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!

A Treasure Trove for Everyone!

Last week, while doing some research, I decided to go back over the list of FamilySearch microfilms that I have put on indefinite loan to have access to at my library whenever I want. There was 1 roll of Mercer County deeds that I was hoping was on the list, but it was not. So I went to the FamilySearch site to look up the film number. While on the site, I noticed new icons that I’ve never noticed before. Some listings have small film roll icons which mean that a microfilm is available, but others have small cameras. So what happens when you click on a camera? You will see all of the images are available to view online!

So what kind of records can you find? Let me give you a taste of what’s available for Mercer County, Kentucky:

This is a phenomenal resource that’s available right from home! Any day, any time of day – not just when my library is open! Available for quick look-ups or all-day research sessions without packing up my stuff and driving to the library! Quick downloads directly to my computer instead of time spent scanning…this is genealogy heaven!

I’m not sure how they determine which films will be put online, but I was shocked at the number for Mercer County! Not quite as many for Russell County, but not a bad little list. It seems, the earliest films are being scanned first – which is good for me because I’m not interested in much beyond 1830. And I’m assuming that this is a work in process, so I’ll be checking back often.

So if you’d like to see what available for your research, click here and enter your location and take a look! Hopefully, you’ll be doing a genealogy happy dance too!

Can anyone decipher this?

I’m working my way through early tax lists and I keep seeing this abbreviation in the Water Course column. It looks like War.* or Was.* with a symbol after it similar to a symbol to abbreviate Edw* or Rob*. It doesn’t appear on all water courses, as you can see at the top of this image, but it does appear a lot. Any guesses?

Water Course

Update: Here is another image. Same County, same year, different commissioner’s list.

Water Course 2

Microfilm Scanning at the ACPL

I haven’t been able to spend time at the Allen County Public Library in awhile, but I’ve had a couple of days recently to come in again and there have been some updates in the microfilm room. In the past, the room was huge with many rows of microfilm readers and about 10 scanners. When I came this time, I was surprised to find that the room has been divided in half, which I think is excellent because I just never saw that many of the readers being used at the same time. I believe the non-microfilm portion is being used for classes, but I could be wrong.  The sign says “Discovery Center”.

Now there are 22 readers and 8 scanners which I believe are the same scanners that have been here for quite awhile. But there are 2 new scanners which are AWESOME! The camera takes the entire image at once. No more waiting for the camera to pass over the film once for a preview then again for the scan itself. And the image is wonderfully clear!

You have the option of sending your scans to your email, Google Drive, or Dropbox in addition to your flash drive. Printing is also available (still for free, which I find incredible!) You also have the ability to name each file while scanning and can name the folder you are saving to on your flash drive.  In the past, I would try to keep a list of what I was scanning and then rename everything once I got home.

While the scanner takes place in a flash, the saving process can take quite awhile if you choose to save in a larger file size. After doing a few experiments, I’ve decided that the default setting (300 dpi) looks wonderful enough to use without changing anything and saving at that size is pretty quick. When I scanned my first 4 images, I chose 1200 dpi and saving took close to 20 minutes! If I think a scan will be difficult to read due to scratches or fading and I know I’ll want to really zoom in on something, I’m changing the setting to 600 dpi, but that significantly changes the saving time.  In fact, I’m writing this as I wait for 10 images to save at a 900 dpi setting. But if I can finally make out what those lines are saying, it’s time well spent!

if your coming to the library, be sure to give the new scanner a try!

Transcription Time with Google Docs

I use Google Drive to keep ALL of my genealogy records stored in the cloud. I love this because I get 15 gigs of space for every gmail address I have and I can access those records from any computer. I can have a specific email set up for each surname and then I can email documents directly to that address and then later, move them into my Google Drive. (I’ve talked about this before – see Gmail stands for Genealogy Mail.)

But last fall, a new tool was introduced that is just about a dream come true. It’s called “Voice Typing” and I tried it for the first time yesterday. It is truly amazing! So here are a couple of tips if you’d like to try it out.

  1. You have to be in Chrome for it to work.
  2. Once you open a new Doc, you can find it listed under the tools tab. (I was getting pop-ups for it every time I opened a new Doc, but didn’t try it for quite awhile.)
  3. I didn’t try it because I didn’t think I had a microphone, but then one day, I realized that the Apple earbuds that I use at the gym have a built in microphone and those worked great!
  4. My first document was not the easiest thing to test with, but I discovered a lot. I decided to transcribe a very long deed in which two ancestors were selling all of their shares to their deceased father’s land to a brother. There were 5 tracts of land, each with quite a list of metes and bounds descriptions. (Beginning at a beech and a hickory thence S34 E117 poles, etc.). Some of the language used was not something that Google interpreted well, so I did have to come up with a couple of short cuts. I decided to use specific words as substitutes for some of the common words in the deed that Google consistently missed. For example, instead of saying the word “thence”, I said “Toshiba”. And instead of “to wit”, I said “Seagate”. (Can you tell I had some external drives sitting on my desk?) I kept a post-it note on my screen to help me remember which word to substitute. After I had completed the transcription, I used the “Find and Replace” tool and told Google to replace every use of “Toshiba” with “thence”, etc. It was a fast fix. For my next deed, I will also have a word to substitute for “poles” because that word was interpreted a dozen different ways!
  5. As I was reading, I did say “South 34 West 117” and then used “Find and Replace” to change it to S34 W117. (Replace “South” with “S”, etc.) This did result in a couple of additional places to check like when a parcel of land started on the south side of the river, but those were pretty easy to find. I could have tried to read it as S34 W117, but I’m sure that every S would have been interpretted as “is” and every N would have been “in”.
  6. Many of my numbers had a “th” added after them. For example, “South 34th West 117th” and I’m not sure why. That was a bit of a hassle, but now that I know it’s an issue, I will try to speak slower when saying the numbers.
  7. You will have to speak any punctuation such as period, comma, question mark, etc. But in my experience, there is not very much punctuation in documents like this. I think I had a 4 page deed and there may have been 4 periods total.
  8. Google made some interesting decisions on what to capitalize. I’ve decided that instead of spending time going back through checking which words were capitalized originally and which were not, I will just add a note to the bottom of my document that says I was using the Voice Typing tool and that capitalization may not match the original. (Not a huge deal in my book.)
  9. If you are transcribing a long document, you may want to stop every half page or so to proofread what you have so far. I read the entire thing and then went back, which made it a little harder to find errors. The proofreading took a little while (I will not do a long document in one reading again) but compared to the headaches I get when I’m trying to type those metes and bounds descriptions, proofreading was a piece of cake.

I hope that you’ll give it a try if you do a lot of transcribing. I also read somewhere that a person played a video on one screen and had Voice Typing transcribe as it was playing. That’s something I’m anxious to play with using some of the digital recordings I’ve made of family interviews!