Q & A – Collecting Data for One-Name & Surname Studies

Created by Julie Goucher – Feb 2020 Using Wordclouds.com

I recently received an email from someone at the beginning of their One-Name or Surname Study. The email contained several questions, which I am going to split into four posts. This is post one.

The first questions is concerned with data collection or gathering.

“I am just beginning to expand data collection from my own family and I want to get things right from the beginning. Do you use software, Excel or genealogical software”

Firstly, there is no “right way” to start a study, there is only your way.

Now let us go back a step and I am going to list a few questions that are worthy of contemplation before you begin in earnest, because those answers will enable you to move forward.

  • Watch the recording I recently did for the Guild (click the image below) download the accompanying Handout – What to look at that suits your study
  • As you begin your study, consider how to you might want to share you material
  • Consider the preservation of your study.
Copyright Julie Goucher, 2021 – Slide Template by Slide Carnival
  • Are you planning to have a separate database for your One-Name material which may  include your own link to the family, or do you plan to simply have a file for your study, and your family in a separate file? Let me share my approach as an example:
    • I use family history software and I have two files, one for my family and one for my study.
    • I have a Guild of One-Name Studies Website Project site for each of my studies and both sites use TNG, which is a piece of software that effectively takes a GEDCOM file and displays it in a clear and worthy appearance for viewers.
    • Both of my files are kept within my genealogical software, and I upload both of those files as GEDCOM files to my website. Anyone visiting the site and searching is able to search each file which are called  Trees individually, or all trees.
    • Having made those decisions let us look at my approach to collecting data, again offered as an example.
      • Firstly, there is not perhaps a single method of collecting data. For me there is a varying approach depending on where the material is located:
      • I might see instances of my surnames in books and want to capture that material, in which case I either add it to my notebook, along with the information of the book as the citation, and the date I accessed the book (and where the book is located).
      • If I come across material online, depending on the way the material is presented capture the information which includes the URL and the date I saw the information and add copy it to either an Excel file (or similar spreadsheet) or a word document. It remains in that software, which I use as a holding pen until the material is entered into my genealogical database.
      • I also enter the material into my research log, identifying any further tasks into my to do list.
      • Some Guild members, locate material and enter it immediately into their database, missing my holding pen approach. They capture the citation etc at the same time.
      • Try both methods, which one do you prefer? Don’t forget to try with a variety of material.

We discuss this and much more in the Practicalities of a One-Name Study course.

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in Genealogy, Introduction to One-Name Studies (Pharos course 901), One-Name Studies, Practicalities of a One-Name Studies (Pharos Course 903), Q & A. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Q & A – Collecting Data for One-Name & Surname Studies

  1. BookerTalk says:

    Good point about the scenario where the individual is a “notable” figure. I tend to write about them in the blog rather than add them to my database. Food for thought on whether that is the right course.

    I’m thinking of having one “holding” spreadsheet – copying the singletons from other datasheets to that so I just have one place to find them. I might find over time that it gets big and unwieldy just because of the geo spread. But it will be a starting point. I’ll just capture Name, Event, Location. Date, Source and then in notes reference any other relevant info

    Looking forward to seeing another post on this!


  2. BookerTalk says:

    I’ve been thinking over your approach in the last few days. Your holding pen concept links to what I remember you telling me ages ago about individuals waiting at the train station. Some one namers out their individuals on the train as soon as they enter the station, you make yours wait on the platform.

    The ‘rule” i’ve been following is that mine only get on the train (ie, added to my family tree programme) if I can connect them to at least one other person, but preferably more than one. Could be a parent, sibling, child. But I don’t have any single seats on my train!

    My problem comes with those single passengers. I have many spreadsheets specific to a dataset (census etc) but for those I find in a newspaper report I don’t have anywhere to keep the info. So now I’m thinking I should have a spreadsheet just for those miscellaneous findings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen, At the beginning of my study I struggled dreadfully with the single individuals in my study, more so with my Orlando study, because of access to material is a bit more challenging compared to my Butcher Study.

      Let’s go back a step. As genealogists, we work from what we know, adding material to our tree when we are confident that we have the “right” person and that person connects to someone in our family or ancestry.

      With a One-Name (or any other study) we do focus, and include all those random people. The approach means we either find something that means we link random people to someone else or perhaps to a fact that we have done research on.

      The reality is, that it is likely that we have an individual (and probably more than one) with whom we know of no other individuals that are connected to them, but we have other key information, perhaps they were a member of parliament for a nation, an actor, or played a key role in a military event for example.

      If the body of information relating to that person is substantial, then perhaps it is worth adding them to the database and publishing it. Meanwhile, we become focused on that individual, as we try and establish more data, building their life up – for example I recently found an Orlando in records from WWII, where the individual was in a POW camp, and provided the place of birth as Sutera, without doubt they connect to my own family, but I was unable immediately do determine whether they slotted in because there were several people with identical names and born in the same year. Publishing what I know, and as the individual is deceased, using the database and a blog post to potentially connect with others who might be doing a Google search for example.

      Over the years, I have tweaked my “holding pen” spreadsheet, reducing the number of the worksheets, otherwise you run the risk of having 20 spreadsheets holding perhaps one or two individuals each. I might create a post on this next week, if that helps – I have very few fields:
      Name, Event, Date, Source, Notes, Citation and URL (if applicable)


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