Family Land Sheet – Final Touches

This is the 6th and final tutorial video for the “Family Land Sheet”. My goal with the videos has been to show various functions within Microsoft Word while creating a genealogy form that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s really about how to use Word, but with a fun example to work with.

In this video, I’m showing how to change how often Word automatically saves your document as well as showing how to add an automatically updating date in the header and the file path for your document in the footer. No more looking at printouts and trying to remember what you named the file or where you saved it on your computer!

I also show how to add an “object” within the Family Land Sheet. Inserting objects is a way to add a document within a document and have it update automatically. In this case, I’m adding a Family Group Sheet to the Family Land Sheet so I can quickly see relationships for the subject. When an update is made to the original Family Group Sheet, the information will automatically be updated within the Family Land Sheet. (Did you notice that this video is all about letting Word do work automatically?)

My plan for my next video series will be showing how to collect information from FamilySearch and use the information to build a database within Excel. Once again, the purpose will be to show how to use Excel, but hopefully, you’ll have a helpful database full of information on your family once you are done.

Stay tuned for that!


Now Where Did I Put That Again?

As I’ve been working with my own Family Land Sheets, I’ve been amazed at the number of documents that I can tie into my sheet.  Not just deeds, but transcriptions, court records, marriage records, probate records, and even group sheets and maps. And it doesn’t matter how organized I am with my file naming or folder organization, sometimes, it just takes time to drill down to the correct folder to open a file to double check exactly what it said. That’s where hyperlinks come in. Once you’ve hyperlinked a document to some specific text or image in the Land Sheet, it only takes a single click to open the document or web page.

In this video, I’ve shown how to add hyperlinking within the body of the document, in the endnotes and in the comments. I also show how to add a hyperlink with your email address if you want to share your document with other researchers as well as how to add a bookmark so you can add a hyperlink to jump to a specific place within the document.

I’m only planning one more video using the Family Land Sheet as an illustration. After that, I’ve got some ways to use Excel coming up!

Unexpectedly Emotional

My husband gave me a wonderful birthday gift this past week. We rented a houseboat for a few days and traveled around Lake Cumberland, specifically to see the area where John M. Smith and his family lived. Most of his land is now under the lake, but I had been able to map with pretty good precision one piece of land and we were able to tie our boat to a portion of that land and spend the night there. As I walked on the land that we were able to get onto, I picked up rocks and fossils and collected a few leaves to press and found I was surprisingly emotional about being there. John died in 1835, but to know that I was on land that he had to have worked so hard to obtain gave me feeling of closeness that I would not have expected to feel.


We picked an excellent week to go! The weather was lovely – not too hot during the day (but hot enough to swim and float!) and chilly enough in the evenings to make wrapping up in a blanket feel extra cozy. I loved hearing the sounds of nature that John and his family would have heard. In the evenings, we would sit and look up at a gorgeous display of stars, unhampered by the lights of any town and wonder how often he and his wife had gazed up at the night sky. We heard owls and perhaps a fox yipping and it was almost too much to take in. Later in the week, we even saw 2 eagles flying over one of the channels as we cruised our way around the lake.

In the mornings, a gentle mist would rise from the water and my husband was able to do a little fishing as the sun came up. It was so peaceful, I never wanted to leave!


It was a beautiful area, but I was amazed at how steep the hillsides were. How would you farm such an area? At the end of the trip, we drove a little to find a couple of cemeteries and I noticed that unlike where we live, which is flat…flat…flat, the corn fields we saw were smaller and were almost like puzzle pieces to try to fit into areas that were flatter.

At the Jamestown Cemetery (where most of the cemeteries that were below the the water line of the Lake had been moved) I was able to find the grave stones for my ggg-grandparents – George and Talitha Smith.

img_2843George was the oldest son of John M and even though I had seen pictures of the stones on Find-A-Grave, it was even better to be there and to touch the stones. There were a couple of “empty” spaces next to George and I have to wonder if that might be where John M. and perhaps his wife were moved to – without a stone. George was the longest surviving child of John M’s. I think I have glossed over him in my research because of my zeal to find the parents of John M. I will be expanding my research for George now.

The trip had been promised on my birthday in July, but it was a last minute decision to hit the road. Being late in the season, we just about had the lake to ourselves – at least, that’s the way it felt. But how I wish I had taken the time between my birthday and the actual trip to think about things I would want to do while there. I would have taken time to look at the Russell County library website to see if there would books that I could have taken a look at. I would have used the addresses I had found for my great-grandparents in the later census records and driven out to see that area. I would have done more mapping of land parcels to see what I could find. I would have created a database on cemeteries to visit – especially now that I know how incredible if feels to be there rather than just to see pictures that others have taken. Looking back now (a whole day after returning home!) I see that I could have done those things while there (we did have internet access through our phones) but it just didn’t occur to me!

I will certainly begin creating that list now as we are in love with the area and will certainly be back!

Word Comments and Endnotes

I have to admit, this is one of the videos for using Microsoft Word that I’ve been most excited to create! I see so many applications for using comments and endnotes in my research process that help me figure out my research puzzles and I couldn’t wait to share!

I’ll be the first to tell you that my brain is not what it used to be! I tell my husband that it’s because my brain is so packed with important information there’s just no room for anything else! But with our busy day-to-day schedules, I don’t always have the time to devote to genealogy that I’d like.  Being able to add comments – what was I thinking here, why does this name sound familiar, what record was I going to follow up with next – is a necessity if I want to avoid always having to retrace my steps to figure out where I left off last.

But just having a monster list of comments isn’t as helpful as it could be. In this video, I show how to categorize comments and how to hide certain categories so that only specific comments are showing at a time.

I also use endnotes quite a bit – but not just for citations. For a project like this, when I’m not certain which records apply to my ancestor, I use them to remind myself of relationships or dates or other tidbits of information that can help me prove that a person is related to me and how that relationship branches to me.

This video is longer than I was hoping it would be. Around 20 minutes. But the topics are so interrelated, I didn’t want to split it into 2 videos. The features covered in this video are a little more advanced so I hope you’ll learn something new when you watch!

Using Color to Analyze Data

We’ve been building a “Family Land Sheet” in order to collect and analyze information from a lifetime of land transactions for an ancestor. I wanted a form that would be similar to a Family Group Sheet so that I can be certain that I’ve collected all of the clues from each transaction that same way that a Group Sheet collects clues from the children.

This time, I want to show you 4 different ways to use color within your FLS to help you analyze the information that you have collected and to see patterns at a glance.

I had originally planned to do one video covering adding color, comments and citations, but I want to keep these videos short, so the new plan is to make 2 shorter videos to cover all three concepts. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful in your research!

Filling in the Family Land Sheet (FLS)

In my last post, I created a video to show how to use Microsoft Word to create your own Family Land Sheet. The great thing about creating your own forms is being able to include the information that YOU think will be most helpful in your research. The FLS is my own personal research buddy that helps me see patterns that I probably wouldn’t see just by reading and even transcribing documents and it remembers everything for me because my brain sure isn’t what it used to be!

As I begin to enter information into the FLS, I’ve stated that the goal is to collect information from every land transaction involving any John Smith in Mercer County. Then, I’ll analyze the information to see if I can determine a way to tell different men with the same name apart.

Once again, I’ve created a video showing all of the steps involved in getting information into the form as well as ways to make the information as readable as possible. In the video, I use an Alt code to enter a £ and I mentioned that I’d include a link to other Alt codes in the blog, so here it is!

Alt Code Cheat Sheet

I’ll take the time now to say that there are ways other than using Alt codes to make these symbols, but I personally am partial to keyboard shortcuts so that’s what I normally use.

Family Land Sheet – Word

Introducing – Video Tutorials!

Yesterday, I wrote about why I decided to create a new form to track a lifetime of land transactions for my ancestors. Digging deep into the lives of our ancestors often means looking at land deeds. Deeds can help us determine family relationships

Deed 1 and the names of neighbors.

Deed 2If an ancestor is selling his land, the wife’s name is usually included in the deed.

Deed 3Dates of deeds can tell us when a person has died or moved away from an area. Clues in deeds can also help us distinguish between men with identical names.

Deed 4

But sometimes, reading those deeds can get confusing, especially if your ancestor had a lot of land transactions or if the land was described with metes and bounds.

Deed 5

For all those reasons, I decided that I wanted a form that is similar to a Family Group Sheet, but to have the focus be on all of the land records instead of all of the children. So I created a “Family Land Sheet” to help me organize my information and to help me look for clues that are so easy to overlook.


Today, I’d like to show you how to create your own Family Land Sheet in Microsoft Word. I started trying to type out the instructions, but it was getting rather lengthy, so instead, I decided to try my hand at creating a video.

I have been thinking for quite awhile about making a series of videos on how to use Word and Excel, but I kept getting tripped up by thinking of what to show in each video and how many videos to create. I know that some people would have very little experience and would like to see “beginner steps” and others would be bored with seeing videos showing basic skills. So I’ve decided that I will show how to create specific items within Word (Excel examples are coming as well) and over time, a variety of skills will be covered.

I’ve created a YouTube channel and I plan to add videos there as well as embedding them within my blog. I’ve added a page to the blog (see the top tabs) that will keep all of the videos without the extra blog text. This is an evolving plan, so I don’t want to over promise, but I am excited to build a “library” of videos geared specifically to genealogists for you to watch whenever you’d like. I hope you find it helpful!




Family Land Sheet

I’m continuing in my never-ending quest to find information on my ancestor, John Smith. One of his great-grandsons had a short biography which indicated that John was an early settler of Danville, Kentucky so I’ve been trying to find the “missing link” to find John’s parents and to prove a jump from the Danville area to Russell County.

When working in pre-1850 time period, land records and tax records become your best friend. However, when looking at the tax records for the times, I see FIVE different men named John Smith! In order to attempt to tell these 5 men apart, I am turning to land records.

I always feel like I am missing something when I read multiple deeds. They are often quite long and the metes and bounds descriptions tend to make my eyes cross! But the records are so important, I felt that I HAD to find a way to see all of the information in one snapshot. I thought about how a Family Group Sheet gives you all of the basic information for each member of the family and based on that, decided to modify a family group sheet specifically to show information on all of the land transactions for a specific person. I’ve decided to call it a Family Land Sheet.

My idea was that each part of a group sheet would have an equal partner on the land sheet.

Child’s name = County and Book, Birth becomes Date of land purchase with the name of seller, Death becomes Date of land sale with the name of buyer, Marriage becomes witnesses and people mentioned in the deed (neighbors).

I decided to shorten the top section so that I only have names and birth-death information. And I decided I would like to have a column for the number of acres and amount paid as well as a column for comments.

Here’s the top of my Group Sheet

Group Sheet Word

And the top of my Land Sheet.



So now I’m beginning to go through the deeds that I have scanned and filling in the information and even though I’m just getting started, I can see that it is going to be a tremendous help.

Coming up next – how to create this sheet in Microsoft Word.

Land Grant Information Collection Sheet

Have you ever noticed that when you have a TON of potential information – or when you are trying to distinguish between many men with the same name, as you are looking through the information, you almost ALWAYS wish you’d taken better notes? You see something and you think “haven’t I seen someone else living on this creek?” or “why is that name so familiar?” Frustrating!

So I’ve been looking through land grants for John Smith (of course). And as everyone knows, there is a John Smith under every rock in every county ever created. Or at least it seems that way. I’m also looking for the land grants for the names that are showing up on tax lists under the “Entered”, “Surveyed” and “Patented” columns. I plan to follow the chain of possession on the land in order to look for connections in FANs to try to distinguish “my” John Smith from the others.

So I created a form using Word to help me jot down things as I’m looking through these grants. I wanted a form where I could jot down the basic information and then know exactly where to look if I need to go back. Additional information can be added to the form if I decide to follow up later. If I think it’s worthy of researching further, I’ll fill in the information using Word and file it in the appropriate online folder.

I wanted a form that would be easy to organize into groups or rearrange into chronological order. So my form is a half sheet that helps me remember what types of information to look for. If I think it would be helpful, I have an area to add a digital image to – intended for the drawings of the survey map often included on the survey document. I can take additional notes on the back if I find additional deeds or other documents to tie people together.

Form 1

Form 2

I plan to print out a supply of these forms to have nearby as I go through the grants. Feel free to download the form here if you think it would be helpful in your research.

p.s. Thanks to those of you who have been emailing me about my broken finger! I no longer have to wear the hand brace (just two fingers taped together), which means that typing is now possible, although slower than regular. But I’m happy to be back at my keyboard again!


Two weeks ago, I told my husband that I was ready to join him in the quest to “get fit” with a bike of my own. We bought the bike and made a plan to start building my endurance for longer distances. And then, a bit of miscalculation on my part resulted in a fall…and a broken finger on my right hand. A bulky hand brace means that typing and using my computer mouse have become a challenge. Writing is out of the question.

So for now (when I’m not bungling through left-handed typing or watching Olympics) I’m watching webinars, reading books and sorting papers. Which is a good thing, but not what I’d normally have at the top of my list.

Before the accident, I was working on a series of posts to begin releasing in a couple of weeks, so I’ll be looking at my plan and what I have so far as well as waiting for my follow-up appointment. There is some discussion of possible hand surgery, so I’m trying to think how I might use the Voice Dictation feature in Google Docs to handle the typing.

I have lots of ideas to blog about this fall, so stay tuned!