After my comments about standardizing “on the boat” in “RootsTech: Ron Tanner – Looking Back at Family Tree,” a reader had a follow-up question. I’ve reread my comment in that article and I disagree with myself. I’m liking the approach of the lady in the class, and here’s why:
Dear Ancestry Insider,
So what should we do for a “death at sea”? I would have thought recording the next port of call would be the correct answer, but what does Family Tree want us to record? What about born at sea?
In my opinion, when you are asked to specify the location of an event, you should specify the location of the event.
But you’re on the right track thinking about ports. My initial reaction in class that day was “No! If all you know is that it occurred “on the boat,” then don’t make things up! Especially don’t make things up to satisfy the bad behavior of a computer program!” Now I’m thinking the lady in class had given it more thought than I had.
Like any good genealogist, you’re going to follow the genealogical proof standard. You won’t be relying on that single source that states nothing more than “at sea.” You’ll find indirect evidence that will enable you to say something more specific like, “In the North Atlantic, approximately 600 miles en route from Liverpool, England to New York, United States.” Then you’re going to write up how you came about that conclusion. Where indirect evidence is involved, your explanation might be longer than a short proof statement that you could put in the Family Tree Reason Statement. If your explanation is only a couple of paragraphs (what we might call a proof summary) you would save it in a Family Tree Note and reference it in the Reason Statement. If you’re obsessive compulsive like me, by the time you include citations to the passenger manifests and passenger accounts and sailing schedules and weather reports and death records created by corporations and governments, and by the time you explain how you got as specific as you did, you may find it easier to use a word processor. Then you’re going to save it as a PDF and upload it to Family Tree as a source Document that you reference in the Reason Statement.
Will Family Tree “like” that location? Sure it will! You won’t find it in the list of standardized localities, but Family Tree is designed to accept non-standard locations. It will show you its best guess as to a standardized location. And there is a chance it will standardize to something on the other side of the planet. But if it does, ignore it. Stand your ground. Don’t contort the location just so the standardized place isn’t absurd. That’s FamilySearch’s problem to fix, not yours.
Okay, okay. So you’re not as compulsive as me and you’re heads down on finding a new cousin instead of over refining old information. The principles still apply. Specify the location of the event as closely as your evidence allows, and don’t let the computer bully you.
---The Ancestry Insider