I have found my "skimming eye" likes to see something there that tells me what the situation is. So I've devised some standardized (for me, that is) methods.
If I know that John was born in 1800
.....in death date box I can with general assurance write
.....that he died "bef 1910"
.....so that I don't have to really look at each empty .....death box to know if the person is alive.
I also "insist" upon a birth date for everyone. Yes, there are many that I really don't know the birth date. I make a best guess and label it as such. A question mark could do this, but I happened to use my initial when I was beginning and it works too. Thus:
John could have been born "about 1800 K" and that means to
.....me that I guessed and not to take it too seriously. .....(It often surprises me how close I manage to come by .....guessing. But certainly not always.)
On the other hand, when I look at a list of 20 John Smith entries, I don't have to open all twenty to find the one who was born in about 1800. I can skip the ones who were born in 1659, or 1710, or 2006. Much more efficient!
Sometimes my note will read
"born: abt 1800 K; died bef 1849 K"
.....and I know not to expect to find precise dates
.....but also to know that John died much closer to the
.....age of 50, than to 10 or 100.
It requires keeping one's wits about them, and not passing on the data without explanation,
but it seems worth that to me to allow me to skim for the father of Joe who was born on 8 May 1889.
.....You quickly know that there is no need to go and check .....on on "John b abt 1880 K
.....(because he was going to school in 1890)
.....and d bef 1849 K.
.....(because his wife was head of household and a widow in .....1850 census."
But "John b abt 1869 K
.....(because he was the middle child between Mary b 1867 .....and Martha b 1872)
.....and d aft 1932
.....(because he is in a photo at a wedding on 12 Jun 1933"
.....is definitely a good person to check out.
Hope that makes sense. It does when you get used to working with it...and hold to your own rules. K