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!