in my information are.  Dates missing, reference notation missing (!), things like that.  And then I can go fill them in – on the spreadsheet, then the cards, then the GenesReunited tree.  And if I want to, I can make charts and graphs 🙂

Things become obvious, when you can sort/list them this way.  It is with this spreadsheet that I realised that in at least two families, on either side of my paternal family tree, daughters have married on their parent’s wedding anniversaries.  Although I’d known those dates for many years, and written them down and entered them numerous times, I had never twigged that it was the same date, twenty-something years apart.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. comicstar permalink*
    January 13, 2011 11:31 am

    There are 365/6 days in a year 🙂

    I wish we still had a computer with a FLOPPY disc reader. Did you know Sony, who invented them, only recently stopped making little floppies? That was a sad day.

    The spreadsheet is an awesome idea. Well done, Mummy 🙂

Trackbacks

  1. Post A Day Update – January 2011 « Michelle's Heritage
  2. Genealogy software for Mac « Michelle's Heritage

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