Monday, February 18, 2013

Dear Randy - Do You Have a Check List to Track A Person's Information?

A genealogy society colleague asked me this question last week:

"Do you have a checklist of items to use as a guide to make sure, and keep track of, life events and documents to a person’s life, i.e. birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate, census records, etc.?"

I replied, "Of course...I'll send a form in word processor format to you."  

Here are images of a filled-in form for Joshua Smith to show what I use to track what records I have searched for, and found, for a specific person or couple:

As you can see, I've added an Internet research summary, a timeline, and a to-do list to the first page summary form of an overall research summary.

The value of these forms is that, in one document, I can see what I have searched for and found, what I have not searched for, and what I need to search for.

I don't do this for every person - I usually do it only for my brick wall or especially challenging ancestors.

I can update it any time I want to - I just need to remember to update the revision date as well.  I can have the research form open and search the different websites one-by-one and add material to the form instantaneously.  My goal is to review and update each one of these at least once a year in an effort to capture any new information that becomes available, or identify resources that I haven't considered before.

The form has evolved over the years, as more resources have come online, that page has expanded.  Since it is in a Microsoft Word table format, I can expand the lists to additional pages as needed, whether it's adding categories or adding more detail to a category.

I've put these files for my elusive ancestors in Evernote so that I have them available to me on my smart phone, tablet and laptop (as long as I have an Internet or cell connection).

I also provided my colleague an updated list of Internet resources - I think I last updated it in Online Research strategy for Russell Smith back in 2008.  Time for another update soon!

A list of my favorite genealogy links, by research topic, is posted at  It is still, and will always be, a work in progress!  Other online genealogy researchers have a similar list - for example, Thomas MacEntee's

I don't want to send this form out to requestors because it is very much a work in progress, and can probably be done better by someone else (or by your genealogy management program).  But feel free to use the ideas and categories to create your own list or form.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Claudia said...

Thank you for the links, I will see what is needed and make a research log, which is what I have been missing.

Barbara Renick said...

I can see I was preaching to the choir last Saturday at the CGSSD about electronic formats and publishing as you go. I like your basic research summary by category of record. I've done my summaries chronoligically by when the record was created for a long time now, but I can see the advantages of your system, too.

Steve Hayes said...

I was particularly interested in the timeline, but what I would really like is a timeline for more than one person -- an event-based database that could link people with events.

I've described my wish-list for such a program here Event-based history and genealogy software, and would be interested in knowinbg if there are others who feel the need for such a thing, and if there is anyone who might be interested in writing such a program. My programming skills aren't up to it, otherwise I would write it myself.

Jana Iverson Last said...


I just wanted to let you know that this post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!

The Brigham City Fort said...

Thank You for this information. I need more organization with what I do. I need to read this article over and check out some of you links as well.

Regards, Grant