Friday, September 30, 2011

BWP(34): A Coding System for Genealogist

A previous post describes my JONES family coding system which has served me well over the years of tree climbing. See:

This coding system was also discussed in BWP(17). However, there comes a time when you will find yourself in a nest of surnames. It may be at a particular geographic area, or historical time period, or a religious group with many members. There will be multiple folks with the same names being used. How do you keep them straight? How do separate and identify which John Johnson, John Smith, John Brown, and John Jones is the path you will need to follow? The following method is a coding system I have found helpful. It is different from my family coding system, since it involves only one surname, and needs to code for multiple generations. This approach will help separate and code each individual among a large number of folks with many different surnames.

It is very simple. First you label each person identified by their surname. You take the first two letters of their surname and then assign them a number. If the first name is John Johnson, you would code "JO-1". If you have another John Johnson in the county at the same time, you would label him "JO-2". Now if you have a John Jones living next door, you would code this "JON-1", knowing that you have already used "JO = Johnson". Thus, "JON = Jones". Now if there was a John Johns in the same neighborhood, you code him "JOH-1", using the next letter of the alphabet that was not used in a previous surname group.

Any surnames that share the same letters would take the next letter to separate and code it. Thus, Saul would be SA-1, Sampson would be SAM-1, and Samuel would be SAMU-1, etc., etc.
You would then start a record of the families identified in this geographic area, coding each individual, and you would not used the same letters for a different family surname.

Start with a small number of folks that you are working. These often will be those around your brick wall. Then start a listing for the codes you use, allowing you to keep a record of the surnames. Let's get started!

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