Weekly Planner: Inventory an Ancestor

If you haven’t already, go through your files on an ancestor and begin an inventory of the records you have found for him or her. You can easily create your own custom form in a spreadsheet or word processor, including all applicable census years (federal, state, and otherwise), vital records, directories (list years), probate records, church records, correspondence, printed sources, online databases, obituaries, tax and voting lists, court records, military records, immigration and naturalization records, and anything else you have collected. Check for what’s missing and formulate a plan to fill in those blanks!

20 thoughts on “Weekly Planner: Inventory an Ancestor

  1. My wife must be reading this blog without my knowing it!!! Within hours of your posintg this she had me create a “checklist” for our English ancestors identifying all of the censuses that we need to search and all of the BMD information we needed to confirm. It has already proven quite valuable after going through just a dozen families.

    Keep up with the tips!!!!

  2. Great idea. Exel spreadsheet works great. Easy to use and delevelop worksheets within a single family block. Especially like the way you can color code missing sources, etc. for later followup.

  3. I have been using a spreadsheet for several years. I first created it to save money by not paying for the same document more that one time! My spreadsheet contains columns for birth, marriage, death, and the various censuses applicable to the country the ancestors lived. I create a text file in my database with the names, birth-death dates, parents and spouses that I open up in Excel. After adding in the additional columns, it is printed off to keep by the computer.

    I use the following letter designations:
    I = Information (I have not seen the document but have the data from a reliable source. I can decide if I want the document or is the information “good enough”)
    D = Document (Document is in my possession)
    NA = Not Applicable (such as in the case of an unmarried aunt – no sense in searching for a marriage record)
    NF = Not Found (after extensive searching I have been unable to locate any information or document)

  4. I, too, have been using MS Excel for years. I create a spreadsheet for each database (I search on my five immediate lines and my husbands four immediate lines) and then export all of the spreadsheets to MS Access databases, naming them the same as the Excel spreadsheets. This allows me amazing capabilities in sorting the information. With the click of a button, I can have a checklist ready for the research library. I highly recommend the Access application in conjunction with Excel. It’s worth the retail price, but also, sometimes it’s available for personal use through a corporate software licensing program, check with your IT department!

  5. I was very interested in Jeanne Miller’s comment on 30th May about exporting Excel spreadsheet to MS Access. However I have found Access a difficult programme to use and would much appreciate any further guidance she is able to provide or pointers on where to start.
    Kindest regards
    Les Brown
    Guildford Surrey UK

  6. Is there a spreadsheet out there that one can use and if so, how do I access it?

  7. I think genealogists would be better served to use genealogy-specific software and concentrate all their research activities into a single file. Creating a bunch of spreadsheets leads to ‘data sprawl’ and makes it more difficult to update and pass on information in a concise manner.

    As an alternative, create a text tag for “RESEARCH” in your Gedcom-based genealogy software and document what sources you have searched unsuccessfully or haven’t found. Sources that you have found should be linked to the individual’s records anyway. A JPG image of the source can be included in the GEDCOM as well.

  8. Both Ultimate Family Tree and The Master Geneologist software programs have what is termed a research log, which is part of each individual’s file. It can tell you not only what you have found, where and when, but almost as important, where you looked for records and did not find anything, which saves inadvertantly going back over old ground. I imagine other Genealogy software has something similar. But a spread sheet is another good way to keep track. I only wish I had been more thorough when I first started out.

  9. Another approach in Personal Ancestral Software is to log sources in chronological order. When I search census records, I log each year in sequence. If I cannot locate someone in the census, I use the comment section to note where I searched. If I find them at a later date, I updated the source reference. The same concept applies to sources checked that don’t contain information relevant to the person in question. I’ll still document the source and note that no information was found. Lastly, I have a source I call C. Ashley research. In the actual text portion of the PAF source, I’ll list all my ideas for other sources of information. The great advantage to me using this approach is that each time I open PAF, I find all my data on a person in one place.

  10. For those who don’t have Excel, or any other spreadsheet, you can download the OpenOffice software suite for free from http://www.openoffice.org. There is a Word Processor, a Spreadsheet, a Presentation package, etc included. They look just like the Microsoft equivalents and save compatible files.

    I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my searches in large databases. I tabulated all of the volume/page numbers of Seaver surname birth, marriage and death records in the Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1905 from the indices, and worked my way through all of the films, noting dates, places, parents, occupations, etc. There were hundreds of entries in each category. I started 10 years ago, finished 2 years ago, then NEHGS put them online. Oh well.

  11. I would like to set up a spread sheet, but would also like to see a sample set up for genealogy so I do it right the first time. We do not have Excel, but there is a spreadsheet form in Works I could use. I can see setting up a simple form and finding out down the line I would like it to include more information. Anywhere a sample is available to look at?
    Thanks, Eileen

  12. Pingback: 24-7 Family History Circle » Weekly Planner: Start a To-Do List

  13. I don’t know how I could keep track of my genealogy research without excel. I have created timelines worksheets that help identify who was where and when. List to know what I have found and what is missing.

    I have forms for cemeteries so that when I’m there I can record all the information about the exact location of the grave including GPS and other information. What is on the stone, if I was able to get the sexton records and anything else I need. That particular one is done buy person so I can put a copy in their folder.

    I have some that are for things for “to lookup” list for when I am in a certain library or location. I live in CA but my ‘to do’ list for look ups in KS is ready to be printed and taken with me on a moments notice. Other wise I would forget at least part of what I need to look for when I’m there.

    I have the software that I could ender all of that information into but for the flexibility of excel is much more convenient at least for me.

  14. All of these spreadsheets sounds like you are all making your life a lot easier when it comes to looking for your relatives. Are any of you by chance willing to possibly share your spreadsheets. I would like to see what one or two look like? I would appreciate it so much.

  15. For a number of years, I have used Excel spreadsheets and tables in MS Word [Word allows multiple lines in each space] for various information.

    Some of these are:
    Census summaries — I list each member of the family down the left side, leaving an extra line after the heading line for the census location, pg, etc. Then I list census years across the top, starting with the census following the parents’ births. In each column, I note the information about each person listed for that year. After the children marry, I note census location,pg,etc. as well as information about them in their space. At a glance, it can been seen which censuses need to be searched. Having a family all on one sheet avoids having to look back and forth in the notes in my genealogy program for each individual to see the proximinity of their locations, etc. It also helps to determine at a glance if the right family has been found, depending on the matching of names and ages, etc.

    For some families, I make obituary sheets — Headings at the top would be the name of the person and date of death, in the order of death dates. Down the left side would be the names. If I have obituaries for some and not for all, listing the survivors listed on each obit, gives clues as to a time span to look for others, as well as a possible location. With the spreadsheets, one can add columns in the approiate order as other obits are found.

    Death certificates — A library which I visit occasionally, has microfilm of our state’s death certificates for the first 50 years. To avoid duplicating my copies, I use a spread sheet to note those I have found in the index, and then note when I get a copy of the certificate.

    Marriage records — To be able to search and sort marriage records indices, I use a spread sheet. These can be searched and/or sorted for surnames, given names for both brides and grooms, or by dates.

    Family History Book index — For a family history which doesn’t have an index, it is easy to make one using a spreadsheet. On mine, in addition surnames, given names,page numbers, I have a column for year of birth [to determine which one of several of same given name]. If the book is one which begins with one couple and gives their descendants, columns can be used to give the relationships, using columns for generations, using I,A,1,a,etc, [with Is,As,1s,as for spouses] as in an outline. for each generation. After typing all the names, pages, etc. it can be sorted for the index. I usually print out a copy of both the outline version and the sorted by names.

    Hope these examples give someone an idea of how to make one,
    Melba Clark

  16. Informative article. Also so many helpful comments from other researches

  17. I once had a form from the Western Mich Geneological Society (a family record sheet) which inclued on the left side a space for references. For example, if I entered a birth date for Sam Jones based upon a birth certificate, I could reference the certificate “SJ#1″ and in the reference field I would show “SJ#1.” It would be nice if the family data could show references at the end of the form e.g. birth cert # cert by St of Mich, for example. Also space for biographical informtion, jobs, education, religion, items of interest, etc.

  18. I keep all of my documents in alphabetical order and on the back of the family record sheets I show the basis for all information placed there; e.g. b/c #____ cert by __________ Document # _________. I also keep a log of any correspondence showing date of request, what has been requested & from where. I date the response when received and indicate NR when necessary.

    I also write up biographical info on ancestors and wish that the family sheet would allow us to show this data along with resouce documents.

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