This month’s tip: Think Retrieval!

The most important concept in using databases is to think about retrieval at the time you are doing the data entry. How do you want to retrieve the data in the future? If you want a search to be shown in a list selected by record type, be sure to include the appropriate type at the time of data entry. Several customers have asked about whether they should record birth, marriage, and death records as vital records or separately as birth, marriage, or death. To answer that question, consider how you want to retrieve the entries. To see all vital record searches in one list, categorize them as “vital records.” To see only the birth entries for analysis purposes, without seeing the marriage and death records, categorize each one as a separate type. 

Another example is when a source will be searched for more than one surname. It is possible to put additional surnames in the “comments” field so that the search is entered only once, but if you want to be able to find that entry by surname in the future, create a search entry for each surname. That way, the search engine can retrieve exactly what you are looking for. Yes, this means that the search is input three times if you are searching for three surnames, but this process only takes a few minutes, and you will forever be able to find all three entries according to the surname you want to report and analyze. Think retrieval, and your data entry will be higher quality and you’ll be much more pleased with the ability to find the information again in the future.