Group Sheet Experiment

We all know that when we add information to a Group Sheet or 5 Gen Chart, we should cite our sources. I see sources for dates and locations of births, marriages, deaths and burials and I try my best to write some type of citation – even if it isn’t the most technically complete citation possible. My goal is to always be able to find the source again, so sometimes, my citation contains a link to the document. Sometimes the link is to the on-line location of the document, such as when it’s found on FamilySearch. Sometimes, the link is to the document on my computer because it was a scan from a microfilm or a scan of a page in a book. Even though I know my citations probably are not up to the most rigorous standards, I’m pretty happy to have a link that will let me jump right to the document rather than searching for it.

But here’s something I’ve always struggled with. How can I cite how I have come up with the list of children on a group sheet without having a monster list of repeated citations?

Here’s an example. When I first started working on my family research, I found a book at my library that was a county history where the historical society asked anyone interested to add their own family history. You can certainly tell that most of the people who submitted histories were genealogists because there was a lot of family group information included – which is great for a researcher, right? One of my families was included in the book and the submitter included a list of children. The book stated “his children were: Thomas, Andy, J.B., John, Lettie, William, Dudley, Sherwood, Joshua, Polly and Andrew.” So I put those names in my group sheet. Over time, I discovered that J.B. and John were the same person as were Andy and Andrew. This book is the ONLY place that I’ve seen the name Lettie, but I did find an Elizabeth in the family, so is that the same person? If I decide to keep the name Lettie in my list, then I’d like to know that this is the only reference for it and that Elizabeth was not included in this source.

What other reasons do we have for adding children to a group sheet? Is it because they showed up in a census list? What if our source is the 1850 census before relationships were included? What if a child was born and died between censuses? If it’s because someone was listed in the census, were they listed in more than one census? Does that make them more likely to be a child of the head of household? How do I know they were a child and not a grandchild? Did I see the name in someone else’s on-line tree? In Find-a-grave – which is totally based on user submitted information as opposed to documented proof? Was there a list of children given in a will? Do I have a DNA connection? It seems to me that most of the time, I am assuming a parent/child relationship because of a census record, but that’s a tricky assumption before the 1880 census. If a family had a dozen children, do I need a dozen citations for the 1850 census and then a dozen more for the 1860 census, etc?

I really would like to document this better – especially when I’m building out a family for the first time, but I’m just not sure of the best way to do it. So I’m playing around with a different way of listing my reasoning, but I want it to be something that will apply to multiple situations. I want to be able to connect more than 1 person to the same reason. I want to be able to modify it for each specific family, without re-inventing the wheel every time. So I invite you to give this a try along with me. I’m not ready to put this into my “downloads” tab until I have given it a better test run, so I welcome your feedback.

I decided that I wanted to try to use both footnotes and endnotes in the Microsoft Word version of my Family Group Sheet. I have come up with a list of 20 “pre-programmed” footnotes. Each one can be customized to give added details. For example, my first footnote says “1850 census”, but it could be customized to say “1850 census, Russell County, Kentucky, p. 32” or whatever details I want to give simply by highlighting the text in the footnote and changing it to whatever I’d like. Because this census may also be the basis of an approximate date of birth or location of birth, I figured that I can use the traditional endnotes to make a more complete citation. I want to keep these footnotes short so that I still have room for adding notes in the space between the actual group sheet and the footnotes section. I can still add text boxes in the empty area, as I’ve done in the past, but keeping these footnotes short allows me to have as much space as possible for that.


Now here’s the part that’s totally new as far as what I’ve put on my blog before. For this “relationship proof”, I am going to use cross-references. That means that every single person can have a reference to any of the footnotes without having to create a new footnote each time I want to reference a specific document. In other words, everybody can have a superscript 2 and it doesn’t affect anything.

The main issue with cross-referenced numbers is that they don’t update automatically. With traditional footnotes or endnotes, if I add a new reference before a current reference, Word will automatically adjust all of the footnote/endnote numbers. But it does not update the cross-reference numbers. If I cross-reference to endnote 2 and that endnote later becomes a 3, the cross-reference will remain a 2. Look at the following before/after images. In the “before” image, “Place” has superscripts 1 and 2. Superscript 1 is an actual endnote and superscript 2 is a cross-reference to the same note as the “Date” in the next line. If I add an endnote for the top “Date”, all of the numbers automatically update except the cross-reference number.

Also, deleting a footnote does not make the cross-reference disappear. If you begin working with the cross-references and then decide to rearrange them or shorten the list, the cross-reference numbers you’ve already added won’t disappear like traditional ones would. (You can change the wording all you want and it doesn’t affect the cross-references.)

You might also wonder why I’ve chosen symbols instead of regular numbers for these pre-programmed footnotes. First, I wanted it to be obvious which section a number refers to – the footnote section or the endnote section. I also like that they are still numbers, making them unique but not hard to read. I started out trying to use a star, heart, spade, club, etc., but soon ran out of symbols for as many reasons as I wanted to include and they were difficult to read with the smaller size of a superscript.

I only plan to use cross-referencing for the names of the children indicating why I included them as a child on this group sheet. Here’s how cross-referencing works.


  • Place your cursor after the name of the child you will be referencing.
  • Click the “Insert” tab at the top of the screen and then click “Cross-reference”.
  • In the “Reference type” box, select “Footnote”.
  • In the “For which footnote” list, select the source you want to refer to. Note that you will need to scroll down to see the entire list.
  • Click “Insert”.


Once you have inserted this cross-reference, you will notice that it is larger than you’d like. To fix that,superscript

  • Highlight the symbol
  • From the “Home” tab, click the icon to make the symbol a superscript

There are a couple of additional ways that this cross-reference symbol will be different from a traditional footnote or endnote. If I hover my mouse over a traditional footnote/endnote superscript, I get to see a pop-up box showing me the text given in that note. That won’t happen with these footnote symbols. If I hover over one of the footnote symbols, I will see a note that says “Ctrl+Click to follow link”. If you press Ctrl+Click, it will take you to the list of footnotes below the “Notes” box in the group sheet.

So please download this experimental group sheet and give it a try. Tell me what you like or what you’d change. I know this all makes sense in my mind – which is a bit sleep deprived from time to time – so let me know if it makes sense to you and your situation as well.

Half Sheet FGS with footnotes (Word)


Genealogy Snack #6

Grab a stack of family group sheets. If you need to download one, here’s my half sheet Group Sheet in Word and my full sheet Group Sheet in Excel.

How many group sheets can you fill just by connecting surnames in the same cemetery on

Sometimes I prefer scribbling the info on paper versions as I have time and sometimes, I prefer to get the information directly into digital format from the start. It depends on where I’ll be while working on this “project”. If it’s something I might like to work on while riding in the car or waiting at the airport and I’ll be looking at Find-a-grave on my iPad, then I’m paper and pencil all the way. If I have access to my digital files on the computer, I prefer to keep it that way from the start because that’s where it will eventually end up anyway.

Now go to and find one of your ancestors. I’m assuming you already have a group sheet for them. What about group sheets for their children? If you click on a name, do you see names of THEIR children? The maiden name of a wife? HER parents’ names? Begin filling out the group sheets knowing that there’s a decent chance that sooner or later, you will begin to make some FAN connections.

Find-a-grave recently experienced a “face lift”. Some love it and others…not so much. I’m including screen shots in case you haven’t been on the site in awhile.

From your Ancestor’s page, scroll down and look at the section titled “See more surname memorials in:”.
Notice that the options start specific and move out from there.

  • This cemetery
  • This town
  • This county
  • This state
  • This country
  • Entire Find-a-grave site

Assuming the project is not overwhelming, begin filling in group sheets as you have time. Can you include every person with your surname in that cemetery in your group sheets? If the cemetery is small, or your surname is unique, you might want to move “out” and collect all of your surname in the town or county.

Finding connections with the same surname – that will be the low hanging fruit. But the potential of making a connection through in-laws…that could be a tool to help you break down a brick wall you’ve been working on for a long time.

And don’t forget that somewhere on the group sheet, you will want to make a note that all of the information included has been collected from Find-a-grave.

120 Year Ago Today – Feb. 16, 1898

A continuing feature on the blog for 2018 is be a series called “120 Years Ago Today”. I’m collecting newspaper clippings relevant to Russell County from The Adair County News in the year 1898. I hope you find some surprises to add to your family tree!

I’ll be doing a bit of digital cleanup on the files to remove streaks and scratches, but you can download the original file from the link. Right-click on my image to save the cleaned-up version. I also plan to include a list of names mentioned in the articles at the end of the blog post to make it possible to find with an internet search.

Here’s the link to this edition of the newspaper. Link

Sorry, this is the best I can do quality-wise.

Adair County News, Page2, 1898-02-16

Lou Mann, Mr. Bell, John Mann, Mr. Pryor, Miss Wilkerson, P.S. Rowe, Porter McFarland, P. Helm and wife, Kendall

Accessing PERSI Articles

This week, I’ve been focusing on use the PERSI search found on If you’ve been following along and making your list, you probably have quite a number of articles that you’d like to see! So how can you see these articles?

  1. If you live near Fort Wayne, Indiana, you can visit the Allen County Public Library and look up each article yourself. (If you decide to go this route, let me know and we can meet up!) The library has an entire wall of newsletters in addition to bound books of newsletters which you can find within the books from the county. 

  2. You can order the articles from the library. The order form allows for up to 6 articles. The fee is $7.50 per order form plus 20 cents per page copied – to be billed to you. Let’s assume you want 6 articles and each one takes 1 page to copy (which may not be enough pages). $7.50 plus $1.20 for copies – $8.70. Not too bad. If you only want 1 article – $7.50 plus $0.20 = $8.70, so that might be a little steep for a one page (or 1 paragraph) article. And obviously, if your list is as long as my list…that’s going to run into some serious money!

camera_iconIf you happen to be lucky enough to see a camera icon after your article, that means that the article has been digitized and you can view it online. This does require having a subscription to Findmypast. What if you don’t currently have a subscription?

  1. See if your library has access to the library version of the site.
  2. If you have a small list of articles, you might be tempted to consider some PayAsYouGo credits to view the specific articles. 60 credits cost $10.95 and are good for 90 days. But note: a 1 month “Starter” subscription which includes seeing the digital articles, is only $9.95, so I’d definitely take that route over PayAsYouGo, especially if you only plan to use the site for PERSI.
    1. You can also use PayAsYouGo credits to see the “transcriptions” – which every article has. This site’s definition of “transcription” is different from mine. What you get is a page of article information such as Article Title, Periodical Name, Volume/Issue/Date, Call Number, Publisher, etc. If you don’t see a camera icon, you won’t see the actual article.  I don’t believe that is worth the cost. The only information that I felt was worth noting in the transcription that wasn’t on the search results page was the call number – something that I can find from the library website.

If you do have a Findmypast account and an article has a camera icon, you can click on it to see the digital version of the periodical. From the image, there is a download option in the lower right corner, but it only downloads the page you are looking at. You will have to click through the periodical to reach the page that your article is found on and download each page individually.

Journal_MagazineWhat if you don’t see any camera icons and you can’t afford to travel to Fort Wayne or to order all of the articles? Then turn to

Enter the name of the publication or historical society in the search box. If you get a long list, add a check mark in the “Journal/Magazine” option on the left. Be sure to confirm that you are looking at the correct listing by checking the publisher.

Scroll down just a bit to the section titled “Find a copy in the library”. You might just get lucky and find that a library closer to you has a copy as well! Will they have every issue? That might be worth an email to double check before making a trip.

Good luck with your PERSI surfing!

Additional PERSI searches

This week’s Snack was to complete 1 specific PERSI search on the Findmypast website. I thought about making additional searches as future Snacks, but decided to keep them all together so that a researcher can have all information possible before making a copy request or traveling to a library to find articles.

Periodical Source Index

Here are some additional PERSI search terms to try.

  • In Snack #5, we entered our County and State in the search box, but the PERSI team doesn’t know your County the way that you do. This time, enter the name of a town in the “Optional Keywords” box and you are likely to see articles you didn’t see in the County search. If the town name is a common one, add your State to the filter as well. This search works best for smaller towns. When I entered “Louisville” into the “Optional Keywords” box, I got over 10,000 hits. When I tried “Creelsboro” (a small town in Russell County), I got 9 results, 2 of which had not been tagged with the County name.
    • If you get a decent number of results, go ahead and copy and paste them all into your tracking sheets. If you complete a sort to make the article titles alphabetical, it will be easy to spot duplicates.
    • Note – if you try to enter a town name in the “Town/City” box and you don’t get a pop-up suggestion, then you haven’t really added that filter. That’s why I suggest using the “Optional Keywords” box instead.
  • From the search page – enter your County in the “Publisher” box. Take a look at the choices that appear in the pop-up menu. Select the Genealogical/Historical Society you are interested in and click “Search Periodical Source Index” at the bottom of the filter box.
    • You will get a list of all of the articles published by that group. But you might be surprised to find several different publications. Be sure to click on the numbered buttons at the bottom. If you’d like an example, try putting “Wayne County Historical Society” in the “Publisher” box. You will not only see “Wayne County Historical Society” but you will also see “Overview”, “Wayne County Historian”, “Wayne County Historical Society and the Old Jail Museum”. You might want to start a list.
    • If there are multiple publications, you can go back to the main search page and enter the name of one publication in the “Periodical” box. When you complete the search, you will get a list of every article published in that Periodical. In our original search, you were seeing every article from that publisher.
    • Do you see items you’d like to explore further for a specific ancestor? Add that article to that ancestor’s Research Plan!
  • Start a new search. Click on the “Browse Periodicals” link and enter your State in the search box.
    • See anything you never would have thought to look for?
    • Put a check mark in front of one of the periodicals and click “Apply Filter”. This will take you back to the search page with your periodical added as a filter. Click “Search Periodical Source Index” at the bottom of the search area and you will get a list of every article in that periodical.
  • Try to add multiple filters to narrow down your list. The one box that I personally find a little irritating is the “Subject” box. Let’s say I only want to see articles about the Military from my County. If I type “Military” in the subject line, I get multiple suggestions in the pop-up such as “Biography,Cemeteries,History,Military Records,Surname”. There does not appear to be an option for “Military” alone. When I select one from the list, I get zero hits even though I can see at least 1 record from my original list that has the category of “Military Records,Surname”. Play around with the different options and see if you can find some hidden articles that you never would have thought to look for on their own.

Genealogy Snack #5

Today, let’s snack on a PERSI search. Believe me, if you haven’t tried this, I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

PERSI is an index of articles in genealogy and local history periodicals around the world. The index was created by the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, and they have copies of all of the periodicals in the index. For years, the PERSI index was in a collection of books in the Genealogy Center, but you can now search the index on

Don’t have an account? That’s ok. You don’t need one to do a PERSI search. And this can be very quick – with great potential for later research.

We’ll be working on a quick but significant list of specific things to spend time researching later.

PERSI listings rarely give an individual’s name unless there is an article title that includes that name – for example, a biography. So instead of using the Research Plan forms, you just need a place to keep a list. I’ve created a very simple one that you can download here, if you don’t want to take the time to create one of your own. I have designed the sheet to fit all of the information within the width of one landscape oriented page. If you have time today, I will list steps at the end of this post on how I quickly format the information to fit. But if you don’t have time for that, be sure to come back to this post and skip to the instructions at the end.

If this will be a new experiment for you, I’m going to give you one search to complete. Tomorrow, I’m going to post more about PERSI, but that would be for a day when you have more time to spend – not a Snack day.

Here’s the link which will take you directly to the search page: Findmypast – PERSI search

From the search page – enter your state and county toward the bottom of the search form. Note: When you begin to type, a suggestion will appear below where you are typing. If you don’t click on that pop-up, your filter may not be included. If no suggestions appear as you begin typing, then there are no filter terms with that criteria.


Every article you are seeing in this list has been tagged by the Allen County Genealogical Library staff as having something to do with the county you have entered. You are probably seeing quite a few articles in periodicals you never would have thought to look at before.

In the upper right corner, you can decide how you would like to view your list: Relevance, Article Title, Subject, Periodical or Publication Year. If you are using Excel to track your articles, you can always sort these later.

Because we are just in collection mode, we will make a list of every article now and take time to look at them later.


You can highlight all of the information on the page at a time by clicking at the the beginning of the first article and dragging your cursor all the way to the bottom. Copy it and paste it into your tracking document. Use the numbers at the bottom of the list to go through every page in your PERSI list and copy and paste the information for every article.

Tomorrow, we’ll dig into what we can do with the list but for now, we’re just collecting information for later when we have time for a larger “Meal”.

If you have a Findmypast account and your search resulted in a long list of articles that you don’t have time to look through, click on the “Save Search” button on the left. You will be able to find the same list of articles when you come back to the site under the “My Account” button in the upper right corner.

If you are using my Excel form for your list, here are the list of things I did to format everything so that every row fits on one page. It allows everything to fit and prints out nicely and it takes under 5 minutes.

  • In the right column, you probably see the word “Index” all the way down. Highlight those cells, but keep the header row and click “Delete”.
    (I like to use this column for checkmarks after I print out my list and I find and look at a record. There is actually a white period in the header row to force the column to print with the gridlines.)
  • Highlight all of the cells except the Header row.
    • Change the Font to Arial and the size to 8.
    • Click the arrow next to the bucket icon and change the color to “No Fill”.
    • Click the “Wrap Text” button.
    • Click the down arrow beneath “Format” and click “AutoFit Row Height”.


120 Years Ago Today – Feb. 9, 1898

A continuing feature on the blog for 2018 is be a series called “120 Years Ago Today”. I’m collecting newspaper clippings relevant to Russell County from The Adair County News in the year 1898. I hope you find some surprises to add to your family tree!

I’ll be doing a bit of digital cleanup on the files to remove streaks and scratches, but you can download the original file from the link. Right-click on my image to save the cleaned-up version. I also plan to include a list of names mentioned in the articles at the end of the blog post to make it possible to find with an internet search.

Here’s the link to this edition of the newspaper. Link

Adair County News, Page2, 1898-02-09 Jamestown

A.H. Holt, E.G. Atkins, W.F. Rowe, Mrs. Texas Rowe, N.H.W. Aaron, Miss Burton, Mr. Anderson, J. Shelby Rowe, O.B. Vaughan, W.S. Stone, Abner Jones, Jamestown



Making a Snow Plan?

If you live in the Midwest or Northeast, you are probably looking at some decent snow amounts tonight or tomorrow morning. What does that mean?

School delays? Working from home in the morning? Staying in tomorrow night?

Let’s say you have an extra hour that you weren’t planning on. What will you work on? Make a plan tonight so you’ll be ready to use every spare minute tomorrow!

I work from home, but I’m making a plan for tomorrow night. I recently received an email with multiple generations of a family line that is connected to my husband’s line – but I’m having a hard time understanding the relationships. I will be building a tree on Ancestry with the information I received. I will see if I can confirm what has been told to me (there are no sources) and then see if I can find the connection. This will either be a complete bust…or an incredible breadcrumb trail that could lead to a goldmine. Fingers crossed!

Start dreaming! What could you accomplish in an hour?

Don’t have Excel?

Today, I had a question from Susan. “If I don’t have excel on my computer, can I still use [the Ancestor Inventory Form]?”

The answer is yes! All you need is a free Google account.

Everyone with a Google account has access to 15GB of storage for e Mail, Photos and Drive. I use Google Drive to keep all of my genealogy files and I can’t imagine not having it. If you’re not using Google Drive, I’ve talked about how I organize all of my files with it here.

Even if you don’t have Excel, go ahead and download the file. If your computer is like mine, it will go directly to your downloads folder. From there, upload the file to your Google Drive account. When you double click the file, Drive will ask if you want to open the file using Google Sheets. Click that button and viola! You can use the file!


A hint about printing. When you try to print a sheet from Google Drive, it doesn’t quite fit on one page. I think that’s due to fonts, but there’s an easy way to make it work without having to do a bunch of editing to the file.

I use Ctrl+P to print. You will see a preview of the sheet and some formatting options to the right. You will notice that that the bottom of the form wants to move to a 2nd page. To fix this, simply change the 100% to lower number and everything will fit just fine. I don’t know if every system is the same, but on my system, to print a Page 1 (census tracker) I had to reduce to 93%. To print a Page 2 (records tracker) I only had to reduce to 99%.


If you already have a Google account but you’re new to using Drive, begin by going to In the upper, right corner, click on the 3×3 grid of squares and then select “Drive” from the menu.


File UploadIn the upper left corner, you will click on “New” and then select “File Upload”. Find the Excel file in your downloads folder and click “Open”. Google Drive will upload and keep the file for you to access from any computer as soon as you log into your Google account.

When you try to open the file the first time, you will be asked if you want to open it with Google Sheets. Once you do that, Drive will keep both version available in your list of documents. You can tell which version to click on in the future by looking at the icons. The Excel file that you originally uploaded will have an icon that looks like a large X. The Google Sheets version has a green spreadsheet icon.


To rename the document (so you can have a different file for different ancestors) click on the name of the file in the upper left corner while the document is open and change the name.


You can also change the name from the main menu of Drive. Just right-click on the file name and select “Rename” from the pop-up menu.











Playing the Name Game

Yesterday, I posted a “Snack” about coming up with a naming template for digital file names. When coming up with your system, be sure to think of all of the information that you might ever need in the file name. Make sure your template will work with all types of records – photographs, downloaded documents, Word docs, etc.

My template: Year County State SourceInfo Page Name (identifier)

Here are some naming hints I’ve learned the hard way:

  • County name is not enough. I have spent years researching Russell County so why would I ever need any information on location beyond that? Well, when I started emailing my DNA matches and asking about Russell County, I started getting responses about Russell County, VIRGINIA instead of Kentucky. I knew then that I needed to go back through all of my files and adding “KY” to the names so that  who other people who received my files would not be confused.
  • Think about multiple people with the same name. Families tend to use the same names through the generations. Like I mentioned yesterday, I have 2 brothers in my tree named George and Elias Smith. George had a son named Elias and Elias had a son named George. I must be able to tell the men apart when looking at the file names. That’s when I started using identifiers. Usually, I use (birth year – death year). So I have Elias Smith (1810 – 1853) and Elias Smith (1845 – 1885). In another example, I have a group of 5 men named “John Smith” in Mercer County, Kentucky, all in the same time period. Luckily, in a tax records, there are a times that occupations or nicknames were given. I use those as identifiers, when I have the information.
  • Keep it consistent. As I was getting used to my system, I used “Russell County KY” for some files and “Russell Co KY” for others. Make a decision before you get going. It is much easier to notice “abnormalities” when all of the file names follow the same format.
  • Page numbers are important. If I have multiple deeds for the same person in the same deed book, I could run into several files with the exact same name. I can also use the information to create source citations without opening the file. If you run into a source that didn’t have page numbers (loose papers, un-numbered certificates, etc), consider adding image numbers instead. For example: 1862 Russell Co KY Marriage Records Book 3 FamilySearch Image 124 John Smith and Sally Jones.


Using my system, all of the records appear in chronological order – that gives me a timeline showing where each ancestor was. It’s not unusual to see when county boundaries changed or when a family moved. Depending on how I organize files within my folders, I can see where every person in a family is located at the same time – without opening a single file.

If a “stray” county appears where it wasn’t expected, that’s the abnormality part. Either I have a record that isn’t my family, or I have a county that I need to do additional research in. Perhaps a family member moved there. Do I know why?

Here is my example. Russell County was formed at the end of 1825. Notice that in the image below, the records change from Wayne County to Russell County around that same time. Assuming the family didn’t move, I can narrow down a person’s location within the county based on the boundary line changes.


Whatever template you decide to use, nail down your details and use little bits of “snack time” to confirm that all of your file names follow it.