Cleaning up date formats is another way to keep your tree looking great and save you valuable time. Not to mention, consistency in anything we do is important. Do you consistently use the same date format in all your trees?
Cleaning Up Incorrect Date Formats within Software: Why and How
Why we need to have standardized date formats in our family tree?
The correct date format for genealogy is day, month, and year (with all four digits for the year)… in that order. For example, my children write a date like this: November 3, 2015 or 11/3/2015 or even 11/2/15. As a genealogist, we are encouraged to write that date as 3 November 2015 and shy away from using the dashes and slashes and especially avoid 2 digits for a year.
Why do we need to concern ourselves with standardized date formats? There are several reasons. Number one, a big part of the world does not record dates as we do in the U.S. Many other countries use the day, month, year format instead of the U.S. tradition of month, day, year. Genealogists often work in more than one country so having a standardized date format helps keep things consistent and helps you to avoid mistakes in recording dates. Also, genealogists are working within multiple centuries. Using four digits for the year avoids confusion as to whether you are talking about 1880 or 1980! And yet another important reason we need to standardize our date formats is because we want to make sure our information is interpreted correctly by another person, a genealogy website, or another genealogy software.
Did you notice I wrote out the month’s name in its entirety? You might be wondering if you can use an abbreviation for the month. Sure, you can. There are many month formats that are considered appropriate. I think the important thing is to be consistent. For myself, I use FamilySearch.org quite a bit. Because of that, I have chosen to use whatever format FamilySearch Family Tree is currently using. As of May 2019, they encourage date, month (written out, not abbreviated and not in caps), and a four digit year. [More details of how to standardize the dates on FamilySearch Family Tree, here.]
Here’s a quick look at the options of date format on RootsMagic family tree software:
In the image above, you may have noticed that the traditional U.S. standard of month, day, and year are given as an option. Please note that it is considered a good genealogy standard to not record dates in that manner, but rather in the day, month, and year format. [Slawson, Mary H. Getting It Right, The Definitive Guide to Recording Family History Accurately. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Malloy Lithographing Incorporated, 2002.]
How to easily clean up incorrect date formats in your genealogy software
To standardize the dates in your family tree software is likely very easy. For example, with just a few clicks of the mouse, you can fix this problem all at once in RootsMagic. First, click “Tools” at the top of the screen. Then, choose “File Options.” From the pop up box, click the pull-down menu of the “Date format” field. Choose the option that works best for you. The system now corrects all the dates which had earlier been entered in a different format.
To change the date format on Legacy Family Tree software, click on “Options,” then chose “Customize.” From the options to the left, choose “5. Dates.” Then, click on which format options you want and click “Save” at the bottom of the pop-up window.
Most people don’t enjoy “cleaning up” their family tree, but it’s really important and may be an easy project for the weekend. Remember these tips as you add new dates to keep future clean-up to a minimum.
To read the first is this series of cleaning up within your family tree software, read “Cleaning Up Duplicates in Your Family Tree Software.”
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