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Standards are nothing more, and nothing less, than doing things a consistent way. They are all around us. For instance, a GE light bulb will fit in a Sylvania socket, and vice versa, because the thread size for light bulbs in this country is standard. Automobiles are full of standards too. Imagine flying into Chicago and having the lady at the Hertz counter tell you "Good Evening, Mr. McCorkle. Your car is ready. Oh, by the way, here in Illinois the brake is on the right and the accelerator is on the left. Be careful - it's starting to snow."
Back to genealogy, and your data. Having some standards is more important than which ones you have. For example, I never abbreviate state names. You might always abbreviate them. Suppose RootsWeb got a great new data base of Pennsylvania births, deaths and marriages. We would both want to use the custom report feature of our genealogy programs to list everyone we had from Pennsylvania, then check the list against the data to see if we could fill in some missing facts. We could both use the state as the selection criteria in the custom report. You could look with 10 less keystrokes than I could, since you would use "PA" and I "Pennsylvania". Someone who used "Pa" (no period), "Pa." (with a period), "Penn", "Penn." and "Pennsylvania" interchangeably would have a harder time listing all of the individuals who were from the Keystone State.
Some standards to consider:
You have all seen those WFT estimates of someone born between 1812 and 1967. You can do better, sometimes, or leave the unknown dates blank. Since many search engines have date arguments, estimated dates are useful. I try to put a note on each individual which explains how I estimated the dates. A range is more informative than "abt". Does "abt 1750" mean 1749-1751, 1745-1755, 1740-1760 or 1700 - 1800?
Here is how I estimate dates.
Those, at least, are the numbers I use. You may want to expand or tighten the span. Again, the important thing isn't which standard you use, but that you have one and follow it consistently.
You can extend the 16 - 40 age "guess-timate" to 32 - 80 for grandparents or grandchildren, but that gets ridiculous soon. I sometimes use the phrase "x gen bef yyyy", as in "2 gen bef 1860", to mean "two generations before 1860". In my family the generations average 33 years. If I find a person on the net with the same name as one of my individuals, who I have as born "2 gen bef 1860", and he is born anywhere between 1770 and 1820, I know he's worth investigating.
This bears repeating - that you have standards, and apply them consistently, is more important than which specific standards you use.
Visits since 11 November 1998.
This page updated: June 21, 2014