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  1. #1
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    Default One name studies..advice please

    Having reached an impasse with research into my paternal surname line (and been there for several years now) I was wondering whether to start a one name study for the UK county where my paternal ancestors came from. It occurs to me that such a study will almost certainly show me ancestral connections I wasn't previously aware of and I have just re-subscribed to Ancestry which has the best online records for that County. I am therefore seeking advice from anyone who has carried out such a study on how best to start. I would greatly prefer to be able to do most of it online because I am unlikely to be able to travel to the local records office which is a long way from my home. The surname is not a particularly common one but I understand that I will still find lots of hits i.e. lots of data to store and sort.

    I could carry out a general search using the specific name but that will produce a mass of unorganised data. I have FH software and could start an extended tree but my feeling is that this would be completely disjointed for quite some time and connections might be obscured therefore. Another approach I've used before without intending to do an ONS is to use a spreadsheet to record information such as places of BMD, dates, names etc. When I did this in the past I was able to spot connections and colour code them in family groups so this might work again.

    However, there are likely to be well-tried and proven strategies that I should use instead and if so I'd appreciate the wisdom of ONS posters on what has worked well for them. Sometimes I believe that starting down one route turns out not to have been the most efficient way but having started it seems too hard to start again. I haven't yet started so you may be able to stop me from falling into that trap.
    "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Edmund Burke

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Sue Mackay's Avatar
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    You might find some help or information from the Guild of One Name Studies at https://one-name.org/
    Sue Mackay
    Insanity is hereditary - you get it from your kids

  3. #3
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    Thanks Sue. I had the same idea. Their aspirations are far greater than mine in that to join them you have to make your study global. However, I will continue to Google the subject as well.
    "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Edmund Burke

  4. #4
    Brick wall demolition expert!
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    Tony

    I haven't done an official one name study, but I did try to identify the parents of an ancestor who was born in the early 19th century, and whose surname has evolved over time such that including transcription errors there are about 20 different versions. Indeed one group of siblings who were his grandchildren chose different ways to spell the same surname.

    So I knew that they were all from the same county, and from looking at censuses, I was pretty sure that there were as a minimum 3 unconnected family groups, so I decided to have a go at connecting these groups. To do that I used Excel, and I think that if you are familiar with spreadsheets, that's a good place to start, because of the ability to include as many fields as you want, and to sort.

    Through doing that whilst I haven't managed to find the elusive parents, (although there may be a clue in a document which I discovered in the on line catalogue of the county's record office, but which of course I can't visit), I have managed to flesh out siblings of the line that I descend from.

    My advice to you would be:

    1.Work with a format that you are familiar and comfortable with. That includes not only the software, but how you lay it out. You know how you work better than anyone else.

    2.Include far more fields that you might at first imagine, because its very easy later on to think something like "I wish I had separate fields for first and second names", or "I wish I could sort by month" etc. If you have such 'second thoughts' you either have to abandon them or go back and edit the work that has already been done. Empty fields can be removed at a later date.

    3. Keep track of where your source information comes from.

    4. Take your time.

    Good luck.

  5. #5
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    Thanks Megan

    I am comfortable using Excel at a fairly basic level so my first thought was certainly in that direction. I am also open to the challenge of improving my knowledge of that software to make it more powerful for my purposes. I started to scribble some field headings and then wondered whether it would be important for me to use different columns to separate more than one forename for example. I couldn't see why I would have to sort on both but I now agree with you that it is easier to start with that possibility rather than try to add the ability to a large worksheet later.

    The biggest problem is the potential size of a spreadsheet....not so much in relation to software or laptop capacity but more display space. I could see myself scrolling all the time (I use a 13" laptop so visible screen size is limited).

    Excel is not a relational database unlike FH software, so I would probably use different sheets for categories like births, baptisms, marriages, burials, deaths and censuses etc. I'm not sure that I know how or even whether it's possible to search an Excel spreadsheet across multiple sheets to find corresponding data, which brings me back to my initial request. Is it best to do a series of searches on my preferred name for each of the above categories in the entire County, or to try to narrow the searches down in bite-sized chunks to towns and villages (which seems to me to embrace the possible pitfall of missing some entries because I've narrowed my search parameters too much)? My instinct says go large firstly.
    "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Edmund Burke

  6. #6

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    I am running a One Place Study rather than a ONS, but some of the problems are similar. I have ended up with a set of databases representing different sources (eg census, baptisms, etc). I have ended up, also, with 2 databases based on the same data - one contains everything and the other works as an index to the other (cuts down the horizontal scrolling). I made it by copy/pasting from the original, big one and contains names of individuals, names of parents, event year or estimate, and place. New stuff gets added to both databases, at the end, so that the entry number in the “index” acts as a page number for the main database.

    It took several days to set up, but I have found it very convenient since.

    Don’t underestimate the amount that people moved around,or their creativity in “flexible spelling”. In my own family tree, I have a baptism where the family name is spelled 3 ways in one entry!

    Good luck!

  7. #7
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    There was something called The Surname Society which might suit your needs better than the Guild.

    I've no idea whether it's still in existence.

  8. #8
    Brick wall demolition expert!
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    Tony

    I think that the idea of having separate sheets is a good one, although I would probably combine births and baptisms on the same sheet with a field identifying what the date represents, and similarly for deaths and burials.

    I think that you are right about going large first of all because you can always eliminate things that don't fit. For instance if you researching a working class family, and you come across a solicitor they are unlikely to be related.

    I don't know what date you are starting from, but I started with the 1851 census because (a) I knew the entries that are "mine", and (b) its the first one that definitively shows family groups. To each family group that appear I allocated a reference number, and then when I found an entry anywhere else (e.g. baptisms) that I was certain belonged to that group I added the family group reference to that baptism record.

    But one note of caution would be not to have lots of different files (sheets in Excel are fine), because with different files you have to remember that you have them, and then keep updating each one as you find an entry somewhere else. Over time I have forgotten just what I have, which comes from a tendency to overcomplicate matters!

    Megan

  9. #9

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    You have probably thought of this, but make sure that you have everything in off-pc backups.
    My pc died in the middle of a software backup last month. Stone cold. Fortunately, my backup was only a few weeks old, and most of what I'd done during those weeks was one a work external drive, but I have still lost some rather nice photos.

    And I thought I was well covered....

  10. #10
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    So much useful advice! Thank you all.

    Peter the Surname Society, which I'd never heard of before, still exists. I plan to read their website later.

    Megan, thanks again. I can see that the idea of starting with the 1851 census makes so much sense because starting with family groups will enable me to go backwards with better knowledge of how the jigsaw might fit together.

    Lesley I think that mine would probably be a One Name One Place study. Never thought about it like that before. Such a simple mind I have! I agree that backing up is vital. I use a Mac and a few software iterations ago they changed file format. I had been backing up stuff to an external hard drive based on their earlier file format and after they introduced Big Sur my backups were taking hours so I decided to partition the external drive, format it to take the new file system and back up to there to speed things up. The first back up after doing that seemed to go well so I did another which failed. Utter panic! Long story short, I had to remove the partition with the last backup, re-partition and try again. Fortunately it worked so hopefully the next one will too.

    cheers
    Tony
    "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Edmund Burke

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