Forms are a valuable tool to help keep genealogy research organized. I believe there are several genealogists who can definitely say it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of information you collect while on the journey to discover your ancestors.
Forms allow us to pull together the information we collect about our ancestors. It helps us to visually see what information we found and what we still need to dig up in our searches.
The forms also help others understand our research. Life can't guarantee we will be around when others look through our research. To help ensure that our research won't find its way to a landfill, we need to be sure to leave behind research that others can read and easily understand. This will save future genealogists the trouble of having to follow in your footsteps of research.
There are many different variations of genealogy forms and books that can help to organize your research. Every genealogist will need to find forms that will work for them. There isn't one form that every genealogist should use, but there are recommendations from other genealogists who can give you ideas about forms that worked for them. Over the past decade of using various forms, I feel like I have a pretty good system that works for me.
One of my goals as a minimalist is to use forms that add value to organizing my genealogy research. I won't use forms just because there is one to use.
As part of my "Pause" on Genealogy Research, I want to evaluate what forms I am using. Did the forms aid in organizing my research in a way that I wanted to? Was I using the same form for each of my ancestors? Did the forms help me to see what research I should be doing? Were there forms that repeated information I had on other forms I was using?
These questions helped me to get rid of forms that were sitting within the piles of genealogy papers in my office. The forms were not being used or helping me in my path to learning more about my ancestors. It helps me to figure out what was working and what wasn't helping me to be more productive. I was also able to save myself from repetitive information throughout my research.
I now have a system in place for using forms that not only organized my genealogy research but enabled me to quickly locate and share my ancestors' information. Here are the forms that I am currently using. This system won't work for everyone, but it might help to give you a little inspiration to developing or revamp a form usage system that will help you organize your genealogy research.
Before I go into the forms I utilize, I should probably tell you about how I organize my research. Each of my four genealogy line (my four grandparents surnames) are kept in a 3-inch binder. I also keep digital copies on an external hard drive. The digital folders are set up similar to the way I set the binder up. Each binder and digital folder volume holds direct line 31 ancestors.
I have a digital Surname form that I designed on Excel to help me keep track of which of the four ancestorial lines my ancestor's information is kept in. The form has designed with columns for Surname, Given Name, Date of Birth, Date of Death, Surname Binder, and Volume number. I had designed my own because I struggled to find a Surname Overview form that worked for me. I also wanted to only have a digital copy of it.
In the front of each of my Genealogy Binders, I have a printed copy of the family tree for that binder. I don't use a form for this because I print a copy of the family tree from my Ancestry.com account. Since the Ancestry tree is what I use I don't keep any blank family trees. I feel that if I need a blank one I can easily find one online to print. Therefore why keep a form that is taking up physical space just in case I need a blank family tree. I would rather have fewer forms to shuffle around.
A Family Group Sheet form is in each binder tabs and digital folders for every direct ancestor. I have a digital copy of a Family Group Sheet form I found on Family Search. I saved a blank copy to a Form Folder I have saved in my Dropbox. I am able to fill out the digital form and save a copy to each of my ancestors' digital files. A printed copy is placed in the binder. If I update the digital copy I can go in, add or change the information and print a new copy. The Family Group Sheet is an essential form for me. It helps me to quickly evaluate and review the information that I have on an ancestor. The Family Group Sheet is one of my favorite forms to use.
Up until about a week ago, I use to keep a Census Log form for each of my ancestors' files. I am no longer use this form. I have been creating a Biographical Outline in Microsoft Word that I place all of the Census information in. I felt I only needed that information in one location. I do keep digital and physical copies of the Outline just as I do the Family Group Sheet. Until I started typing up the Biographical Outlines it was definitely beneficial to us the Census Logs. I also print out a blank Census form for each year of the Census to record the information directly from the original census records. I place the filled out forms into the binder. For a digital copy, I will just save the actually digital copy of the original census record.
"Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook" also has a great timeline chart. Before I started doing Biographical Outlines I use to use timelines for each of my ancestors. I helped me to look at key events that may have happened in my ancestors' lives. Even though I no longer use them I feel that the timelines really helped me to learn about what to look for while researching. I keep the Biographical Outline digitally and a printed copy in the binders.
While it may seem that I don't use very many forms, I actually do when considering that these forms I mentioned above are the forms that I use for all of my ancestors. I also have other forms that are more specific to individuals such as Military, Social Security, Immigration, Land, Court Records, and a few other forms that I will explore in upcoming blogs. For now, I wanted to "Pause" and focus on the forms that I use for all of my ancestors to organize my genealogy research.
I never turn away from new ideas of types of forms that can help organize my genealogy. If you have any ideas I would love to hear about them. Or if you have any questions about the forms I'm using, please reach out to me. I hope this "Pause" helps you take a moment to review your forms to see if they are actually helping you. If there are forms you are holding onto just in case, let them go. Especially if they have been sitting in a pile for months or years. If it is available online, why keep a physical copy of it. It takes up less space when it is online and you can print it whenever you need it. We have enough papers from our research. Why not make our life a little easier?