My question is related to this previous question, but I think I'm looking for a rather different answer because I'm not sure a second software genealogical software package is what I'm looking for. It's also related to this previous question of mine, but now I'm looking for tools/ data storage ideas rather than research strategies. I'm aware of GenQuiry but for my own needs would need something that is not Windows-specific.
As we traverse back each generation, we have research questions ("who was Jane Smith's mother?") and hypotheses ("the Mary Jones who was born in Bradford in 1780 to James and Anne Jones and who married Fred Smith in Leeds in 1802"), which we can support with evidence.
But before you get to anything quite so precise, there are multiple candidates to consider. Suppose you've just found the birth record of an ancestor (and you're comfortable identifying it as such) and now you know the name of their father. Now it's time to find the father. My preferred approach is to do a broad search on a range of sites (I tend to use Ancestry.com and FamilySearch together, and independent sources of parish records like the Isle of Man archives if that is relevant) and develop a list of candidate people / records. Then it's a matter of winnowing down the list, ruling out the ones it can't be.
It can't be that one, he died as an infant. And it can't be that one, it's too far from where the Census record said he was born. And it can't be that one, because I'm pretty sure he's the one who married her and moved to this entirely different village and didn't have any children with the same name as my ancestor.
My question is, are there preferred tools or methods for storing
- The list of candidate personae to be narrowed down
- The bits and bobs of evidence, records and conclusions that result in that narrowing down
Right now I've got Excel spreadsheets of candidate people, Word documents and notebooks on my iPad full of notes and stray sources, and pages of handwritten notes. My core trees (in Mac Family Tree 7), with the things I am confident of, are clean and sourced and nice, but this preliminary stuff is a mess.
To give you an example, here is a transcription of some notes out of one of my physical notebooks, which allowed me to make a conclusion about the birth record and parents of my ancestor Ann Crowe. (I already had her marriage record to Thomas Quayle, and I knew that I was looking for a Thomas and Ann who had a daughter Ann Eliza.)
Found Ann Eliza Quayle in Jurby in 1841 Census, Father Thomas 45yo -> b ~ 1790, mother Ann 30yo -> b 1810-11. There is an Ann Crow born in Ballaugh 1810 (or christened anyway) to Charles Crow and Margaret Caley (d Ann + Dan Caley according to her will [link]).
Although 1841 Census tended to round to nearest 5 years this is too far from birth dates of 1800 or 1802. On this basis we can rule out the d. of Wm Crowe and Anne Keenen (b 1800) or of John Crowe and Ann Boyd (b 1801).
I can imagine something like Circus Ponies Notebook, DevonThink, Yojimbo or Evernote being useful for collecting this source/thought mash-up. But has anyone developed some principles or tools to help manage this pre-hypothesis research material?