Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Dear Randy: How Do You Write Your 52 Ancestors Posts?

A reader asked me this question in email.  I have answered the "Why" question before, 

Concerning the question "How Do You Write Your 52 Ancestors Posts?" it's a long story:

1)  I collected tons of paper records on my ancestral families - mainly photocopies from books and periodicals - starting in 1988 until about 2005, when I started collecting digitized pages from online repositories, especially, and  The paper ended up in fat binders organized by family group (e.g., "Dill Family Ancestors" or "Medfield Families") that might have 10-20 different surnames in the binder, and the digitized records and text are in surname and family files on my computer.

2)  Each ancestor is in my RootsMagic genealogy software program with names, events, dates, places, notes, sources, media, etc., which is listed chronologically by the program.  The text information about an ancestor was copied or typed into the profile General Note with information about the source of the information.  Almost all of this Note information is from books and periodicals out of copyright.

3)  I have been doing the 52 Ancestors posts in Ahnentafel order starting with #8 great-grandfather Frank Walton Seaver (1876-1922) back in 2014 and am working on #556 7th great-grandfather Nathaniel Guild (1678-1774) for this Friday.  

4)  For each sketch, my goal is to provide a basic biographical sketch of the person and their life events.  I try (and sometimes fail to) include this information:

*  Any biographical material from the text sources- usually quoted word for word.
*  Birth date and place, names of parents.
*  Spouse(s)'s name, birth/death span, marriage date and place.
*  Names of the children, and their spouse(s), with birth/death span information for both.
*  Death date and place.
*  Burial date and place.
*  Residence location over time, including town offices held, other life events, etc.  
*  Military service information.
*  Land bought and sold over time.
*  Property inherited from spouse, parents and/or siblings through deeds and probate records.
*  Probate records of the person, sometimes an abstract, and often including transcription of the most important records (usually the will, the inventory, the account, the distribution).  

Sometimes the land bought and sold is extensive and I don't have time to include it all.  In that case, I may update a 52 Ancestors sketch at a later date.

Occasionally, I will add research notes if the parentage of the subject person is not known or is questionable.

Usually, I don't have much information about the history and social customs for the times of the lives of the subject persons.

The most important thing for me is to find an original source record with primary information and direct evidence of the relationship of their parents to the person, and of the person to their spouses and children.  This is found in vital records, town records, land records, and probate records.

5)  Before I write the biographical sketch, I review what I already have, and then search for more information, and record images, on,, AmericanAncestoras,org, and  I check Google for websites and books that might have information on my person.

6)  Once I have the event information, I make sure I have a source for every name, event or fact that will be included in the biographical sketch.

7)  When I have the events and sources, I write a text note in Notepad to put it all in chronological order, then I copy the text Note into the person's General Note in RootsMagic.

8)  I then use the "Individual Summary" report in RootsMagic to create the report, which provides Person information, Event information, family Information, Notes and Sources.

9)  I copy and paste the information from the previous week's 52 Ancestors post and edit it for the person of interest, deleting the information that will be changed.  

10)  I copy the information from each section into Blogger editor and edit it once more for consistency, spelling and grammar, sourcing, etc.  I do the final edit on Thursday night, set it to post on Friday morning, and then I hit Publish.

The example screens above are for the 52 Ancestors biographical sketch for 7th great-grandfather John Plimpton (1680-1730).

11)  Voila!!  Another 52 Ancestors post is published on Friday morning.  The one on Friday will be #346 in the series - one a week for almost seven years.  I have missed two weeks in that time!  You can see all of them through 2019 in

12)  At this point I am done unless my readers point out the obvious errors.  The blog post is easily and immediately found in a Google Search.  I usually add the biographical sketch to the "Life Sketch" feature in the FamilySearch Family Tree, and hope to do it on WikiTree and tree profiles also.  


Copyright (c) 2020, Randall J. Seaver

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Unknown said...

I love it when you explain how you do your research. And this has given me some ideas for the family sketches I want to do. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Sorry Randy I forgot to post t my name. Trisha

Karen Lynn Jaszewski said...

I am thinking I would like to have (or create) an Evernote template based on this, Randy!