POTTS Database Search Instructions

Or, how to perform effective database searches.

Last Revised:  October 11 , 2008


It would be very helpful if you would go to the Database Structure page and print a copy for reference while you plan your database search and enter the search parameters. You may want to print a copy of this page as well. Looking at the database structure you can see that for each individual in the database there is room for a lot of information. Each separate piece of information is stored in a "field", and there are twenty-eight fields for each individual. Each field is named, e.g., Father, Mother, Birth Date, etc. That does not mean that all the fields will be filled with information; we can hardly be that lucky. But each field may contain important information, and this information is stored in a manner designed to facilitate logical searches.


For example, look at the way dates are stored (fields numbers 4, 8, 12, 18 and 21), first by year, then month, then day; for example, 1832 Mar 18. This allows you to find individuals first by the year of birth, and then more precisely by the month and day. Let's suppose that the birth date of the individual you seek is January 14, 1834. Were you to specify the exact date in the search criteria form, 1834 Jan 14, you would find all the individuals born on that date. But what if his/her birth date was only recorded to the year, 1834. You would not find him/her. However, you would find him/her, perhaps among others who were born in 1834 if you merely entered the year alone.


In similar fashion places names (like field numbers 5, 9, 14, 19 and 22) are stored with country first, then province, then city or town. (Places in the United States are stored state first, then county, then city or town, for example, VA,Loudoun,Fairfax.) Hence, the search may progress from larger regions to smaller regions.

As far as names go, you won't ever be searching for the surname Potts, as that is assumed for all the individual entries. If the surname of the individual was not Potts but something similar, then the surname is added [in brackets, like this] after the given names in field no. 1, for example, Frederick [Pottes], and can be searched if necessary by the use of wild cards (discussed later).. Spouses names, on the other hand, do include maiden names where known, for example, Whitstone, Martha Ann. Since the last name comes first you can conveniently search by maiden name alone.


Suppose we were looking for a Norman Potts who was born in 1862 who might have been born in Illinois, and who married a woman surnamed Dickinson. Well, lucky for us, Norman is a rather unusual name and there are only a few in the database. In this case we could search on Norman alone and probably find him. But what if he were listed only as N. Potts? There are a few of those too (male or unknown gender) in the database. But we could perhaps also find him by searching for a spouse named Dickinson. No luck, as there are only a few in the database and none is married to a Norman. How about searching the birth date of 1862? Wow, almost 300 individuals in the database were born in 1862! So maybe we better search again and add IL as the birth place. That narrowed it to about twenty individuals, and our Norman is one of them. Get the idea? Good!

Other Aids

Please also read the Database Search Hints page. You may want to print a copy of that as well for time-saving and more effective search techniques. There you will find very useful ways to avoid having your search return gobs and gobs of individuals (thus bogging down the server, and it might call "time" before your search is ever completed)or return absolutely none at all.


There are things that you might not have thought of, like having your sought-after Potts be listed under a nickname, or middle name, or only initials. Here you will also learn how to use the search wild card character, %. This is one feature you absolutely must learn how to use.

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