Casefile Clues

09 March 2014

Putting People in Pools

Some sites allow researchers to tie people to trees. Some allow researchers to temporarily store items of interest in a shoebox to sort through later. Others allow researchers to dump all the undesired results in a box of hidden people, never to be seen again. Instead of trees, shoeboxes, and hidden results I wish the online sites allowed us to create pools.

Trees force us to tie records to specific people, people who are usually tied to other people via relationships. I prefer not to tie people together until I am "reasonably" certain they are the same person. Untying records from people sometimes is not easy for some and for me, tying records to people prematurely is something I simply do not like to do. Shoeboxes serve a purpose, but mine tends to be a big dumping ground that resembles a bunch of receipts at tax time-all thrown together. Ignored results are in "one big box of ignored people" with no organization to it. How do I find all those people I ignored when searching for a Benjamin Butler that I now would like to go through again? It would be nice if the shoebox and undesired results could be somehow organized. I don't want to have to tie every record that I might need later to someone in a tree.

In fact, I don't often organize my research in "trees." Trees are used after I've got things reasonably figured out--not while I'm still figuring it out.

My research is often done in pools.

For years I was "stuck" on my Ira Sargent. There were several Iras who were contemporaries in Iowa and Illinois in the later 1800s and early 1900s. I never dreamed there would be so many. These Iras were born in the 1840s or so and in the same general area of New York, Canada, and Michigan. I may eventally discover that they are distantly related to each other and it's always possible that I prematurely eliminate a match. I knew a few of the entries were for my Ira (given what I knew about him), but not all could be him--no one can be in five census enumerations for the same year. As my research progressed, I couldn't be certain for all of the entries which Ira they were. But I couldn't tie them to specific Iras. I just knew that they were Iras and that a few were certainly mine, others might be mine, and others certainly weren't.

I put them in a pool....an Ira pool. Originally I wasn't certain how to sort out the various census references and other iems into specific Iras. I knew that all the references were to an Ira. I didn't want to tie them to one Ira in a tree. What would have been nice if I could have saved them in some sort of online "Ira pool" of matches.

That's how I research and organize. Back in the day, I made cards for each entry I had on Ira in a census or other record. I could re-arrange the cards into little "pools" on a table.

  • My Ira pool
  • The Clayton County, Iowa Ira pool
  • The Mason County, Illinois Ira pool
  • Who knows which Ira, but I don't want to lose them, pool

Stacks may be a better word, but pools makes a better metaphor. I use pools and I think many other genealogists do as well.

Like most people, I work on more than one family at once. A shoebox with all items of interest can contain too many people and may easily contain "hopefuls" for completely different people on which I am working. I'd like to be able to have pools in my shoebox were I could put my "Ira matches," my "Benjamin Butler matches" and separate them from other people I have added to my shoebox. The shoebox doesn't have to have pools, but it sure could have folders that would serve the same purpose.

I'd like to organize my "ignore" people as well on sites that has that feature. Something that would allow me to set up pools (ok, folders) in a fashion like this:

  • Ignored while searching for Ira Sargent
  • Ignored while searching for Benjamin Butler
  • Ignored while searching for Philip Troutfetter
  • Ignored and never want to see again
I don't swim, but I sure wish the major websites would allow me to play in the pool.