Forms! Forms! Forms!

By: Carolyn L. Barkley

With abject apologies to Sir Walter Scott: “Breathes there the genealogist, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my favorite form!”

Personally, I love to complete forms. Well, having just refinanced our house, perhaps, I should qualify that statement – I love to complete genealogy forms. I’m one of those who always wants to receive the long form for the census. There is something very satisfying about checking off boxes and filling in blanks. As a researcher, forms allow me to translate my often chaotic and occasionally unreadable notes into a concise, clear format that enables me to analyze my findings and plan for future research – and retrieve my previous work efficiently when needed.

Genealogical forms can be found in books such as Emily Anne Croom’s The Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook (Betterway Books, 1996), by searching Cyndi’s List, or by checking individual sites such as Sometimes, however, I don’t want to go looking for the appropriate form, or I’m at a research institution without access to my home library and files. I would rather have forms easily accessible in one convenient, portable location. Michael Hait’s CD, The Family History Research Toolkit: Forms & Charts for Genealogical Research (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008), meets my need to have the right form, in the right place, at the right time.

The Family History Research Toolkit provides 22 forms in pdf format (Adobe Acrobat Reader required). What makes these forms truly exciting is that they are not just “print and fill in by hand” pdfs. Instead, they allow you to fill in the form on your computer. How wonderful! This ability to complete forms on your PC or laptop means that you can take organized notes while you research.  In addition, each chart is formatted for source citations according to Elizabeth Shown Mill’s Evidence! You can save the forms to your hard drive and you can print them easily by just clicking on the “Print Form” button located in the upper right hand corner of each form. Careful file name selection will help organize the various forms efficiently.

While some of the forms provided on this CD are among the most commonly used (pedigree chart, family group sheet, research log, and census forms for 1850 through 1930), some are unique to Mr. Hait and meet important research needs. Here are a few examples:

  •  Household Tracker – 1790-1840. This form allows you to track a head of household across six census enumerations, noting location, name of head of household, and males and females within specific age categories. The ability to see all of this information on one form permits easier analysis.
  •  Household Estimator – 1800-1840. This form allows you to enter the name and known birth date for each individual in the subject household in one column and then to compare that data with the age categories provided in each of the five census years. The comparison of expected age with census age categories fosters more efficient and accurate analysis.
  • Land Ownership History – This form allows you to document all grantor and grantee entries for an individual recorded in a specific county and state. Entries include date, name, tract name or description, and book and page citation.
  • Metes and Bounds Tract Description – When I am doing in-depth land research in order to solve a research problem, I have developed my own abstract form for ease in describing each land description. My form is less than perfect and this toolkit form provides the best concatenation of elements I have found. An added benefit for Deedmapper users is that all the various calls needed to produce the plat can be clearly documented on this form.
  •  Source Notes – Three separate source note forms are available: for a book, for an Internet source, for a microfilm source.

I intend to put several of these forms to immediate use and will thoroughly enjoy being able to engage in one of my favorite pastimes – completing forms – on my laptop as I’m researching. I recommend The Family History Research Toolkit to everyone who wants to organize their research and their research files more effectively.


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