I finally got Microsoft Front Page to work for me again, and so I've posted some new forms on my website here. The first is the U.S. Records Checklist I've mentioned recently. This is a list of the minimum of information I want to gather on each American ancestor. There is room at the bottom of the form to add lists of other records I may need to get--immigration and naturalization records, for instance. I cross off the records I would not need to get for that ancestor (military records for my female ancestors; 1890 Census records for probably all my ancestors, as none lived in areas where those remnants survive). I check off the ones I already have, then use a highlighter to bring my attention to the records I still need to get. It gets messy, but it helps me visualize what I need for that person.
The other form is a Timeline. I copy this front and back on a single sheet of paper. There are 40 lines (years) on each side, so that gives me 80 years, front and back...an average lifespan. For a few ancestors, I may need another one-sided copy. Then I start with the year they were born (or the earliest I can guesstimate) and fill in what I can for as many years as I can (I write their age in the margin). I list where they were in census years, where they lived when their siblings or children were born or when close family members died. Every time I find them on a record, I write it down on the time line. This does three things for me: it gives me a chronology of the events of their life, as I know it thus far; it gives me a chronology of their locations, so I can see migration patterns; and most importantly, it gives me a visual of the years where there are blanks! My RootsMagic software will show me the first two things, but not the last. I have heard professional genealogists state that good family research will account for an ancestor's whereabouts with gaps no more than two years apart! In other words, you should be able to find a record showing your ancestors' whereabouts every one to two years of their lives!
This timeline helped me immensely when reading about my husband's great-grandfather, Albert Francis CHAPLIN, I. According to a written history one of Norm's grandaunts wrote, the family moved back and forth between the West (Colorado, Washington, and Oregon) and the midwest (Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma). As this was the early 1900s and they were often traveling by covered wagon (and probably later by train), I wondered about this. Was Albert not able to find jobs? Did he have an itchy foot? Was the law after them? How could they afford to resettle every few years? When I put all the outlying events of his life (siblings' and parents' events) in order with his own life events, I saw that his widowed mother and single brothers back east all died within a short period of time. I had found him in Kansas in 1920 after living out West for many years. I realized that the family had gone back to Kansas, probably to help with the nursing of the relatives (many of them died of tuberculosis), taking care of the family farm, and settling the estate. I would never had figured this out if I hadn't used the timeline.
On the forms page, I have shown reduced images of the forms to give you an idea of what they look like before you view the .pdf version to download. My free PDF form writer uses images, not document files, to create the .pdf forms, so they may be a little fuzzy. If you would prefer to get the .doc versions of these forms, just e-mail me (see my profile in the right-hand menu of this blog) and I'll send them to you as attachments.