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)