What is your favorite analytical “tool”?

In a previous post I talked about an analytical “toolbox.”  It is time to revisit that toolbox and see what else might be in it.

My current favorite analytical tool is the table feature of my word processing program!

I “see” things more easily when I present them graphically.  Using a table for comparison or organizing data allows me to quickly assess all the information holistically and make better decisions to eliminate or keep certain options.

Here are four examples of how I have recently used a table for analysis:

  1. Example 1:  my Ida Berg marries Friedrick Eiler(s).  There seems to be numerous Friedricks that fit “sort of” but there are not enough known details to isolate the correct one.  I have set up a table with Ida’s timeline in the first column and separate columns for each likely Friedricks (there seem to be four).  I put the known information in each to see if it matches up.  So far, there is not enough information to eliminate anyone but I haven’t made any rash decisions either.  I have posted the link to the very incomplete document below.
  2. Example 2:  I have multiple possibilities for the Irish immigrant Mary Coyne.  All look good, but which one is “my” Mary Coyne?  a comparison of the passenger manifests for three Mary Coynes reveals that at least two are the same person and maybe all three!
  3. Example 3:  I have a family that is enumerated twice in the same census.  A table allows me to compare the households for any extra clues that the dual enumeration reveals.  Close examination reveals that two radically different spellings of the surname were enumerated, one in each census, confirming the identity of the individual in spite of different spellings.
  4. Example 4: There are two married women who I think are related.  They both are from a culture that practices strict given name naming practices for children.  The table compared the two sets of children, revealing the high probability that the two women were sisters.

Berg Eilers analysis

So, sometimes I use a table to compare two or more groups that I think are related; sometimes I use the table to eliminate options and sometimes I use the table to contrast information.  In my experience, a table magnifies both similarities and divergences and makes each more obvious.   A table is especially helpful when trying to sort out options for kinship determinations.

How has a table helped you?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  presented the draft book to Stephanie* and she really liked it!  She made lots of suggestions which I will incorporate.  I also have been reading more of the NGS Magazine (I want to read the entire series on military records as I am weak in this area.)  I found out that Ida Berg Eilers did not get a divorce in Stephenson County, IL.  Tomorrow I hope to find out if she got one in Winnebago Co. IL.  I am getting ready to go on the genealogy cruise to Alaska!  WooHoo.

*  In my contract with my clients I inform them that I will use their work as examples in my blog and use only their first names; they can opt out if they wish.  So far, no one has.