Need to Create a Quick Christmas Gift?

I don’t know why, but I’m always shocked at how little time I have to work on my genealogy between Thanksgiving and Christmas! You’d think I’d wake up and smell the coffee about how busy this time of year always is for me…and I’d imagine for you as well!

I know that I have 1 more video to go in my Excel series on creating a database in Excel, but I thought that I’d throw in a “bonus” video for the holidays for those that might be looking for a quick way to add a background image to an Excel document like a Family Group Sheet or 5 Generation Chart.

Betty's Chart.png


I’ve added my blank 5 Generation Chart created in Excel to the “Downloads” tab at the top of the page, so if you don’t already have one on your computer, feel free to download mine. One specific thing I’d like to point out is that my Chart contains cells for adding military information for the men while the women have the information for the marriage. If you have a female ancestor who served in the military, that’s a quick update that you can make.

Also, my chart has the grid lines turned off, but if you turn them on to take a quick look, you’ll see that the information you type for birth, military, marriage and death will be entered into the cell adjacent to those headings, but for the name, you’ll replace the word “name” with the name of your ancestor.

I hope this short video will bring some great ideas to mind for you whether it’s a gift for someone else or the cover of your research binder!

In case I don’t make it back here again this month, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!



Excel Video #4: Tracking the Documents and Sources

How often have you looked at information you’ve written somewhere and wondered, “Where in the world did I find THAT?” It happens to me a LOT. Usually, it’s when I look at information I had collected as a new genealogist (because I’m FAR wiser now than I was then! LOL!)

When you have a great deal of information that you are collecting such as we have been doing while building a surname database, you have to decide if you’re going to take the time right now to create your final source citation or if you’re going to collect the information that you will create your final citation from. In this video, we will be creating hyperlinks which we can click on to go directly to the document the information is coming from. Did you know that FamilySearch provides a citation for each document they have scanned? But there’s more than one citation included depending on where you look so we will also be collecting all of the source information using the comments feature in Excel because there is no option for adding a footnote.

I’ll also show you one of my absolute favorite tools in Excel – the filter. When I have an overwhelming list in Excel, I use the filters option to look at small, specific chunks at a time.

Excel Video #3 – Multi-level Custom Sorting

If you’re going to put in the time to compile the data for a surname database, you want to be sure that you can wring every bit of information possible from it – in the most efficient way that you can.

When you put together your own database, you want it to be designed so that you can see patterns and find information quickly. The beauty of Excel is being able to organize information in multiple ways depending on what you are looking for.

When you have a lot of information in your document, headers are a must, but do you find yourself scrolling back up to the top to see exactly what you are looking at? I’ll show you how to make that header row remain visible at the top of the screen at all times, no matter how far down you scroll.

Another feature that is nice in Excel is being able to keep your column spacing – maybe because you need it to fit on a specific size of paper – but sometimes, some of the information in the cells is too long. There is an option to “wrap” the text – automatically adding line returns within the data and adjusting the height of the row to make it fit perfectly. When you are wrapping text, you can decide if text that is not as long will sit on the bottom, top or center of the cell. Whatever you’d prefer to make it readable to you.

Because we’ve pulled the data for this database directly from FamilySearch, THEY have determined the order of the different columns when you downloaded the file. In the video, I show you how to move a column so that the information is in the order that you’d prefer.

The final thing that I talk about in this video is the ability to alphabetize your information. I show you how you can alphabetize the first column but then how to also add a 2nd level of alphabetizing so that all of the spouses listed for identical names will also be in alphabetical order. That is a great help when you are trying to differentiate between all those different men named “John Smith”. We’ll then add another level to make your first level of sorting based on the marriage date, then the 2nd level based on the first column name and a 3rd level of sorting to be based on the spouse’s name. That way, documents that refer to an individual by initials or nicknames will still be very close together within the Excel document but it will be easier to tell the difference between fathers and sons with the same name.

Once you learn all the different ways that data can be sorted, you’ll be able to arrange the information in the best way to help you find the information that you’ve been looking for!

I wasn’t expecting THAT!

I decided to start building a marriage database for all Stephens marriages in Russell County between 1825 and 1900. As I was going through the various marriage bonds, I found a marriage for Andrew J. Stephens Jr and Lola Tarter and the name of the person who performed the marriage was another ancestor of mine – Jehu Rumbo! Beneath his name, it said “Minister B Church”.


I had no idea that he was a minister! I did a little more digging and found 11 additional marriages performed by Jehu. How I wish I could figure out what church “B Church” stands for!

The other unexpected tidbit is that this marriage is the last marriage that I have found for Jehu (so far!) and that it helps me narrow down his date of death a bit. I already had 1895 as the date – found in a county history book – but this final marriage took place on Feb. 28, 1985. I can find no probate records for Jehu and no mention of his death in court records. I may have to branch out to search a few other counties.

Finding this record was a bonus that I was not expecting!


Excel Video #2: Collecting FamilySearch Information

Building a surname database can take quite a bit of time. Entering the information that you see in books or microfilms can be tedious, especially when all you want to do is KEEP SEARCHING! But it can be so rewarding when you begin to see connections that you hadn’t seen before because your information in Excel is formatting to help you see items that are easy to overlook when reading documents individually.

While adding information one line at a time will be very helpful, it can be even more helpful if there is already data in the document that you can begin to compare with. When I begin to research a new family – or when I look for information on a family that I haven’t researched in a while – I always turn to FamilySearch first. The search form on the website is easy to use and the format of the information is perfect to transfer into an Excel document. Keep in mind that this type of searching will only return results from data that has been indexed within FamilySearch – not necessarily from each microfilm that is available using the technique discussed in the last video – which you can watch in the “Video Tutorials” tab at the top of the blog.

In this video tutorial, I will show you how to search a specific database for a specific surname and then to download the information directly into Excel. Depending on your search terms, this can provide you with information on every person with a specific surname over a specific time frame to begin filling your database with very little typing on your part!

I will also show you how to quickly get rid of rows and columns of information that you don’t need and then how to combine different Excel files into one combined database. Finally, I will show you how to quickly adjust the width of the columns to make the page more readable.

Looking for Russell Co Marriages?

When you get on the FamilySearch website and look at the list of available marriage records for Kentucky, you might get excited. And then you click on the link and scroll down to the link that says “browse through images”, you’d expect to see a list of counties to click on. Instead, you see a screen full of numbers.


But which one is Russell County? You might click on a few numbers to see if you can get lucky, but there are a LOT of numbers and pretty soon, you just give up.

Recently, I was able to find some marriage records for one of my ancestors so yesterday, I took the time to make some notes so that I’ll be able to find these records easier the next time. I thought you might find the list helpful as well. The following links are the first 10 marriage books specifically for Russell Co, Kentucky.

v. 1 – 1826-1854 (Begins with Image 6)
v.2 – 1854-1860 (Image 62)
v.2 -1861-1867 (Image 5)
v.3 – 1867-1875 (Image 358)
v.4 – 1875-1787 (Image 5)
v.5 – 1876-1880 (Image 146)
v.6 – 1880-1883 (Image 480)
v.7 – 1883-1886 (Image 5)
v.8 – 1886-1889 (Image 348)
v.9 – 1889-1892
v.10 – 1892-1895

If you aren’t familiar with the microfilm viewer on FamilySearch, take a look at the video “Finding Information on FamilySearch” in the Video Tutorials tab at the top of the blog.


Surname Collecting

I am a name collector, I’ll admit it. When I first started doing genealogy research, I would look through a book or a microfilm and only copy or save information that I knew belonged to my ancestor. But sooner or later, I’d read something and think to myself, “where have I seen that name before?”. Of course, I would spend hours trying to location the information that I had not bothered to copy down originally.

So then I changed my plan to begin to copy EVERYTHING that had my ancestor’s surname in it. I had an index card with all of the surnames in my tree and if I was looking at a new book or microfilm, I would copy everything I could find from any of the surnames on my list. Clearly, that was not the best plan either as my piles grew larger, but I would still be saying, “where did I see that?”

So I turned to Excel once again. I began building a database for each surname. Every time I found a mention for a certain surname, I would enter the basic information into the Excel document, along with some indication of where the information came from. It was slow going because it was not unusual for me to decided to add the information “later” – which sometimes never came around unless it was the specific surname I was looking for at that time.

But then….the internet! The amount of genealogy information to be found on the internet is growing by leaps and bounds. For some surnames, it’s difficult to keep up with all of the new information out there! But there are ways to collect the information fairly easily and I’d like to show you how.

I’m beginning a new video tutorial series. This time, I’ll be showing how to build a database using Excel. As before, my purpose is to show how to use a variety of features in Excel but to do it in such a way as to allow you to follow along and to create something helpful to your genealogy research by the time we are done. I’m going to show how to collect all of the information that I can on one surname in a specific place and to organize the information in a way that will allow us to find information that we might have missed otherwise. It will show us different ways that a person’s name might have been spelled or nicknames we might never have thought of. It will show us relationships that we might never have considered before – or give us the proof that we’ve been looking for to confirm a relationship. The goal is to have all of this kind of information available in one document and to be able to view it in different ways to find matches among the people in the database.

For this series, I’m going to concentrate on collecting data from FamilySearch. If you’ve never used FamilySearch before, you are in for a treat! And even if you are very familiar with FamilySearch, I hope you’ll learn some cool features in Excel that you will find very helpful.

In this first video, I’m going to show you how to find out if microfilm images might be available for viewing online without ordering the film. I spend time showing how to find the images and how to use the viewer and image controls on the FamilySearch site. You might be surprised at how much you can find from home!



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!