Well, I’ve done it! It may be a big mistake… or, it may be the start of something much better. I have begun the process of pruning my RootsMagic database. And a drastic pruning it is. Here are the before and after stats:
That’s right, I pruned 4448 people out of my primary RootsMagic 5 database. A database of 575 people is about right for sampling desktop and online software programs. It hardly seems like a fair assessment of what 30+ years of genealogical ‘lurking’ and collecting, plus 4 years of serious work, would amount to. Was my research so bad (or so lacking) that not much was worth preserving? Or did I do the genealogical equivalent of drinking the Jim Jones Kool-Aid?
In the interest of full disclosure, I have not “folded, spindled, or mutilated” my original, primary RM5 database. I still have copies (both RM5 and GEDCOM) on my 1TB external hard-drive, dropbox, a DVD, and BackUpMyTree.com. I am not abandoning that data. What I am doing is trying to preserve some integrity for the work I have already done and the work I will continue to be doing. Here is my strategy and my process.
I began my pruning at the point in my RM5 database where there was as much supposition and guess-work as there was hard data. In some cases, the data pruned was rather ‘soft’ — that is, lifted from online, undocumented trees. In many instances, I have had some good, but partial, data. The online trees seemed to confirm and extend my data, often to the point where it was pure supposition. I kept saying to myself that I was preserving the data as “clues” for further research. In most cases, I never got around to doing the future research to make the data (and conclusions) mine. Now, with all that data in what used to be my primary database, I will rename it to reflect that the data in it is just the starting point for future research. Some of that data represents solid research by other genealogists, but I don’t necessarily have all the documentation that help me confirm that it is appropriate for my database. A couple of genealogists have shared the fruits of their labors with me. One has traced the lineage of my 3g-grandmother, Johanna Catarina Venninger, back 12 generations in Germany. I received a wonderful packet of printed materials from him, mostly following work he did using the resources of FHL. Another trace the lineage of my g-grandmother, Mary Ellen Cole, back about 26 generations in England. He provided me with two CDs – one with copies of the pertinent Family Group Sheets; the other with copies of 45 documents (and correspondence) relating to the presence of the Coles in America.
The major pruning of my RM5 database related to the Cole lineage. I had added a lot of data from downloaded GEDCOM files. There were not only data from the 26 generations of direct line Cole (Coale) families, but thousands of collaterals. It was all the collateral families that provided the impetus to prune and prune drastically. My pruned RM5 database basically goes back just 4 or 5 generations for each of my wife’s and my family lines. I have been slowly moving evidence into master sources and source details in RootsMagic5. When that is done for the primary individuals among the 575 persons in the new RM5 database, I will return to my old RM5 database for the purpose of generating new To-Do lists and Goals for further research. As evidence gathers, I hope to be able to drag and drop individuals and families from my research-hint database to my new primary database.
I was feeling pretty good when I could say that my genealogy database had over 5000 people in it. I know that such an amount pales in comparison with those who have databases with 10-, 20-, 30-, or 40-thousand entries. But I could hold my head up high with my database growing toward 6000 entries. But what am I to do now? Do I admit that my years of collecting and researching have only netted a paltry 575 confirmed entries? You know what!?! I think I can. I am much more satisfied about the results of my genealogy with a solid 575 entries than with a wimpy 5023. Sometimes, LESS is more.