I made sure to get all of my work for Monday’s classes done yesterday so that I could have a genealogy afternoon today! But I’ve been in the process of creating a photo album scrapbook for my daughter’s graduation this May, so my genealogy files weren’t in any condition to do traditional research. Instead,  I decided to work on creating a database in Excel of all of the Stephens gravestones in Russell County cemeteries. It’s pretty mindless work, so I can also “watch” marathons of my favorite HGTV shows while entering information. To keep from getting TOO overwhelmed with it, I decided to only enter information for people who were born before 1900.

I had a column for name, birth date, death date, parents, spouse and cemetery.

I LOVE creating databases like this in Excel because of the information that I see (REALLY see) for the first time based on sorting the database by columns. For example, when I sort by name, I can see all of the men named Andrew J. Stephens and fill in some of the blanks on the various groups sheets that I have. When I consider the location of the cemetery for each man, it helps me see which locations within the county are most likely to go with each man.

I can sort based on date of death and then see a list of people who died in the time frame in which death certificates are available on Ancestry to see if there are certificates that I haven’t discovered yet.

I can sort based on Parents and an incredibly complete group sheet appears before my eyes because of the links added to family stones and images of obituaries that volunteers have added. Often, I’ll find a spouse or child that I didn’t know about by doing this.

Or I can sort based on the Cemetery and begin to see possibilities for family connections that I didn’t think of before.

This sheet of the database is now part of a Stephens workbook that I’ve been working on over the years. Any time I’m at a standstill in research for one reason or another, I try to take one source – a specific book or website – and add all of the entries that I can whether I know they are related to my line or not. I have solved many puzzles with databases like this one! Now, if I have a date of death on the Cemetery sheet, but no parents, I can check to see if I have information on the Death Records worksheet to see if parents are listed there. I have worksheets for Birth Records, Marriage Records, Deeds, Taxes, Census Records, Military Info, Death Records and now – Cemeteries. And of course, every entry has the source included so I don’t have to go back to the actual book or website to add a record to my software database.

While it isn’t an earth shattering revelation for doing research, I’m always surprised by what I discover even though it was looking me directly in the face before!