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Recording Obituaries


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#1 DeadEnds

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 10:12 AM

Another question from a recent RootsMagic convert.

 

Whenever possible I transcribe obituaries into my person records. In LifeLines I used the OBIT Gedcom tag for this (not an official tag, but LifeLines is tag agnostic).

 

I assumed that RootsMagic would have obituary as one of its fact/event types, but it doesn't look like it.

 

How do expert users transcribe obituaries? I could imagine making them a note attached to a death event. Or inventing a new fact type. Is this how it is done?

 

I did a quick search of the forums but couldn't find anything.

 

Thanks,

 

Tom W



#2 deckie49

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 10:52 AM

Tom,

Others may have a different slant on this, but for me I don't consider an obituary as a "fact" or "event". An obituary (usually posted in a newspaper) is just an article with information in it. As such, you might use the obituary as a source to support  facts or events.  As far as the GEDCOM is concerned, Rootsmagic tries to keep its tags as GEDCOM compliant as possible. So it minimizes the use of non standard tags such as "Obit".

Deck



#3 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 10:55 AM

Hopefully, you will get a diversity of responses because there is no one right way to do it.

 

I include a transcription of the obituary as a part of the fact note for the death fact. I also include an image of the obituary and a transcription of the obituary as a part of a source, and I use the source as a citation for the death fact, as a citation for the burial fact, and as a citation for anything else that might seem appropriate.

 

I know that some users use an obituary as just a source, and don't include a transcription in narrative reports, or at least not a complete transcription. But for individuals for whom I do not have first hand knowledge, their obituary is usually as close as I can come to a narrative about their life beyond the bare essentials of birth, marriage, death. So long ago I decided to include the full obituary for everybody.

 

The way my narrative reports are currently formatted, the obituary information looks like it's an "obituary fact" even though the obituary transcription is actually stored in the note for the death fact. It has occurred to me that I might be better off making an obituary fact separate from the death fact. It wouldn't change the appearance of my narrative reports given the way my narrative reports are currently formatted, but it would provide me some flexibility to include or not to include obituaries in narrative reports should I wish to make that decision. My experience is that user defined facts export quite well.

 

There is one thing that I tried doing with obituaries on a regular basis that I no longer do. Namely, I tried including information about everybody's appearances in everybody else's obituaries. For example, I had a family of 12 brothers and sisters, each of whom died in the 1920's and 1930's, each of whom had an obituary, and each of whom was listed in all the other obituaries. But I decided that this procedure really cluttered up narrative reports without really providing much in the way of additional information. I still document an individual's appearance in other people's obituaries on a selective basis, but only when such documentation provides information important to the person's life narrative. In theory, this is a perfect use case for RM's shared facts, but I don't use RM's shared facts so I use the Residence or Miscellaneous fact when I need to document a person's appearance in somebody else's obituary.

 

Jerry



#4 DeadEnds

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 01:09 PM

Thanks for the feedback so far.

 

In my idealized evidence based system, the newspaper would be a source, and the obituary would be a source detail. In my lexicon a citation is a formatted string that identifies a source detail. The transcription of the obituary would be a property of the source detail. Basic stuff.

 
Then each person mentioned (that I am interested in) would become a "persona" (a person record that carries only the facts mentioned in the obituary, or any other source detail). Relationships mentioned in the obituary would manifest as relationships between the personas.
 
Then once I had decided exactly who the personas were, I would add those personas to the collections of personas already amassed for each of the conclusion persons. The personas would not disappear. Personas not disappearing is the hallmark here. In some systems the personas are just called records, so these are "record-based" systems. As someone pointed out on another thread such systems are employed more by academics than hobbyists.
 
RootsMagic is a conclusion system so there is no layer in the database for personas. A possible process to approximate the approach in RootsMagic would start by creating the source record (just like in any other approach). I'm not sure yet how to distinguish between a whole source (e.g., a newspaper) and a source detail (e.g., an article in a newspaper) using RootsMagic, but I assume I will eventually figure that out. In this approach the transcription of the obituary is definitely a property of the source detail.
 
Using RootsMagic one can start off by creating separate person records (to approxiate personas) for each person menioned in the obituary. But instead of keeping those records around, which would happen in an evidence-based system, one would merge each persona person into the overall RootsMagic person record of the final person. Then each fact USED from the persona would keep the source link to the source detail of the obituary. (In a very real sense, I think this is the process that most RootsMagic users already use, except that they do the persona layer in "their heads", and simply add new facts to the final persons as they find new sources.)
 
I am lazy. My database has over 19,000 people in it now. I'm sure there are RootsMagic users with much larger databases, but this is still big enough that it requires lots of work when updating and adding data. So I cut corners where I can. Using terminology I've heard here I am an extreme source lumper. For example, I have one source for the US 1930 census. I don't care about microfilm roll numbers or where the rolls are stored. All states, all counties, all cities, are lumped into that one source. Knowing the record came from the census is good enough for me. Like the obituary example, my approach is (often) to transcribe data from a family group and create a source detail to hold that transcription. Then each of the personas (in RootsMagic, this means the facts about the person extracted from the census) holds a source link to that detail.
 
A whole run of newspapers is therefore another single source for me. The obituary mentioned above came from the New London "Day", which would be the single source for all details taken from that newspaper. I am still a novice RootsMagic user, so I'm not yet sure what is the best way to distinguish the overall newspaper as a source from all the articles found in it. But I'll get it eventually.


#5 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 01:47 PM

Using terminology I've heard here I am an extreme source lumper. For example, I have one source for the US 1930 census. 

 

That level of lumping doesn't sound particularly extreme to me. :)  I am an extreme source splitter. Before I was an extreme source splitter, I was an extreme source lumper. As such, I lumped the entirety of the U.S. census together - all states, all counties, all years. I even lumped in the few state censuses and censuses from other countries that I had. Now that's pretty extreme lumping.

 

I think the distinction between the lumping and splitting of sources is a pretty broad continuum. In RM terminology, it really just comes down to how many data elements that go into constructing a footnote sentence you store in a Master Source vs. how many of those same data elements you store as Source Details. As an extreme source lumper, I stored most of the data elements as Source Details and I had very few Master Sources. As an extreme source splitter, I put everything into the Master Source and I put no data at all into the Source Details. So I have lots and lots of Master Sources. I think more researchers are on the lumper side of the continuum than on the splitter side of the continuum, but just about anywhere along the lumper/splitter continuum can work just fine.

 

I haven't commented on it before, but I think your description of evidence based systems vs. conclusion based systems is the best description I've ever seen. In your terminology, I do create a lot of persona type records in my one and only database and then I end up merging most of the persona records out of existence when I find matching data. For example, I might enter all burials for the Bryan surname in Hamblen County, Tennessee into my database using a Hamblen County cemetery book as my source. Ultimately, of course, want to visit all the cemeteries personally, take my own tombstone photographs, record GPS coordinates of the tombstones, etc., but that's an issue about the quality of the sources, separate from the issue of evidence based systems vs. conclusion based systems. In any case, eventually most or all of my persona records for Hamblen County burials would get merged with other records for what I had determined to be the same people - census records, marriage records, death certificates, etc. After merging, guess in your terminology I would have persons rather than personas.

 

The "persona" terminology is new to me in the context of genealogy, and it seems very useful. I have wondered about the idea of storing what you are calling the "persona" data in a separate database where I would never do any merges at all. Instead, when I was ready I would drag and drop from the persona database into my main database where I would in fact do the merges. It just strikes me that after a while that managing the persona database (or persona databases if I had different persona databases for different sources) might become hard to manage. Nevertheless, the concept is intriguing and is definitely something worth thinking about.

 

Jerry



#6 zhangrau

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 04:07 PM

I think of myself as a lumper, generally. I create a new Master Source for each obituary, and include a transcription in the Source Details - Research Notes. If an image is available, I attach that as a media image to the source citation. This citation gets pasted to each event/fact and person mentioned in the obituary.

I typically record two repositories: the originating newspaper (or funeral home) and the online link (Legacy.com, Find A Grave, etc.) For online repositories, I copy the URL of the obituary to the Call Number box.

For the principal person in the obituary, I include a custom Obituary fact, with the transcription copied into the Obituary fact Notes. This gives me the option to print all the obituaries in narrative reports, or (by disabling reports in the Fact Type List) omitting that "extra" verbiage to reduce the length of the overall report. But, like Jerry, I've come to view the obituaries as a useful and interesting part of the person's story, so I rarely omit them anymore.



#7 DeadEnds

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 06:52 PM

I think of myself as a lumper, generally. I create a new Master Source for each obituary, and include a transcription in the Source Details - Research Notes. If an image is available, I attach that as a media image to the source citation. This citation gets pasted to each event/fact and person mentioned in the obituary.

 

I am thankful that RootsMagic is so flexible that it can handle such a wide spectrum of views on the nature of sources. I am a little confused that you call yourself a lumper, yet would then consider each new obituary as a new source. I would think that a lumper would want to treat the newspaper as a whole (the entire run of all issues) as the source. Then every article, obituaries included, found in any issue of that newspaper would be a different source detail. I would then think of a middle of the roader as someone who would consider each issue of the newspaper as a source, with the articles from that particular issue as source details. And I would think that someone that considers each article from each issue of a newspaper as being its own source as being a splitter. I can't say that I see much to argue about with any of the possible positions along that spectrum -- they all seem to get the job done. As I said in my response, I am lazy, so I tend to settle on the solutions that cater to my laziness. So for me, "The New London 'Day'" is a source, and "Obituary of Daniel Miller Wetmore, September 13, 1998", is a source detail.

 

I appreciate how helpful people are on this forum, willingly giving up much of their time to help us beginners.

 

Tom W.



#8 DeadEnds

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 07:25 PM

I haven't commented on it before, but I think your description of evidence based systems vs. conclusion based systems is the best description I've ever seen...

 

The "persona" terminology is new to me in the context of genealogy, and it seems very useful. I have wondered about the idea of storing what you are calling the "persona" data in a separate database where I would never do any merges at all. Instead, when I was ready I would drag and drop from the persona database into my main database where I would in fact do the merges. It just strikes me that after a while that managing the persona database (or persona databases if I had different persona databases for different sources) might become hard to manage. Nevertheless, the concept is intriguing and is definitely something worth thinking about.

 

Jerry

 

Jerry,

 

Thanks for the kind words. The "persona" terminology goes back a ways. I'm not sure where it originated. The GenTech model used it. I think GEDCOM-X now uses it, though it might not be in the part of their model that they have developed.

 

Before there were genealogy programs, there was a fairly esoteric area of research, conducted mostly by demographers of various types, broadly called "nominal record linking." It still exists. In this context each "record" is information about a single person taken from a single mention of that person from a source, for example, birth, death or marriage records taken from a parish register. Think of a single index card for every mention of every person in every church register, city hall record, land record, tax record, etc, etc. Then think of encoding each of those cards into a separate entry in a computer file, and then think of algorithms to process that massive number of simple records, with the job of deciding which of those records belong to the same person and how those persons are related to one another. The purpose of the research might be to reconstruct families or to investigate migration patterns, all kinds of things. These algorithms seem to be commonly known as "nominal record linking" algorithms.

 

The term "nominal record" is used because the only thing each record has in common is having a name attached. All other data is specific to the type of source the record comes from. For me an evidence-based system would be a system based on these "nominal records" as their primary contents.

 

I think your idea of a second RootsMagic database to hold just your nominal records, aka personas, is fascinating. As you say, I think it would be hard to manage in the long term. It would consist of massive numbers of stand alone person records, and lots of little trees (child with its parents from birth records; parents with their children from census records; spouses and maybe their parents and maybe witnesses from marriage records; and so on).

Even with this idea you would have a bit of a problem when you wanted to "back out" a decision in your conclusion database. It might not be too hard though. You would have to remove all the facts from the person that came from specific nominal records.

 

But my laziness takes over once again. The RootsMagic approach of conclusion persons works very well most of the time. Backing out a persona from a person is not really much of an issue -- just edit or remove a fact or two from a person. I'm just too old to contemplate starting over.

 

One thing I have been fascinated with over the past years is the fact that there is such a well developed concept of the nominal record in the "professional" world of sociological research and demography, but the concept of the nominal record as the lowest common denominator of genealogical data, which it very much is, has never made it into the world view of actual genealogy programs. Persons in genealogical programs ALWAYS exist only at the conclusion level. I think the concept is just too much for the average hobbyist, and maybe even too much for most of the developers of genealogical software. (Or frankly, it's just NOT NEEDED.)

 

Gosh darn it, that's my grandmother. I know it's my grandmother. And you're telling me that you want me to create TEN DIFFERENT records for my grandmother just because she is mentioned in the ten different records I've collected about her. Come on man, you must be stark raving crazy.

 

Tom W.



#9 Jerry Bryan

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 07:34 PM

 I am a little confused that you call yourself a lumper, yet would then consider each new obituary as a new source. I would think that a lumper would want to treat the newspaper as a whole (the entire run of all issues) as the source. 

 

I do treat each obituary as a new source, and I do describe myself as an extreme source splitter. It's just that I used to be an extreme source lumper, so I have done it both ways.

 

Jerry



#10 zhangrau

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Posted 20 January 2016 - 07:40 PM

 

I am thankful that RootsMagic is so flexible that it can handle such a wide spectrum of views on the nature of sources. I am a little confused that you call yourself a lumper, yet would then consider each new obituary as a new source.

 

I appreciate how helpful people are on this forum, willingly giving up much of their time to help us beginners.

 

Tom W.

 

Well, I lump the census info much more. I have one Master Source for each census year, and one citation for each household.

 

I did, early on, use a newspaper name as a source, but as my skills evolved (and my database grew larger), I changed my mind and decided to treat the newspaper as a repository, containing many sources (articles), each yielding multiple uses (memorize & paste) of a citation.



#11 Vyger

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 07:24 AM

Obituaries and Newspaper notice traditions vary around the world, US obituaries are very narrative and a like a summary of the persons life and I like this. In Ireland an obituary would be very uncommon unless the person was of some fame or standing but Newspaper Death notices can be placed by dozens of friends and family far and wide. These often give me many clues to relationships, addresses and places still to be found like "sorrowing cousin Jane Doe in New Zealand" so I use a custom event now simply called 'Obituary' where I paste all the text into the notes field, enter the publication (newspaper) in the description field and note the date of the publication. Death notices typically appear over several days and maybe in several publications the first being the family notice of the death and funeral arrangements (if known) followed by those of friends and other family and finally a thank you notice.

 

My decisions are always driven by having information to hand and being able to search and extract it and this path was taken years ago where I could search Any Fact>Note>Contains, not with Find Everywhere I can type an instance of an obscure name not in my database and maybe find mention of it in a newspaper death notice. I know Find Everywhere does not find everywhere so I have not tested it throughout Source fields and just stick with the system I adopted years ago. I am not saying it is the way to go, it simple suits me at this point in time and I can choose to print that event or not in narrative reports.

 

Example irish death notice here


We are all limited by our visions and abilities

Whilst we can borrow from the visions of others we cannot always deliver.

 

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#12 Laura

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 09:23 AM

I enter the text of the obituary in the death fact and link the source of the obituary to the fact with the text of the obituary copied into the Source details, Research note.

Evidence based and Personas sound to me like what we called General research where you take a source, say an obituary, and record every name and what is said about that name out of the obituary.

My General research database is generally set up where Sources are the parents and the people in the source are the children. Facts for the children are the facts as I would use them in my main database with the source linked. If I have already determined that this John D. Doe is my John Daniel Doe, I will link John Daniel Do as child of that source. Other wise, I create a new name person for every person in that source.
I enter the text of the obitiary in the death fact and linke the source of the obituary to the fact with the text of the obituary copied into the Source dwtaiks, Research note.

Evidence based and Personas sound to me like what we called General research where you take a source, say an obituary, and record every name and what is said about that name out of the obituary.

My General research database is generally set up where Sources are the parents and the people in the source are the cbildren. Facts for the children are the facts as I would use them in my main database with the source linked. If I have already determined that Th John D. Doe is my John Daniel Doe, I will link John Daniel Do as child of that source. Other wise, I create a new name person for every person in that source.

Setting up that database where it printed reports that made sense wasn't easy, and I created it before Groups was introduced.

Now we have those wonderful Research logs and Research items which I consider a non lineage database or mini databases that I can use within my lineage based database.

I am experimenting with how I want to setup General Research logs and Research items into the Research logs so I can transfer all the data in my General research data base into Research logs after I finish some major cleanup projects in my database.

There are all kinds of possibilities. Research logs for the Source with Research items for each person named in the Source. Another log for names in the source. Maybe even another log for the locations, i.e. State and County with the name and Source. Ignore the Research item labels and put a template of what to enter in each Research item in the Research log comment.

In ToDos, you can create a ToDo and transfer that TODo as a Research item into multiple Research logs.

Printing out the Research logs is much better for this use than printing out Narrative reports in my General Research database.

All my general research will be in my main database and ready available without having tl switch databases.


Setting up that database where it printed reports that made sense wasn't easy, and, I created it before Groups was introduced.

Now we have those wonderful Research logs and Research items which I consider a non lineage database or mini databases that I can use within my lineage based database.

I am experimenting with how I want to setup General Research logs and Research items into the Research logs so I can transfer all the data in my General research data base into Research logs after I finish some major cleanup projects in my database.

There are all kinds of possibilities. Research logs for the Source with Research items for each person named in the Source. Another log for names in the source. Maybe even another log for the locations, i.e. State and County with the name and Source. Ignore the Research item labels and put a template of what to enter in each Research item in the Research log comment.

In ToDos, you can create a ToDo and transfer that TODo as a Research item into multiple Research logs.

Printing out the Research logs is much better for this use than printing out Narrative reports in my General Research database.

All my general research will be in my main database and ready available without having to switch databases.

With the new Import lists, I can create the Research logs in the General research database and import them into my main database.

#13 DeadEnds

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 09:33 AM

Laura,

 

Fascinating. What a rich source of ideas. I can't help but feel a bit of irony after reading your response (which I will have to read a number more times to fully get it). That irony is this -- you are figuring out how to use the restricted scope of the RootsMagic schema to apply to general research, by using multiple databases and interpreting what the different record types mean in those different databases. Just image what a system you would have come up with if it was you who designed the schema! Then one richer database could accomplish all, and the records would all be what they are.

 

Tom W.



#14 Laura

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 12:43 PM

Well, Bruce designed the Research logs for a purpose which was to track research. How the user uses them to track research is the users choice.

I feel that using Research logs to track General research falls within that purpose.

However, I have other general Research logs that have little if anything to do with research. For example:

Genealogy books in my personal library.
Refernce genealogy books in my local library.
Book indexes - Indexes from digital books I use a lot that have indexes I can copy and paste. I can add additional data to the text if I wish.
Census templates - the note template that I use to enter transcriptions of a census record for a family for each census year.
Sentence templates - mostly templates I have experimented with
Facts - What choices are marked for that fact, how I use the fact, changed sentence templates.
Search filters - specific search filters for spedific purposes.
Color coding and Groups - How to use color coding and/or Groups to get a specidic result.

My outlook on RoitsMagic is, " OK, RootsMagic gave me this database structure to work with. How do I enter data within that structure to get what I want."

Bruce didn't envision Color coding being used to permanently color code people, but, there are many users who use it that way including me.

#15 Vyger

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 02:51 PM

My outlook on RoitsMagic is, " OK, RootsMagic gave me this database structure to work with. How do I enter data within that structure to get what I want."

 

The entering of data within a logical structure should be the key to entry. Sadly we often become tempted to bend the logic of where data is entered to achieve some personal goal rather than encouraging Rootsmagic to enhance the reporting or search capabilities to provide a solution to that goal. I have been down this road many times in the past only to regret it later when an enhancement becomes a reality and face myself with a ton of work to change things back.

 

I can alter make these changes to my data very easily but that will not stop me challenging gaps in the program rather than designing and employing workarounds which others will not understand.

 

An old example of this is a supporting document or certificate which logically should be part of a Source (master or citation) rather that a narrative. But because until recently the indication of the existence of that item was lost from view then users adopted a different approach which was wrong and then requires a lot of work to correct.


We are all limited by our visions and abilities

Whilst we can borrow from the visions of others we cannot always deliver.

 

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Excel to Gedcom conversion - simple getting started tutorials here

 

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#16 Laura

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 04:00 PM

If someone else I share a gedcom with doesn't like where I entered the data when they import my gedcom, they can change it to where they want it in their database or delete my database.

I have my own logic and reasons for transcribing the data from a source into both the fact note and the Source detail and other choices I make.

Other users have their own opinions of where data should go. So, they are doing the same as I do. Using the present RM database structure to get what they want out of that version.

I can't work with a future version of RM that doesn't exist that may make changes. I can only use RM as it is today. Otherwise, I may as well delete the program and go back to paper and pen.

With Research logs, no one will ever see them but me unless I specifically choose to share them.. If I do share, I can pick which logs to share.

So, I am going to use Research logs in the way that has the most benefit for me.

User's choice.

#17 Don Newcomb

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Posted 27 January 2016 - 03:22 PM

I have a master source called "Obituary" I use for all obits, be they printed in the paper or online. I cite the obit with the person's name (e.g. "John Smith, Balt. Sun, 16 Jan 1856, p. 6, c. 2"). I then use this citation to support whatever facts may be supported, such as birth, marriage, surviving and deceased relatives, etc. If the obit names parents, the citation is copied as a general source for them. If it names surviving children, it will support a LIVING fact with the date. The obit is a source, not an event. That's how I use obits. 



#18 zhangrau

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Posted 27 January 2016 - 06:36 PM

The obit is a source, not an event. That's how I use obits. 

 

I think of it a little differently, I guess. I use the obituary (or death notice) article as a Master Source, and place a transcription of the article into the Detail Text, Research Notes. That lets me review the article from any pasted citation, even on persons mentioned.

 

The publication of the obituary is an event, although it happens after the principal's death. That Fact Type is only used in the principal's record. Here's my Role sentence:

[Person:Given:Surname] had [Person:HisHer] obituary published< in [Desc]>< [Date]>< [PlaceDetails]>< [Place]>.

 

In this usage, [Desc] is the name of the newspaper (or other appropriate source name).



#19 Ludlow Bay

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Posted 27 January 2016 - 08:12 PM

 

 I am an extreme source splitter. Before I was an extreme source splitter, I was an extreme source lumper. As such, I lumped the entirety of the U.S. census together - all states, all counties, all years. I even lumped in the few state censuses and censuses from other countries that I had. Now that's pretty extreme lumping.

 

 

Nah .... a true extreme source lumper would have one source ..... called "Stuff".   ;)