2nd Step to Clean Up a Genealogy Mess: Compact Database
Compacting your database(s) will be something you will do OFTEN while doing database cleanup. Once clean, compacting will still need to be done every once in a while.
Compacting is another absolute *MUST DO*. Compact capability is available on any good genealogy database. (Some programs might call it ‘compress’.) If it is not there, I gently suggest you switch programs. Family Tree Maker, Legacy, & RootsMagic all use the word “compact“.
You’ll find this step – to Compact your genealogy database – oft repeated as this blog grows. It is a critical part of the cleanup process.
Family Tree Maker & Legacy programs display a reminder to backup your file before proceeding with the compact action.A I *strongly suggest* you do that UNLESS you have just completed the backup before running compact. [See 1st Step to Clean Up a Genealogy Mess: Backup.]
Why is this a *Must Do*?
How tempting it is to just write “Because I said so!” Then we’d just move on down the road to the next step.
However, there are several very good reasons. Compacting a database is just part of having one. It’s like driving a car without having insurance — never a good idea!
Many of us have worked with databases in our jobs and never once had to compact anything. That’s because your computer system or database system administrators were doing all that work for you. You can look around your house now and I bet you won’t find ONE of them lurking or even hiding in the corner.
Thankfully good genealogy programs make this TOOL available to you. And even remind you to backup first. But it is not automated so YOU have to remember to accomplish this task.
What does compacting actually do?
Think of your database as being a book shelf or a set of book shelves. At a library, we expect to see empty spaces. In the image shown, arrows point to various empty spaces from large to small. Notice that the far right shelf has little extra space.
In our homes we tend on our “pretty book shelves” to leave spaces to place something else we’d like to display. We set books upright or lay some on their sides — whatever we think looks attractive. We may have a library that looks more like the shelf on the right in the image shown. Packed. [We bibliophiles absolutely hate giving up any book.]
Where does a new book go? In a library, it gets a specific place because of the Dewey Decimal System. In our homes — depends on the arrangement of the books. Some might be by author, others by category & others…just because it looks good there.
What does this have to do with compacting a database file?
Imagine your own book shelves. Now a new vision for you. All of those books are in the sequence that they came into your home. That’s right. Imagine over time what a mixture that would be. Every time you obtain a new book, it is placed at the end.
Over time you’ve removed some books — donated them to your local Friends of the Library. But while the shelf space is empty, you CANNOT use it! You obtain more books. They go to the END of the line. Over time you have various empty spaces, small and large.
In a simplistic way, this describes your genealogy database. New information added at the end. Deleted data removed but the space used for that data is still there. It will never go away until the file is compacted.
Compacting the file eliminates the empty spaces. Everything new is still ordered at the “end” of the file. The difference is that for the database — it has been “cleaned” and the “spaces” removed.
What happens if I never compact?
Over time the additions & deletions in the database without ever compacting it will result in a corrupt database file. Corrupt database files are never good. Sometimes you can recover them. Sometimes not.
Who wants to spend time fixing a corrupt database file when you could be doing research or inputting new data! Once you have done several backup/compacts of your database file(s) in your software program, you’ll realize it is easy & takes little time.
Step 2 for those not using computers.
Do not look at the above with an idea of “Now is the time for me to go through all my pictures for the family & put them in the same place.” If you have pictures that came out of a box (my mother loved using old greeting card boxes), the only clue to WHICH family the unknown person belongs in may be the identified picture that was just before or after the unknown one.
For example, I have one of a dapper gentleman in a leather coat. Quite handsome. Who is this mystery man? Through clothes I can identify which decade in the 1900s but that still does not tell me who he is. BUT because I have the picture still in the same order, I at least know he’s part of my mother’s family.
Instead if you feel the need to “compact” something, put your genealogy office supplies together. Arrange your genealogy magazines or CDs. Place research books in an order that is helpful to you. But for the time being, leave the artifacts — the memorabilia – alone.
A. RootsMagic probably has the same capability but I do not use that program and have been unable to verify.
Disclaimer: I do earn a commission if you purchase Legacy from my affiliate link. Thank you in advance if you do make such a purchase. No monies were received to write this post nor was the post solicited.Share