Saturday, June 11, 2011

Strays databases and indexes

Some family history societies have collected indexes of "strays" - people whose records are found in unexpected places, without any local links. So, for example, someone who died or was buried far from home, or a family that stayed in a place for only a short time and then moved on, would be listed as a stray, and the index might help people in other places with "missing" family members. These societies often have a "strays coordinator" to maintain the index, do lookups and so on. See, for example, here, here and here.

I am involved in a number of genealogy mailing lists hosted by Yahoogroups, and one of the facilities they offer is the creation of databases by members.

I am thinking of creating a database for people to record strays on these sites, and thought I would ask for advice on what to include in such a database, especially from those who may have had some experience of strays indexes.

The Yahoogroups databases are limited to 10 fields, so one needs to give some thought to what should go in them. I am thinking of the following:

  1. Name of the principal person (Surname, Firstnames)
  2. Date (of record or event, in YYYY-MM-DD format)
  3. Place (of record or event)
  4. Place of origin of the person (if mentioned)
  5. Relations of the person (if mentioned)
  6. Source (newspaper, tombstone, church record etc.)
  7. Notes (any other information about the person or record)
  8. Informant (name of person who entered record, and contact info)
  9. Date record entered.

But people who have more experience of strays indexes might have better ideas, and that is what I am soliciting now.

The data from Yahoogroups databases can be downloaded in comma-delimited format, for importing into other databases, spreadsheets etc. It can also be filtered, so that only records meeting certain criteria can be downloaded. This would make it possible to combine data from strays lists in different Yahoo groups into a central database, or to be sent to strays coordinators in various places.

I wonder if there is a coordinator of strays coordinators -- a kind of super coordinator, or if there has been any discussion of standards for strays databases? I have no desire to reinvent the wheel, so if there is such a standard, I'd like the proposed strays databases to adhere to it as closely as possible.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

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