Genealogy Data Entry Techniques

I have been a subscriber of Dick Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter for many years now. One of his articles in today’s edition really struck a cord with me, Genealogy Data Entry Techniques. The article reads:

In the course of a week, I get to see a lot of genealogy data. Some of what I see is abysmal. Many otherwise highly-skilled genealogists do not seem to know that their keyboards have a SHIFT key! Instead, they simply turn on CAPS LOCK and then ignore upper and lower case after that.

Of course, the use of UPPER CASE text has a long history in the computer business. The mainframes of the 1960s and 70s only used upper case text. Data typically was entered on 80-column punch cards. The IBM 026 keypunch machine, the most popular keypunch machine ever built, indeed did not have a shift key and was incapable of entering lower case text.

By the late 1970s, all of this had changed, and data was being entered from computer terminals in normal upper and lower case. However, not everyone got the word. It seems that a number of people do not realize that the keyboards of the twenty-first century have improved since those “stone age” computers of 40 or 50 years ago.

Here are two short examples produced by a popular genealogy program. Which one do you find easier to read?

Example 1:

4. JOSEPH PATRICK KENNEDY, SON OF PATRICK JOSEPH KENNEDY AND MARY AUGUSTA HICKEY, WAS BORN ON 6 SEP 1888 IN BOSTON, MA,2 DIED ON 18 NOV 1969 IN HYANNIS PORT, MA, AT AGE 81, AND WAS BURIED IN HOLYHOOD CEMETERY, BROOKLINE, MA.

GENERAL NOTES: FROM THE TIME HE WAS A SCHOOL BOY HE WAS INTERESTED IN MAKING MONEY. HE HAD AN INTERESTING HOBBY OF TINKERING WITH CLOCKS. JOE WAS A POOR STUDENT, BUT GOOD AT ATHLETICS AND HAD AN ATTRACTIVE PERSONALITY. HE WAS ABLE TO OVERCOME MANY ETHNIC BARRIERS DURING HIS SCHOOL YEARS AT BOSTON LATIN, A PROTESTANT AND PRIMARILY YANKEE SCHOOL. WAS ONE OF THE YOUNGEST BANK PRESIDENTS IN US HISTORY. HE WAS FIERCELY PROUD OF HIS FAMILY. HE WAS QUOTED AS HAVING SAID HIS FAMILY WAS THE FINEST THING IN HIS LIFE. JOE KENNEDY WAS A VERY HARD WORKER, WHICH OFTEN DETERIORATED HIS HEALTH. AT TIMES HE WAS HOSPITALIZED FOR HIS RUN DOWN CONDITION.

Example 2:

4. Joseph Patrick Kennedy, son of Patrick Joseph Kennedy and Mary Augusta Hickey, was born on 6 Sep 1888 in Boston, MA,2 died on 18 Nov 1969 in Hyannis Port, MA, at age 81, and was buried in Holyhood Cemetery, Brookline, MA.

General Notes: From the time he was a school boy he was interested in making money. He had an interesting hobby of tinkering with clocks. Joe was a poor student, but good at athletics and had an attractive personality. He was able to overcome many ethnic barriers during his school years at Boston Latin, a protestant and primarily Yankee school. Was one of the youngest Bank Presidents in US history. He was fiercely proud of his family. He was quoted as having said his family was the finest thing in his life. Joe Kennedy was a very hard worker, which often deteriorated his health. At times he was hospitalized for his run down condition.

I certainly prefer to read the second example. The first one is much more difficult to read – so difficult that I may miss important information.

If you are entering genealogy data, please take pity on the future readers of your text. Please use upper and lower case characters, the same as you learned in grade school. Your fourth-grade teacher probably would have flunked you if you used all upper case in her class. Guess what? I’ll also give you a grade of “F” if I see your genealogy data in all upper case!

Yes, there is a shift key on your computer. In fact, you can probably find two of them. Please use them only when appropriate.

You can read this article and many others on his site Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.  Thank You Dick Eastman.

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