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02 March 2006 @ 01:55 pm
Why Do I Need a Numbering System?  
There has been a lot of discussion on the genealogy mailing lists that I belong to regarding what is the best numbering system. I too have been on the quest for the holy grail of genealogical numbering systems for a long time. A long time ago I decided that I didn't want my numbering system to be RIN or MRIN driven. When you have to restore your database from a GEDCOM you run the chance of all the RINs and MRINs changing. I didn't see the point of putting a RIN or MRIN in the Custom ID or User ID field for an individual. I would be confused having two different sets of numbers for people. Then you have the problem of trying to maintain the numbers. I don't keep all my families in one combined database. I work on them separately. I have a Zamora, Harris, Miller and Weatherwax/Bentley database. I have combine them so I could print pedigrees but I don't really maintain it. With having four separate databases maintaining unique numbers can be a nightmare.

I did try the Dollarhide method which is a combination of Ahnentafel numbers with a descendancy numbering system. I really liked the method until my numbers became so large they didn't fit into the User ID field anymore. The other thing was I was always trying to figure out how someone was related to me. I didn't have a reverse mathematical formula to figure out what that long number meant. That numbering system went by the wayside.

The other thing I "tried" was the color-coding system. I was going to assign my main branches a color and have colored hanging folders and files to match. I even went so far to go out and buy the different colored folders and files. About this the time I found out I have this weird quirk about having all my files match. I hadn't even tried the color-coding system yet when some other red hanging file folders in my cabinet started to drive me nuts. I only had 24 but I didn't have a file group small or large enough to use only 24 files. I couldn't just mix green with red folders and I didn't want to go out and buy more red files. I finally had to give the red folders to my brother and go out and buy the standard green to replace them. I just knew with this quirk of mine having to maintain just the right number of the right color of folders and files would drive me bonkers. I finally just returned the colored folders and files back to Walmart. The color-coded system per-say bit the dust with me.

Now that I look back at that time and my little quirk on matching files I did color-code something of my genealogical files. I once sent my husband to get me some hanging file folders, what were the chances of him finding anything but green, so I thought! He came back with this set of folders with 5 different muted colors of 5 each. Never could find any more of them so I had to think of someway to use them. I split my databases 5 ways my four grandparents lines plus my husband's line. I have five folders for each named: Pedigree Charts, Alpha Index, Localities, Resources, Temple Work. I really use them that way too.

My quest for the holy grail of numbering systems was running short of ideas. There was another method of filing your genealogy papers it's alphabetical. I considered this but realized I am never going to print out my nearly 4,000 families out of my databases and file them alphabetically. Why would I want to do that. Where would I put 4,000 files. How would I maintain and keep current 4,000 files on almost 12,000 people. Furthermore why would I number them uniquely just to print them out and file them. I would be mad to do all that.

The only reason I would want to number or alphabetize people outside of the program is because I printed them out. Now I don't print out people in my database unless I am actively looking for something on that family. Then they are in my research folders I create. I am never going to print everyone out of my database. That's why I have backups of my databases. My research folders are just fine how I have them. Alphabetically filed under the database name they belong to. I don't have zillions of Research folders because that would be to overwhelming. Most of the time I keep my research notes in my Legacy program itself. In the notes field for an individual you have three tabs to work with - Notes, Research, Medical. In the Research field I put my notes on how the research is going and my thoughts of what's next. Legacy also has a wonderful To-Do List to keep track of things I am doing and have done. All this time I was looking for a system, I've been using it without knowing it.

The other thing neat about Legacy is your can record where you put your documents. That is really after all what I want to keep organized is the obits, birth, death, marriage certificates, land records, histories, photos. Legacy will help me assign file IDs to a lot of these records. Every time I use a document as a source I can give it a unique number or let Legacy give me the next number and I can file it and find it later. I have to have unique numbers for my documents and not my people. It's the managing of the papers I find that I need to keep organized and not the people. After all most documents pertain to more than one individual anyways. My genealogy software program can help me do all that. I am so lucky and I didn't even realize it.

Now I still have a little matter of the User ID field in my Legacy program standing blank and waiting for me to fill it in. I found the perfect use for it, and it gives me just what I wanted it to do. You see when I go to the FHL I use RootsWeb to look at my databases. The one thing I always want to know is who is this person to me. What is our relationship. I like to know if they are my 3rd great-grandparent or my 4th cousin once removed. That's another little quirk about me. I wanted my numbering system to tell me that so that's what I decided to have the User ID field do. I put in there a code H3GGF or W4C1R which stands for Harris 3rd Great-Grandfather and Weatherwax 4th Cousin Once Removed. Pretty simple and just the right fit for me. Now I can go on Rootsweb and see those codes and know how someone is related to me. It's so easy to put the codes into my database, I just have the program tell me how we are related and then enter them in using the abbreviations for it. Pretty cool I think. When I have a line like my Uncle Harold's (related by marriage) I just say how that person is related to my Uncle Harold - it works for me.

So now I am happy about my numbering system - I don't have one. Well not for people anyways. Documents I'm going to do some tweaking and maybe play with some systems out there. I've see Clooze and Bygones not sure about them yet. I really like the Paper Tiger method of filing, but I can't afford that. At least my quest for the holy grail of numbering systems is part way answered. I know what I am looking for. I know what I am doing might not work for you but it's an idea. Just make sure you ask yourself - Why Do I Need a Numbering System and it will help you come up with answers of your own.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!
Current Mood: contentcontent
Methodius Hayesmethodius on March 5th, 2006 05:13 am (UTC)
Numbering system
I assume you've read Richard Pence's document on numbering systems, which covers most of the possibilities.

I opted for using RINs when I began using the PAF Research Data Filer (wish they'd do an update) to keep track of paper documents. Just file them numerically, and use the RDF program to keep track of them. Means I can find any source document in seconds (provided I've filed it, of course).

And so I get Legacy to put the RINs in the User ID field. When I split off sections of the main database for research, I can immediately see who's related by looking in the User ID field, which is a reference to that person in the main database.

But the numeric system makes it easier to file. If your stationer has run out of yellow files (or whatever colour), do you wait until they are back in stock before filing? They go into a pending pile on my desk, get shifted off in a clean-up, and when yellow files are available again, I can't find the stuff I wanted to put in them. So I put the yellow files away until I find the stuff, and then when I find the stuff, I can't remember where I put the yellow files :-(