I estimate I have approximately twenty thousand or so record hints on four major, online genealogy programs. Some of those thousands of record hints might be extremely valuable in extending my ancestral lines. The only practical way to advance my research is to focus on one person at a time and evaluate and add the sources for each person, essentially one at a time. The problem is that I do not know which of the thousands of hints and thousands of people they apply to are vital to the objective of extending my research. In addition, I would have to move the information, one field at a time in order to consolidate the information from all four programs.
Guess what? Presently, despite the tremendous computer programs that provide these record hints, there in no efficient way to either review and evaluate them or transfer them to a central consolidation program. In fact, it is very likely that I do not have enough time left on earth to process all of these record hints. What can I do to resolve this predicament?
I have been analyzing this issue as I watch the numbers of record hints mount skyward. At the moment, my only alternative is to ignore this avalanche of information and continue with my present research objectives. The only thing I can do is to check each of the programs for any data relevant to my research objectives. Essentially, each of those record hints, no matter how seemingly helpful, is really little more than a distraction.
In addition in those programs that match me with potential relatives, I likely have close to 100,000 potential matches in other online family trees. I cannot even begin to think about how to handle those additional invitations to ignore my present research objectives and start off on a tangent.
Can this issue be resolved by me? Not at this time. What is needed is a way of ranking my own research objectives. I need to be able to prioritize research hints and "watch" or receive notices for only those hints that fall within parameters I set for investigating my ancestors. For example, suppose I am investigating the "Parkinson Line" (which I am, by the way) I should be able to set some preferences that says I only want record hints for this line or this group of people. I should be able to modify and add individuals to my "research objective group" at any time, but meanwhile, I only get record hints that are relevant to that defined group. My experience tells me that right now, I would not be getting any or more likely, a very small number of record hints. If I moved my attention to another line, I could then redefine the watch group and glean only those record hints that pertained to the new research objective. In addition, I need a what to quickly and efficiently move all the information I find in all of the programs into one central collection program of my choice.
Given the fractured nature of the online, commercial, genealogical community, I see no way that this solution will become available. So my only strategy is to create the filtering system artificially, by ignoring all the record hints on all the programs unless they are directly in my research path. Yes, I am wasting the vast potential of the programs but do I have a choice? The only other alternative is to randomly jump from individual to individual as I see record hints and spend all my time ploughing the field over and over again. In effect, I feel like the sorcerer's apprentice, I did get my wish, but now I am drowning in the data.
As I utilize the various programs I will continue to pick off record hints for people I am reviewing, but meanwhile, I will stick to my pre-defined research objectives and harvest only those record hints for the lines I am investigating. I fully realize that there may be valuable information I need to know waiting for me, but if I jump around any more than I regularly do, I will make no progress at all.
What is needed?
To summarize, we need a very effective and easy way to transfer information between programs. I also need a way to establish research goals and set filters that will alert me only to record hints on my pre-defined objectives. I don't want much, do I?
The last word, I fully realize that I find myself in a very, almost unique position. Some researchers would be glad for any record hints. Some reading this post probably don't have any idea what I am talking about. But to those of you out there that see the problem, perhaps you have some additional insight that might help me and the few others that have this problem.