I LOVE excel for my genealogy work. I use it for all kinds of databases I have compiled because it is useful for sorting information in different columns to reveal patterns and missing information. I use Excel to make my own 5 Gen charts and family group sheets. I designed my own family group sheets using Excel for several reasons.
- I HATE my handwriting. I love being able to keep my group sheets readable and professional looking. And often, the spaces in pre-printed forms are too small for me to write my information in. So when I take my binder of group sheets to the library, I write notes all over them and later make changes to my Excel file then reprint. Often, as I’m typing things into the Excel file, more questions come to mind that I didn’t think of at the library. (Why does that always seem to happen?) I include these questions in my bottom “Notes” section to allow me to continue my train of thought.
- I was able to include fields that the forms I had been using didn’t include or take out fields that I never use. For example, my forms have a space for cemetery name and location, more spaces for children, space for notes for the husband and wife and then an additional notes box at the bottom for general family notes or a “to-do” list. I do not have spaces for christenings or sealing dates since those don’t apply to my family.
- I can use color and formatting to help keep track of my research. For example:
- Questions or comments to myself are in red. Un-confirmed information from another researcher can be in green. Contact information for that researcher would also be in green in the “Notes” section at the bottom.
- Boxes that will never have information can be shaded or colored. For example: a child who dies at birth will not have marriage information.
- The name of my direct ancestor can be in bold. This helps me in families that have multiple uses of the same name.
- You can’t see it in the image, but I use the footer to indicate the life span of the husband and the counties that I have found records in.
The only thing I DON’T like about group sheets using Excel is that I can’t use the reference tools that I can with Word. (At least not in my current version. Maybe it’s been updated?) In Word, I click a reference button and it automatically selects my footnote number and then jumps to the footnote location for me to enter my citation. If I find new information closer to the top of my group sheet, it automatically rearranges my footnotes and updates all of the numbers. In Excel, I can enter my own superscripts for footnotes, but they don’t change automatically if I add something new. And I have just enough OCD tendencies that I can’t stand to see my numbers out of order. (Must be the math teacher in me…)
So I recently started converting my charts to Word files to take advantage of the reference options there. The conversion is slow, but so far, I like it.