A Mystery Solved – Augustus Edwin Austin


 Augustus Edwin Austin was my great grandfather. I know from his death certificate that he died from a cerebral hemorrhage (brain bleed) that resulted from a cranial fracture. i knew that he died at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. My understanding, based on various comments, was that the injury was sustained elsewhere, possibly in Idaho, but I could not prove this. I had no idea why he wouldn’t have been hospitalized before returning to Utah. I also had no idea what the nature of the accident (I assumed it was an accident) was that could lead to such an injury. 

I tried Google, looking for Augustus Edwin Austin and accident, but to avail. When that didn’t work, I tried turning to newspaper archives but didn’t make much more progress. I found death notices and the cause of death, but no details. In retrospect, one mistake I made was searching for information about an accident. He wasn’t injured in an accident, it was assault. 

I learned this through another archive (this time using MyHeritage.com. Here’s what I found:

Ed Austin Dies, Third Victim in a Row over a Robe 
Kalispell -Oct. 6 (AP) – Edward Augustus Austin, who died at Salt Lake City yesterday, was struck over the head at Kila, Aug. 17 by Dan “Dody” Duncan after the latter had shot and killed Bud Neas and Russell Austin. 

Edward Austin was in a hospital here until September 11, when he was discharged. His physician said that he lost the  sight in one eye and that a fractured skull received in the beating could have produced the death at Salt Lake City.
The fatal shooting and beating climaxed a quarrel over the ownership of a cowhide robe.

Authorities said Duncan was pummeled by Russell Austin and retaliated by shooting him and Neas and beating Edward Austin with the weapon.

Now that is some story! I still don’t know who any of these other people were, even Russell Austin. I’m not sure what the “row” was. That’s a word that almost makes it sound like a bar fight. I’d expect a mugging, but it sounds like there was quite a fight, involving several people. It could have been almost anywhere: in a home, a business, camp. Anywhere. We may never know the details, but this certainly adds character Edwin Austin (and yes, that is his correct name). 

About John Woodhouse

John Woodhouse

John Woodhouse

John Woodhouse was born in Adwick Le Street, Yorkshire, England (near Doncaster). He was taught the trade of tailoring by his father, though he was the first of his family to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon church) in 1848. The rest of his family followed him, and they emigrated to the states on the ship “Ellen” in 1851. It departed Liverpool January 8, 1851, arriving in New Orleans March 14. This was one of the last several LDS Pioneer ships to sail to New Orleans, perhaps due to high morality due to disease. Later ships (from Europe) typically sailed to New York.

They first settled in St. Louis Missouri where his father died, apparently while working in Illinois. His brother Norman also died in St. Louis, but the rest of the family would travel west in 1852 with the Jepson company at age 21 (departing May 29, 1852 and arriving in September 10.)

John Woodhouse lived to be 86, when he died September 10, 1916 in Lehi, Utah after being struck by a train during a late night walk.


Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com? It’s not clear. 

Should you choose Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com for online genealogy research? Of these two services, Ancestry.com advertises the most aggressively, is the better known of the two, and has an edge in the attractiveness and usability of the online tools it offers. Ancestry also claims to offer the the greatest number of records online, and from what I can tell, this appears to be true. Both Ancestry and MyHeritage offer the same basic resources for vital records such as birth and marriage records, census data and so forth, but there are types of records that are not yet available through MyHeritage. All in all, they both offer impressive repositories, and to cut to the chase, I think they are both perfectly viable options. I have used, and will probably contine to make use of, both of them. 

Of course, there are disadvantages to Ancestry.com, too. The desktop tool, Family Tree Maker, is not free, though it is reasonably priced. By contrast, MyHeritage.com offere a free tool called Family Tree Builder. To me (a Mac user), it feels a little clunky, particularly if you run it under OS X using Wine. But it offers validation tools not available, at least as a report, in Family Tree Maker. It also gives you the opportunity to export data in the form of spreadsheets. With Family Tree Maker, your only option is GEDCOM 5.5, and your data is otherwise pretty much locked up. On the plus side, MyHeritage.com offers superior integration with FamilySearch.org, the family history site operated by the LDS church and with GENi World Tree. With MyHeritage, you can extract data from both of these services with suitable source citations. With Ancestry.com, you do get matches against FamilySearch.org as historical records (in their terminology, which is a bit misleading in my opinion). 

Another area where Ancestry.com has an advantage is in the handling of multimedia. First, it makes it easier to discover photos and images and to include them in your database. You can do this with MyHeritage.com, too, but the process is not as well integrated with the software. Another really nice feature of Ancestry.com is that it saves digital images of your source documents when available. I find this very useful, and have often opened these files, either to validated indexed data or because I was looking for additional information. Having ready access to digital images is a huge boon, though it can really add to the size of your database. 

That brings us to the topic of bugs and design problems. Both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com have iOS apps, and of the two, I like the Ancestry.com app much better. It offers many more features and makes research a lot easier. You can search using the MyHeritage.com app using their Super Search pane, and you can edit records, but that’s pretty much it. One unfortunate thing about the Ancestry app is that it doesn’t add proper source citations. It does include a hyperlink so that you can go into Family Tree Maker later and add the source citation later, but I can’t understand why the app doesn’t do this. I consider this a bug, and hope that it will be addressed in a future version. 

So, what is the conclusion here? I don’t think there is a clear winner, and I actually use both, though it is certainly an inconvenience to do so. Beyond that, neither service is free. They do offer free accounts, but there are either limits on the records you have access to, the size of your database, or both. If you’re LDS and doing family history research for religious reasons, you may find MyHeritage.com a bit easier, and may wish to look at Roots Magic, but beyond that, I can’t make a clear recommendation for one rather than the other. 

The Death of Charles Woodhouse

Charles Woodhouse's ViolinCharles Woodhouse, my third great grandfather was a tailor living in Adwick Le Street, Yorkshire, England. His son, John Woodhouse, who is my second great grandfather, was converted to the LDS (or Mormon) church when he was nineteen. His entire family joined, and they would eventually travel from Liverpool to New Orleans on the emigrant ship Ellen, followed by  seven day journey by riverboat to St. Louis, Missouri. John Woodhouse and most of the family would travel by covered wagon (in the Jepson Company) to Salt Lake City. But Charles died in a drowning accident, recorded, almost in passing, by John Woodhouse in his pioneer journal (on p. 20):
During our stay in St. Louis my brother Charles had a severe sickness his living through it was a marvel. We lost our youngest brother Norman, and my father was accidentally drowned over in Illinois where he was at work.
Unfortunately, John Woodhouse’s Pioneer Journal is not a contemporary account, but a series of recollections written down quite a bit later, in Utah. He did keep a journal, but the it was lost, presumably during the journey. It seems that he did not want to dwell on the details of his father’s death.

There is a family tradition that he was actually in Illinois where he was performing with a group of musicians where he became drunk, fell into the river, and drowned. There are actually several versions of the story, and it has described as a “hole”, a flooded basement, and even a barrel! One version of the story can be found at findagrave.com (memorial #40176198):

Charles Woodhouse died in St. Louis, Missouri. He was coming home from performing on his violin with a musical group to earn money to travel on to Utah. He had too much to drink and fell in a open hole filled with water. He was found floating with his violin floating next to him.

[Read more…]

Will of Aaron Jackson

Today, we have another in a series of historical documents. Aaron Jackson (1783-1837) was a Pennsylvania farmer and father of Jesse Taylor Jackson. I haven’t been able to learn much about him, but this document tells us that he owned a farm (he calls it a plantation) of about 70 acres, and it seems a fair amount of livestock (horses and cattle), not to mention hogs. He bequeaths it all to his wife Abigail during her life, and then what remains to his children after her death. In addition to confirming where he lived and his property holdings, this document provides and independent source for dates and the names of his children (all of whom we know of through other sources). I have corrected OCR errors but retained the spelling of the original document. [Read more…]

Using GeoNames for Genealogical Research

EuropeWe’ve talked about the importance of normalizing place names in your family tree. You may find the same state name written “Massachusetts”, “Massachusetts, USA”,”Mass.”,  or just  “MA”, and that’s just the beginning. Within states there are counties, boroughs, cities, towns, and local geographic references. The same places will frequently be referred to differently in different records, and it is important to know when two records refer to the same geographic location. There are several reasons for this, the most obvious being that you need to know whether the records refer to the same person. As an example, I have a grand aunt who seemed, according to some records, to have died in Florida. I was pretty sure this was not the case, but thought there was a small possibility that she could have moved there late in life, and I didn’t know. It turns out that another woman with the same first and last name (married name) who was born on the very same day, did die and was buried in Florida. But my grand aunt was buried in Utah, just as I suspected. In this case, the place names were so different that Citrus, Florida stuck out like a sore thumb, and I didn’t miss it. But it could have been different. What if my aunt were buried in a different part of Florida, possibly somewhere with a name I didn’t know? That’s the kind of discrepancy that it would be easy to miss, and I very well could have added quite a bit more inaccurate data to my family tree before the error was discovered.

Software can be very helpful in working with place names, but it can also make us vulnerable to other errors. As a simple example, I once encountered references to a colonial ancestor living in Germany. How could that be? In case you haven’t already guessed, she lived in Delaware, and someone recorded it as DE, the standard U.S. state abbreviation for Delaware. But DE is also the International 2-letter code for Germany (Deutschland in German). International standards (such as ISO 3166 for country codes) are indispensable in representing place names unambiguously and, if you’re like me, you use state abbreviations without giving it much thought. Unfortunately, computer applications often simply digitize paper forms, and since people have been writing addresses on one or a few lines for ages, computer programs tend to provide so-called free text fields for place names. And that’s where the trouble starts. In order to compare place names software needs to parse these fields into their constituent components.This is often done heuristically, so “Dover, DE” will be correctly interpreted as Dover, Delaware, and “Hamburg, DE” will correctly be interpreted as Hamburg, Germany. But in this case, something went wrong. Most likely, the software was unable to identify the name of the town or settlement after consulting a geographic database, so it fell back on the interpretation of DE as referring to Germany. The moral of the story is that you should always manually review place names before storing them in your family tree or database.

Of course, there is a problem, there are a lot of place names, and no matter how extensive our geographic knowledge, we are likely to encounter names we don’t recognize. Worse, we may think a place name is correct or complete when, in fact, it is not. This is where tool support comes in. Popular genealogy applications such as Family Tree Maker include geographic databases and include tools allow you to validate and correct place names. But what if you don’t use one of these tools? GeoNames is an open source database (licensed under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license) that includes over eight million records, and it is freely available on the web. You can either use the web based interface, download the database or make use of the web service interface. Most of the time, you’ll probably want to use the form on the web site to look up place names using your browser. The other options are primarily of interest to application developers.

So, how does it work? Let’s suppose that the place name Adwick Le Street, Yorkshire, England is unfamiliar to us, or we are unsure it is spelled correctly. Head over to GeoNames at http://www.geonames.org and type “Adwick Le Street” in the search box, and select “United Kingdom” from the drop down box to the right of it. Press Search. You will see something like this

2 records found for “Adwick Le Street”
Name Country Feature class Latitude Longitude
1 P Adwick le Street  wikipedia article
United Kingdom, England
Doncaster > Brodsworth
populated place N 53° 34′ 14” W 1° 11′ 4”
2 S Adwick le Street Castle Hills
United Kingdom, England
castle N 53° 33′ 14” W 1° 10′ 9”

In this case, there is no need to use the advanced search option. If you like, you can click on the hyperlink to see Adwick Le Street on a map. This can help to resolve apparent ambiguities. For example, in the case of my ancestor John Woodhouse, I had seen him described as living in Doncaster as well as Adwick Le Street. As it happens, Doncaster is the nearest town. That tells me that I’m not looking at two place names (well, distant ones, anyway), and I don’t have to worry about having made a mistake. But if one source said he was born in London and another in Doncaster, I would have a problem, and would need to do further research to resolve the ambiguity.

Biographical Details

You never know when you are going to come across small biographical details. Today, I set myself the task of looking for information about the marriage of Aaron Jackson (father of Jesse Taylor Jackson) and Abigail Taylor. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be much information available. A simple search yielded only a Millennium File entry and a few Ancestry.com member trees, none of which included sources for the marriage. That’s odd, too, because there is quite a bit of information about his father Robert Jackson, and his son, Jesse Taylor Jackson. Unfortunately, The Millennium File is a compendium of extracts from Ancestry File, and though it is a useful starting point when looking for information, it isn’t always the most reliable of sources, and does not contain any documentation. My policy is to reference it, but not rely on it as a sole source.

Fortunately for us, there is a biography of Jesse Taylor Jackson available in manuscript form, and thanks to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, it is even available online. Unfortunately, I still don’t have much in the way of details, but the one reference (so far) to the marriage of Aaron and Abigail does include an interesting family tradition:

When Aaron Jackson was in his early twenties, he married Abigail Taylor. She was born in the state of New York,but family records do not have any further information about her early life. Family tradition tells that she was a large, powerful woman; that she could lift large bags of flour and grain with ease. I know she produced two stalwart sons; namely, Robert Andrew and Jesse Taylor Jackson, and possibly her other children were of good size (Autobiography of Jesse Taylor Jackson, p. 6).

I have no idea of what the origin of this tradition is, or if it can be corroborated, but it does an add a bit of interesting color to the Jackson Family story. Finding details like this can be a slow process, and one that requires us to look for letters, journal entries and, if we’re lucky, Quaker Meeting minutes and similar sources.

So, how can you go about finding details like this in the stories of your ancestors? First and foremost, ask. If you have grandparents or aunts and uncles, that can tell you about your family story, sit down and talk to them. You may even wish to consider formal interviews. You may be fortunate enough to have ancestors such as Quakers or Mormons who maintained journals, meeting minutes and other records. Or, for that matter, you may be fortunate enough to have an ancestor who kept a regular journal or diary. Other people keep letters that may be available to you. The only thing to do is ask.

It’s time to start writing

pocket watch

Image credit: Kayla Kandzorra

It’s  February, time for The Family History Writing Challenge. You have signed up, haven’t you? Regardless of whether you’ve formally registered, now is a perfect time to start recording your family history in a reader friendly form. You probably have quite a bit of information stored in some type of data files. Depending on the software you use, it may be stored online, in the native file format of programs like Family Tree Maker, or possibly in GEDCOM files. You may also keep your records in paper charts and notebooks. Regardless of which of these techniques you use, your family history is not likely to be in a format the most members of your family are likely to sit down and read. That’s what the writing challenge is all about.

A good way to get started is by writing life sketches, short summaries of your ancestor’s life story. Fortunately, you have most of the information you need to get started. If you’re using software such as Family Tree Maker or a web application such as Ancestry.com, there is probably a timeline view. What it’s called may vary from application to application, but it is a list of facts or events in your ancestor’s life in chronological order, along with supporting documentation for each. If you’re not using software that does this get out a piece of paper and start listing events in chronological order. Include the time and place (if you have it), a description of the event, an information source (such as a birth certificate, parish register or grave marker), and be sure to leave room for additional details. Most of the time this will be all you have, but keep your eyes out for additional details. Maybe you will know a bit about the church where your ancestors were married, or the town where they lived. Perhaps your ancestor owned property. How much? Where? What did he or she do with it? It may have been a farm or ranch, or it may have been a business such as store or blacksmith shop. It’s details like this that allow you to piece together a picture of your ancestor’s life.

The next step is to write this information out in the form of declarative sentences. In can help to imagine that a family member or friend has asked you to tell him or her about your ancestor. You might say something like: “David Andrews was born in a small town not far from Cleveland, Ohio. He was the third of seven children.” Don’t worry if you only have one or a few sentences for each event you have recorded. That’s okay. You can always go back and add more information later, when it becomes available to you. Right now, you’re just trying to take compiled information and put it down in narrative form. You can worry about polishing it later. Remember also that you have a lot of ancestors, and multiple life events for each of them. You will be busy!

There’s a funny thing about writing. When you start writing life sketches you will most likely start thinking of questions you hadn’t thought to ask, and you may discover you know more than you realized. So just start. Recording life events in narrative form may seem like a mechanical exercise at first, but you’re sure to find that some of your ancestors’ life stories will really start coming together, and you will soon discover that you have some interesting stories to tell. You probably already do. And if other people in your family are asking you about your ancestors, you know that you do.

Who’s afraid of GEDCOM?

If you’ve spent any time using computer applications in genealogy, including web based applications, you will probably have heard of a data format known as Genealogical Data Communications or just GEDCOM. It is a format developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the LDS or Mormon church), but it is available for anyone to use, and for this reason, it is supported by pretty much all genealogical software. There’s a good reason for this, too. Even if you always use the same application to do your work, there will likely come a time when you want to share data with someone else, and if you do switch to another program, you will need a vendor neutral way of storing your data. As of today, GEDCOM 5.5 is the only format to have gained sufficient traction to work for this purpose.

But if GEDCOM is so great, why don’t applications just use it as their standard data format? There are a few reasons for this. First of all, GEDCOM is a text based format that is designed for relatively straightforward representation of data. It is not designed for efficient storage and manipulation of data. In other words, it good for moving data from one application to another, but it is doesn’t provide efficient indexing or other features you might expect in format meant to support frequent updates. It doesn’t provide the flexibility you might want in areas such as internationalization and representation of complex relationships. To put it simply, it is primarily a submission format, one that provides a standard way of uploading data to FamilySearch.org.

But how does it work? Regardless of what software you use (or no software at all), you are probably intuitively familiar with the basic concepts. Your family tree consists of

  • Individuals, organized into families
  • Events associated with one or more individuals, such as birth, death or marriage
  • Other facts or attributes, such as name or sex
  • Relationships between people such as parent, child, or sibling
  • Documentation for facts or events

GEDCOM provides a way of representing each of these. To see how, let’s look at an excerpt from an actual GEDCOM file

0 @I1@ INDI
1 NAME Matthew /Cooper/
2 DATE 12 NOV 1925
2 PLAC Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
2 DATE 03 FEB 1976
2 PLAC Cupertino, Santa Clara, California
1 FAMC @F1@

This is a representation of information about a single person. The digit at the beginning of each line is a level in a hierarchy. The individual appears at level 0, his name at level 1, and for his birth and death, the date and place occur at level 2. On the first line, INDI tells us that we are about to see a representation of an individual (as opposed to a family) and @I1@ is an index that can be used to refer to that individual elsewhere in the file. These indices always occur between “at” signs. The final line is a pointer to the family structure in which Matthew Cooper is a child. Before moving on, I should note that David Cooper’s surname appears between slashes. This is done so that names like de Silva will be treated as a unit. Other data format split the name into multiple fields (e.g., surname and given names), but GEDCOM does not do this. It should be noted that this is another weakness of GEDCOM, it fairs poorly in treating naming conventions used in other languages or other parts of the world in a consistent manner. But my intent here is not to criticize GEDCOM so much as explain how it works.

Let’s press forward:

0 @I9@ INDI
1 NAME Herman /Grimes/
1 FAMS @F5@
0 @I10@ INDI
1 NAME Priscilla /Richardson/
1 FAMS @F5@

Here, we have two individuals, Herman Grimes and Priscilla Richardson. Notice that each of them is associated with the same family, but this time using the FAMS tag. As you might expect, this is a pointer to the family in which the given person is a spouse or a parent. The family itself is defined later on in the document as follows

0 @F5@ FAM
1 HUSB @I9@
1 WIFE @I10@
1 CHIL @I8@

But what about source citations? If we include a birth certificate for George Cooper, we will find a few extra lines in the INDI record

0 @I2@ INDI
1 NAME George /Cooper/
2 SOUR @S1@
3 PAGE document number ABC123

and a record for the source citation itself

0 @S1@ SOUR
1 TITL Life on Triton birth certificates, 1925
2 CONC Life on Triton birth certificates, 1925.  TRITON microfilm publication 
2 CONC A1.  TARA Archives and Records Service, 1925.

We can, of course include other events, either standard ones such as emigration (to Saturn in this example):

2 DATE 1950
2 PLAC Saturn

or custom events, such as Invention in

2 TYPE Invention
2 DATE 04 MAR 1971

I have not covered all the details of the GEDCOM 5.5 standard, nor have I discussed any of the features needed specifically for LDS temple work, but I hope I have given you an idea of how it works, and demonstrated that the basic concepts and constructs are similar to what you find in other applications. There is no reason to feel intimidated by GEDCOM. If you want to learn more, the actual specification is online in a number of places such as GEDCOM 5.5.1

Using task lists to stay organized

Family history research is a lot like detective work. Sometimes, you will be able to quickly find the information you need about a person or a family, but more often than not, you have to work to find the information you’re looking for. In fact, except for the obvious case of vital dates and place names (and they’re not as simple as it appears on the surface), you may not know what you’re looking for until you find it. Instead, in the process of reading through the documents available to you, you find little intriguing details, such as an allusion to a girl trapped in a mine shaft, a brief mention of someone having contracted smallpox or cholera, or Quaker meeting minutes in which a person you are studying is voted out of the meeting, In fact, these are examples of tantalizing details I’ve come across in my own research. Usually, I would have no idea of what to do with them at the time, so all I could do is record them and (temporarily) move on. In reporter or detective jargon, these are “leads”, hints or details that can lead us to more information as we chase them down, even if at the start we have no idea how helpful they’ll be. I started to say important, but that’s not really right. If a girl is trapped in a mine shaft, that is important. It may be that we will have ha hard fitting it into a coherent narrative, or even finding any more details than we have. It may be that we can find no corroboration or additional sources, but if we can, then we’ve taken a big step towards writing an interesting chapter of our family history.

Different people will have their own preferred method of organizing leads and preliminary information, and I do not pretend that there is any one best solution for everyone. Instead, I’ll briefly consider a feature of both Family Tree Maker and Ancestry.com: task lists. When you come across a piece of information that you need to investigate further, you need to record that somewhere. At first, you may just be able to remember it, or write it down on a notepad, but as your family tree grows, and as the number of documents and photographs you’ve collected grows, a more systematic approach can really be helpful. In Family Tree Maker, there is a task pane in Plan View, and it is likely the first place you will see the a task list.

task list  in TM3

There are several things to notice here. First of all, the task has a priority. I set it to low because this is an item I want to come back to when I have time. It’s not keeping me from making progress in other areas, nor is there much of a risk of making mistakes if I don’t investigate this lead right away. Finally, it’s an interesting story, one I really want to investigate, but it’s not a vital date or other data element that is central to genealogy. So, by setting the priority to low, I’m not saying it’s unimportant or uninteresting. Rather, I’m setting my own priorities. Next, note that the task is associated with a specific person. You can create general tasks, and this is normally the only type of task you will create in Plan View, but most tasks will be associated with a specific person. This is important because, most of the time, you will move from one person to another while doing research, and you need to be able to keep track of what you want to do when you come back to the person you’re working on. The task has a creation date, and this can be important. You may wish to filter by task age so that old tasks aren’t simply forgotten. Or, on the other hand, you may write something down and come back to it thinking, “Why did I want to do that?” It may be that a task simply is relevant anymore, and knowing its age can help you decide whether or not to keep it.

person tasks in FTM3If you look at the toolbar above the tasks, you will see several buttons. One allows you to create new tasks. This is the only one that is enabled (not grayed out) because no tasks are selected. There are also buttons that allow you to edit tasks (for example, to change the wording), delete them, remove completed tasks, or apply a filter. A filter is a rule that can be used to select a subset of tasks, making it easier for you to see what you need to focus on. You can also print your task list in Plan View.

Most of the time, though, you will be working on specific people and will want to work with tasks associated with people. In Person View, select a particular person and be sure the Tree tab is selected (not Details). Then what you see will be something like this. Notice that there are toolbars. The one on top allows you to select Facts (the birthdates, marriage dates and so on that you usually think of when you think of genealogy), Media (usually photographs and scanned documents), Notes (additional details that you want to keep track of in your family tree – think of these as marginal notes), Web Links (bookmarks for websites that contain further information or are helpful in the context of this person), and Tasks. Since the last of these (tasks) is selected, we have secondary toolbar just below it which is very much like the toolbar we just saw in Plan View. It is here that you can create tasks linked to a particular person. You don’t have to go back here to view these tasks, you see all of them in Plan View (that way you don’t forget!) but you can edit tasks, delete them, or mark them complete here in the same way.

What if you don’t use Family Tree Maker or similar software? You can still maintain task lists using paper or your favorite note management tool. Evernote is quite popular among genealogists,it is device independent and has some nice  features for sorting notes. If you want to associate tasks with specific people, you probably want a method of assigning unique identifiers to people, and then you can use that identifier to tag the task. It would take us too far afield to discuss schemes for assigning identifiers to people right now, but if you use a software tool, it will probably do this work for you. There are several numbering schemes you can use, or you can use names and sequence numbers for uniqueness.

A final option worth considering is a general purpose database. It requires more work to set up the database schemas, but you can store information about people using the database management system (DBMS) of your choice: MySQL, PostgresSQL, Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, etc. Realistically, though, this is a lot of work, and unless you’re a computer programmer or database administrator, you might not want to take it on. On the other hand, if you want to go this route, there’s a real opportunity to develop a tool that will benefit the genealogical community.