Creating a Tribute Page


My husband has been talking about potentially organizing a family reunion and I have been thinking about ways to show the family research that I’ve done without pulling out the traditional family group sheets and 5 gen charts. I thought I would try to create a type of tribute page for each family in his tree, almost in the style of an obituary. I highly recommend trying to write an obituary for your ancestors – it helped me to think through my ancestor’s life to see if I had additional areas to research and to help me make a research plan for other members of the family.

I plan to include maps to show the area each family is from as well as images that show interesting aspects of their lives. For example, Andrew Dabelstein was born and married in Germany, but was a bricklayer and hod carrier in Chicago after they came to the United States. I included an image showing bricklayers in the Chicago area during that era. Andrew_Dabelstein_tribute

I have many ideas of items that I’d like to include, so this may turn into a pamphlet of
sorts, but I’m still playing with it. Here’s my first attempt at the front page of Andrew Dabelstein’s tribute. I’m also including the text for the obit/tribute that I wrote for Andrew in case another descendent visits the blog. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear from you!

Andrew Dabelstein 1Andrew J. Dabelstein

Hans Hinrich Detlev Dabelstein (1816-1891) was a day laborer in the tiny village of Nusse, Lubeck, about 15 miles from the Baltic Sea.  In 1847, Hans married Maria Dorothea Niemann (1822-1896) and they started a family.

Jochim Andreas “Andrew” Dabelstein was the third child of Hinrich and Dorothea. He and his older siblings, Dorothea and Hinrich, would eventually welcome 2 additional siblings, Maria and Margaretha, to the family.

At the age of 26, Andrew married Sophia Catharina Christina “Alvina” Carstens in the city of Hamburg, Germany on Mar. 20, 1879. Alvina was the daughter of Johann Hinrich Carstens and Magdalena Margareta Voss.

Andrew and Alvina lived in Hamburg where Andrew was a laborer. They had their oldest child, Fritz Carl Hans Johann “John” Dabelstein on Dec. 27, 1880 in Hamburg.

On Apr. 19, 1882, “Andr”, “Christine” and “Fritz” left their families behind to began a two-week journey traveling in steerage from Hamburg to New York aboard the Wieland. By January, they had settled in Chicago where Andrew worked as a brick layer and hod carrier. Very soon, they expanded their family, eventually having 5 children: John, Martha, Minnie, William and Andrew.

Andrew and Alvina lived in Chicago for many years. Alvina passed away at the age of 54 on May 27, 1912. She died from heart failure due to overexertion. She was preceded in death by her son, John, who passed away in 1903 at the age of 22.

Andrew passed away at the age of 76 on Nov. 23, 1929 after living with his daughter Minnie Danker’s family for the final 2 years of his life.

It Continued with Fruechtenicht!

Last time, I wrote about a “mystery sister” for my husband’s great-great-grandfather, August Schmidt. I have found a potential match for this sister and the last thing I had found was an interesting name on her marriage record – H.F. Fruechtenicht.

I did a Google search for the name and it was not at all difficult to find the name of his church – The German Evangelical Lutheran Zion Church  in Ottawa, LaSalle Co, Illinois. In the year 2000, an article was written about the 150th anniversary of the church.

Nearly five million immigrants made their way to the U.S. between 1830 and 1870. Many of these immigrants were of German, Scandinavian and Irish descent, looking for a better life and freedom of religion. As a large group of German families made their home in Ottawa, the need for a formal church — offering services in the language they understood — became apparent.

Pastors of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, established in Chicago in 1847, began recruitment and training of pastors to be sent out as missionaries. In the late 1850s, Lutheran pastors from Chicago found their way by rail to Ottawa.

Pastors went from house to house, knocking on doors. When someone answered, they would say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” in German. If the person answering did not understand, it was obvious they were not German. The pastors would apologize and move on to the next house. Their mission work was much targeted.

As they canvassed this small outpost town, Zion Lutheran Church began to form. As early as 1855, the Rev. Henry Wunder, of Chicago, led Lutheran services in Ottawa. For several years thereafter, these services were in the courthouse, Mechanic’s Hall and other places. The services were primarily spoken in German until 1918.

The 17 families — original chartered members — were determined to build the church in 1861 regardless of what it would cost. Included among those first families are Werner, Wittie, Reitz, Frischauf, Krieger, Walkling, Schmidt, Vette and Turk.

Rev. Fruechtenicht was the pastor at Zion from Nov. 1860 to Nov. 1875. According to different census records, August Schmidt and his family arrived in America around 1858. August’s obituaries state that he was born in Blue Island, Illinois and his family moved to Marseilles, LaSalle Co, Illinois when he was a small boy. Marseilles is 8 miles from Ottawa, where Zion Lutheran Church was located.

I did a search on FamilySearch for records from Zion Lutheran and I was ecstatic to find that their records had been microfilmed! The film was ordered and I waited about a week and a half for the film to arrive.

When I have looked at marriage records from other German Lutheran churches, the parents were almost always given. This was not the case for Christian Boeje and Alvina Fritz.


This record did confirm the dates of birth for both Christian and Alvina. Still hoping to prove the connection between Alvina and August, I began to  look through all of the records. Would you think it was a coincidence, or “proof” that they were related if I were also able to find August and his family in the same church records?

Based on other records, I knew that August was born 31 August 1858 and his younger sister, Wilhelmina, was born 6 June 1861. I decided to see if they had baptism records in the same church – and they did! Coincidence? 


Interestingly, this record shows an 1857 date of birth instead of 1858. Normally, I wouldn’t think that was super important, but because I have a potential date of arrival in the US as 1858, this could change the timeline a bit.

While I was beyond excited to find these records, I was still a little disappointed that I didn’t find a clear connection. I know that tradition was that family members were often Godparents so in the back of my mind, it would be my proof if one was a Godparent for the other. So does that mean that THESE Godparents were related in some way? I decided that I would go through the book and look for all entries with these surnames as well as Schmidt, Fritz and Boeje/Boje/Bojie.

I started by writing the information in a spiral notebook, but after awhile, I was having a hard time keeping it all straight in my mind. I decided to put the information into an Excel database, but believe it or not, it did not help me as much as I thought it would. But I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was focusing on the names and who was a Godparent for who. I decided to take a break from collecting information and to put the marriage and baptism information into my notes.

My notes are written as a chronological list of every piece of information that I find for every member of a family. I add a lot of images of the documents that I have so I can tell at a glance if I have a digital document or an index. I often wonder if a document holds some detail that I hadn’t noticed before, so keeping the images as part of the notes helps me to quickly check for a detail. I had already begun to add all information for Alvina and Christian Boje to my notes, but their notes were put in a different color so that if I had to go back to remove it, it would be easier to find. When I added the new information, a new connection jumped out at me!



The marriage and the baptisms had occurred on the same day! 28 Sept 1864. Coincidence? I need someone to tell me that this is no longer a series of coincidences!

After I discovered this connection, I decided to make an index card for each of the events that I had written down and to keep combing through the book for additional entries. I have been able to take cards and arrange them and re-arrange them based on different criteria. I can put them into chronological order. I can arrange them into surname groups. I’ve been able to discover some of the family groups of the church by doing this. I’ve found several baptisms in which Christian and Alvina were the Godparents. GodparentsBut August and Wilhelmina’s baptisms are the only time that that Karl Schmidt and Caroline Fritz appear in the records.

But once again, I’m guilty of looking for the “important” Marseillesinformation and overlooking other obvious clues. About 90% of the time, the far right column gives the name of the Pastor who performed the service. But as I was creating my cards, a new word popped out at me: Marseilles.

August Schmidt’s obituary said that his family moved to Marseilles, Illinois when he was a small boy. And the Looft family were the Godparents for the Boje’s oldest son and on the same day, they were the Godparents for their son. Another coincidence?

I decided to do some research to find if there was a German Lutheran Church in Marseilles. I found a book on Internet Archives called “The Story of Marseilles 1835-1860“. On page 18, they tell the story of Trinity Lutheran Church.


Based on this, I believe that August and Caroline probably attended Trinity Lutheran Church, not Zion Lutheran Church. Looking through the records for Zion, I now see in the final column indications of “Morris”, “Brookfield”, “Seneca”, “LaSalle” and “Earlville”. All of these towns are near Ottawa so I believe these are all locations of churches that Rev. Fruechtenicht traveled to in order to minister to the people.

So where to next? I’m going to continue to learn all I can about the people on my index cards. I’m not sure what I’m looking for yet, but hopefully, there will be some wonderful surprises ahead!

It Started With Boj…

Last Christmas, my husband and his mother took DNA tests through Ancestry. When we got the results back, my husband decided to start taking a look at the information I had collected for his family and he began to do research himself.

We don’t research the same way. He is interested in connecting with cousins he hasn’t seen in years and with finding items for ancestors that he knew personally. I’m more interested in digging into the lives of the oldest known relatives and collecting every scrap of information that I can while trying to get back another generation. It’s been interesting to see the differences in our approaches. But bottom line – it has motivated me to take a break from my side of the family and to look back at what I know about his side of the family. And I’m amazed at how many more records are available now than there were when I last looked at this family.

Because of the DNA testing, my husband connected with a distant cousin who had access to a scrapbook that was kept by my husband’s great-great-grandmother – Caroline Berger Schmidt. She kept any newspaper clipping that related to our family and then passed the scrapbook on to her daughter who did the same thing. Caroline and her husband, August, spent their entire married lives living in the Kankakee, Illinois area. Our new cousin generously sent us scans of everything. What a goldmine! I can’t say that there was a ton of new genealogy information, but the snippets of life from that time are precious to us. It also brought back to mind a family mystery. Looking at my husband’s great-great grandfather’s (August Schmidt) obituary, we find the puzzle. 1921 August Smith Obit KKK Daily Republican 6-21-1921 cropped

…“where he resided until 1880, when he went to Kansas where a sister resided, he spent two years there then returned to this place.”

A sister in Kansas? We only know of one sister, a younger one, who we have been able to trace quite thoroughly and she went to Minnesota, not Kansas. My first thought was that the person who gave the information for the obituary must have been mistaken and it may have been a relative, but not a sister.

In the scrapbook was another obituary from another newspaper and it said:

1921 AG Smith Obituary cropped

“Shortly after he attained his majority, he went west and located at Galesburg, Kansas, where he learned the trade of a wagonmaker.”

Interesting. Not just Kansas, but a specific town in Kansas. We already had his 1880 census in Illinois and searching for a “Schmidt” or “Smith” in Kansas wouldn’t work. A sister living in Kansas more than likely had been married and therefore wouldn’t have the same last name.

Have you ever read a document MANY times but not really read it? You skim through it looking for “important” details and totally skip over other parts? That’s what I had done when I read the newspaper account for August and Carrie’s wedding.

Thursday Newspaper 27 Dec. 1883 1883 Dec 20 Carrie Berger AG Smith Wedding Announcement

Married on the 20th inst., at the residence of the bride’s parents, Mr. August Smith and Miss. Carrie, eldest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John Berger.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr. Bruegmann, Lutheran Pastor of Goodrich. The relatives of the family present from abroad were Mr. & Mrs. John Herscher of Herscher, Misses Meyer, Kankakee; Mr. & Mrs. Charles Smith, Avoca; Mrs. Boj, Kansas; Mr. & Mrs. John Milly, Wilmington.

The home was filled with friends. The guests were served with a skillfully prepared dinner and supper, and the evening was passed with music and conversation. The young people had an enjoyable time in tripping the light fantastic toe. The presents were numerous and valuable. May they live a long and useful life is the wish of your humble correspondent and begin right by subscribing for the Gazette.

Did you catch it? “Mrs. Boj, Kansas” was listed as a relative. How could I have never noticed that before? I’m so used to searching for common surnames like Smith or Stephens. Could I find a Boj in the 1880 Kansas census? Yes – one family jumped off the screen at me, last name “Boje”. And they lived about 70 miles from Galesburg. Coincidence? Certainly worth checking out! And the “coinicidences” just kept piling up.

1880 Centerville, Neosho Co, Kansas census

Crist Boje – age 41 – born in Holstein
Elvina Boje – age 32 – born in Prussia (died in 1938 in Galesburg, Kansas)
Henry Boje – age 14 – born in Illinois
Mary Boje – age 11 – born in Illinois putting them in Illinois in 1869 (remaining children born in Kansas)

Crist and Elvina Boje had 5 children in the 1880 census. And the two oldest were born….in Illinois. August and Carrie Schmidt were from Kankakee, Illinois. Coincidence?

I decided to add Crist and Elvina to my tree in Ancestry to see what else I could discover. One of the first things that I found was the Find-a-grave entry for Elvina Boje. She died in 1938 in Galesburg, Kansas. That’s the town that was named in August’s obituary as the location that he went to learn wagon making. Coincidence?

According to Find-a-grave, her maiden name was Fritz. And August Schmidt’s mother was Caroline Fritz. Coincidence? Could it be that Elvina Fritz was a half-sister to August Schmidt? Perhaps the daughter of Caroline Fritz from a previous marriage that we know nothing about yet?

I continued to dig into the Boje family and eventually found the obituary for the oldest son, Henry. In the obituary, it said that Henry was born in Kankakee, Illinois. Coincidence?

I have tried to find the Boje family in the 1870 census, but I have had no luck. According to the 1880 census, their daughter, Mary, was born in Illinois in 1869, but I have searched high and low to no avail. I wonder if perhaps they were traveling to Kansas during the time that the census was being taken and therefore were missed?

“Boje” is a fairly unique name, so I did a Google search and was able to find a blog written by a descendent of Christian and Elvina. I was able to collect more information about the family through that site and I was able to get in contact with the writer. She has also sent me some helpful files.

I turned to other trees on Ancestry for Elvina to see what else I could find and someone had unsourced information that Crist and Elvina had been married in 1863 in Ottawa, LaSalle Co, Illinois. August had a sister – Whilhemina – and on her marriage record, she stated that she had been born in LaSalle County, Illinois. Coincidence?

I searched the Illinois marriage index and found 1 record that was interesting.

Christian Berger and Alvina Fritz married in LaSalle County, Illinois, in 1864.

Could Alvina be a sister to Elvina? Perhaps a twin? I was excited to find that FamilySearch had online marriage records for LaSalle County and I anxiously clicked the link only to discover that to see the images, you must be in a Family History Center. You cannot view them from home or from the library. Oh no…remember me, the shy one? The one that has never gone to a courthouse or society meeting? They want me to go to a Family History Center that I’ve never been to before?

I did a search and was happy/dismayed to find that there was a FHC a VERY short distance from the restaurant that my husband and I have breakfast at almost every Saturday. Did I have the nerve to go by myself? I have seen the church before. It isn’t very large and there is no sign about how to get into the FHC. What to do?????

I researched the facility further and found that they are only open 5 hours a week. Two hours every Wednesday night and 3 hours every Saturday. My husband came to my rescue and told me that he would go with me. That night.

I won’t bore you with all the details of getting to the FHC, but I will tell you that I have no qualms about going back, even by myself! And while we were there, I was able to download the digital versions of the Marriage Register and the Marriage License. I was dearly hoping for the names of the parents, but at that time, that information was not recorded.

1864 LaSalle Co IL Marriage Licenses Book C License 2944 Boege and Fritz p2

I was quite surprised to find that on one portion of the Marriage License, Crist’s last name looks like “Berger” (and had been indexed that way), but at the bottom, where the Minister had signed the document, he had written “Boeje”. Bingo! The Alvina that I thought might be a twin to Elvina was actually Elvina herself!

And the Minister’s name? H.F. Fruechtenicht. Now THAT’S a name I can Google!

Next time…It Continued with Fruechtenicht!

I should have double checked it!

I just noticed that my updated Family Group Sheet was missing a section of text! The link has been updated, so if you downloaded the form last night or this afternoon, you may want to re-download.

I have tried to go through my site to update any links that referred to this form. I hope that making these changes didn’t mess anyone up.

My apologies!

Amp-Up Your Group Sheet!

Every family that we research has a different puzzle to be solved. Who were the parents? Have I found all of the siblings? Was the person who witnessed that deed related in some way?

Because every family is different, doesn’t it make sense that customizing each Family Group Sheet would be helpful? Sometimes, I’d like to have information for more than just a couple and their children. I wasn’t able to make the changes that I wanted to with the current format of the Family Group Sheet that I had originally created. To help with this, I’ve created an updated version of the half-sheet FGS and it is now available in the “Downloads” tab at the top of the screen. I’m deleting the old version as this new version looks exactly the same, but has more flexibility than the original version did.

I have 3 specific families that I have been working on recently that I am using the “Amped-Up” FGS to help me with. The video will show you what I did to keep track of all of the pieces for these puzzles.

For the first family, both the husband and his wife were born in Europe and met after arriving in the US. I wanted to add cells to their Family Group Sheet to keep track of any information I had found related to their immigration. When I attempted to add those cells to the group sheet, the formatting was not behaving the way that I wanted. With the updated FGS, I am able to add as many cells as I’d like to the form.

The second family puzzle was a little more detailed. I have been trying to find all of the children of James Conn Sr, who was born in 1751. He did not leave a will, but I know that the land was passed on to his children based on various deeds that I have found after James’ death. Some children indicated that they were selling their 1/11th share of the land. Some grandchildren indicated that land they were selling had been passed on to them from their parents and James Conn’s original patent was mentioned in the deed. I’m attempting to find all of James’ children to see if anything in their records would tell me the name of James’ wife. In order to prove who the children were, I wanted to search for any deed records for James’ children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. I did not want to create group sheets for every great-grandchild, but I wanted a way to keep the lists of names managable. I have found a way to do that using my updated FGS.

For the third family, I am attempting to solve the mystery of a previously unknown sister from Kansas. I wanted a way to keep the information for 3 generations of the family all on one FGS so that I would know where to be looking for records and in what time period.

Remember, the updated half-sheet FGS is available in the “Downloads” tab at the top of the blog. That is the base for the techniques that I’ll be sharing in today’s video tutorial. Maybe this video will help you think of some ways to customize your own group sheet. If it does, I’d love to hear from you!

The Features of theTax Database

Yesterday, I wrote about the benefits of tracking your ancestors through the tax lists in the county where they lived. Today, I have uploaded the companion video to go with the Excel file, which is available in the “Downloads” tab at the top of the blog.

Watch the video to see the features of the database and different ideas of how it can help you with your research.

A Roadmap Through Tax Lists

As I get further back in my family tree, I have to do a lot more detective work to find my ancestors because of the lack of vital records. Census records only appear every 10 years, and in Kentucky, there is no 1800 census so there are 18 years between statehood and a census record. Once you get into available census records and an ancestor “disappears”, how do you know if he died or moved away? How can you find out where he went? When did he leave? Who else went? Land records are often helpful, but can be difficult to locate and don’t usually indicate if someone is selling land because they are moving to a new location.

Enter tax records! I’ve had great success in finding tax records on FamilySearch for counties in Kentucky. My library (Allen County Public Library) also has microfilms of tax records for every county in Kentucky through the 1850’s, so tax lists are my “go to” record when I’m stumped.

Kentucky began collecting annual taxes from the very beginning of statehood in 1792. Every male aged 21 and older was to be included on the lists as long as they owned at least 1 horse. This means that an ancestor (or his children) didn’t even have to own land to be included on the list.

Beginning in 1795, columns were added to the tax list to indicate who had entered, surveyed and patented the land – helpful when looking for the origin of an ancestor’s original land in a county. In that same year, they began tracking the number of white males above the age of 16 in addition to those above 21.  By 1821, the tax lists were used to track the number of school aged children between 4 and 14. In 1840, this changed to children between the ages of 7 and 17.

All this to say that I spend a lot of time looking at tax records! When census records indicate that someone has passed away since the last census, if I can’t find a death record, I go to the tax records to see when their name was included last. Often, you will find a person paying taxes for the deceased individual or their heirs. That’s an important name to have! If I suspect that an ancestor moved to a new location, I look at the tax records in each location to see if their name disappears from one list and appears on the other list at the same time. I also try to track the other entries for the same surname to see if they were joining family or if family traveled together.

This means a lot of information to track! So over the years, I developed an Excel worksheet to help me to keep track of the information. As I would collect information for different years, I would add appropriate columns to the database to keep track of it all. Every clue to track an ancestor is worth keeping!


I’ve decided to make the form available in the “Downloads” tab at the top of the blog. I’ve also made a new video to show the different features of the form as well as different things to help you make the most of it. I’m planning to finish that video today and to post it tomorrow wo be sure to check back then!

Link ’em!

In a comment to my blog post “Forms Shape the Research”, Tammy asked, “How do you link the forms together so knowing at a glance who is connected to who, etc.” The ability to link forms together is one of the reasons that I am so addicted to working in Microsoft Word and Excel! Not only can we link one form with another, but we can link MULTIPLE documents together allowing one document to become almost like a table of contents for documents related to every member of a family. Let’s look at an example. I’ll start with a Family Group Sheet. This is the half-sheet Family Group Sheet that’s available in the downloads tab at the top of this blog, but you could use the full sheet form as well.


Here I have a Group Sheet for Eli Gilpin and his wife, Rebecca Conn. In this group sheet, I have included citations for the different sources of information for all of the family members. But sometimes, just knowing the source isn’t helpful for “on the spot” questions. The citation is telling where the information was found, but it isn’t telling me what I named the file when I downloaded it and it certainly doesn’t tell me all of the clues contained within the document. If I create hyperlinks to the documents, not only do I not have to remember what I called a document, but with a single click, I can open the document to take a look at it.

For example, when I look at the citation for the death of Nancy Jane Gilpin Scott, I see that there is an Administrator’s Bond in an un-numbered book dated 1908-1924 and that the bond is on page 293. But what if I wanted to see who that administrator was? Who were the sureties for the bond? What amount was the bond for? If I make the date on the group sheet into a link, I can click on it and go directly to the bond itself to answer all of my questions.

To make a hyperlink, begin by highlighting the text you’d like to make linkable. In this case, the text will be the date of death. After the text is highlighted, click on the “Insert” tab at the top of the screen and click on “Hyperlink” in the middle of the ribbon.


When you click on “Hyperlink”, a new box will pop up and you will need to decide exactly what you’d like to link to. You might want to link to a document that you’ve downloaded or scanned and saved on your computer. Or if you found the document online, you might want to link to the location where you found the document. If you are linking to an online location, you will need to copy the web address for that document to paste into the “Address” box at the bottom.


If you are linking to a document that you have stored on your computer, you will clik on the folder at the top of the box and find the location of the document that way.


One you have added the location for your document, click “OK” and link
your text will turn blue, indicating that it is now clickable. To click the link, you will need to hold down the Ctrl button as you click. Notice that the hyperlink does not affect the footnote superscript at all as long as that wasn’t highlighted before you created the link.

The steps for linking from within an Excel document are the same except that the “Hyperlink” button in the “Insert” tab is in a slightly different location.


What if you have more than one document for a fact? You might decide to link one document to the date and another document to the location. But it might be even better to highlight part of your citation text and make THAT a hyperlink. This would be especially helpful if you have several documents you’d like to link to one fact. Each citation would become a link to it’s specific document.

Now, just think of all the things that we could hyperlink for on this one family group sheet.

  • I could link Eli’s name to the chronological notes document that I have created for him.
  • I could link county names with county GenWeb sites or historic county maps.
  • I could link documents for every birth, marriage or death event on the entire sheet.
  • I could link the names of each child with their own group sheet.
  • If the in-law are families that I am tracking, I could link a child’s spouse’s name to the Family Group Sheet for THEIR family. In this case, Nancy Jain’s husband’s family is also in my line, so I could link that THAT group sheet.
  • I could link items that I’ve included in the “Notes” section of this Group Sheet for Eli, Rebecca and their children – for example, the marriage records for additional spouses or the web page that talks about the history of Gilpin, Kentucky.
  • I could link the cemetery names to the Find-A-Grave page or to a cemetery map.
  • I could use the blank spaces below the children to list different helpful documents I’ve created – Eli’s Family Land Sheet, Inventory, Tax Tracker or 5 Gen Chart and link to each of those.
  • Or I could use a few of the cells to keep links for web sites I’d like to come back to at a later date.

The possibilities are endless!

Forms Shape the Research

I love forms! When I have documents stored on my laptop, it’s great to know that I have them, but do I know if I’ve read them all? I don’t mean collected them all, that’s obvious. But have I READ them all?

When I am filling out the information for a 5-Gen chart, Excel database, Ancestor Inventory,  Family Group Sheet or Land Sheet, it really forces me to LOOK at every document and then to think about what it means. When I make a chronological list of every document that mentions a specific ancestor, it helps me to see missing information that I should be searching for.

When my ancestor appears in records for a different county, did he move, or did the boudary change? Do I need to look for additional records in a parent county? Have I collected information for his/her children or siblings?

The forms guide me to look for connections with people who have different surnames. Sure, I have a document that says an ancestor’s daughter was married on a certain date at a certain location, but have I thought about researching that new son-in-law? Did he move away or did he stick close by? If he stayed nearby, is it because his family is also from that same area? Were they witnesses for deeds or court situations? Could those in-laws be related to my ancestor’s wife? Where did they come from? Is that a location that I should also research? Did that son-in-law get a share of my ancestor’s property after he passed away? If so, who else also got a share?

But my forms not only help to shape my research, but they also help me to keep my research in shape!

Filling in the forms helps me keep my research “tidy”. Are the files named correctly? When I first started researching, I was happy with a file name “1850 Census” because each ancestor had their own folder. But over time, I developed a naming convention for all of my files and whenever I’m filling out a form, that’s an opportunity for me to make sure the file name is consistent with my naming formula.

Was the document easy to find? If it wasn’t where I expected it to be within my file folders, should it be moved to a better location? Was the document mistakingly filed under an ancestor with the same name? Has the file been hyperlinked to the form so I don’t have to be searching to find it the next time? If it has been hyperlinked, do I want the link to take me to my laptop file, my cloud file or to the location where I originally found the file?

Has the file been backed up to the cloud? If my laptop were to crash, would I still be able to retrieve all of my files? I have every document stored in the cloud as well as on my laptop so that if I’m traveling with my iPad, I’ll still have access to the files. I like having it on my laptop for those times when I don’t have internet access.

I truly believe that everytime I fill out a form for an ancestor, I find a hole in my research or a document that I forgot that I had.

Gotta love those forms!