Completing a Genealogy Family Group Form
Family Group forms are a common tool used by genealogy researchers. They take many forms, but, they all have a common goal: to get as much information about an individual family group in one place as possible. Whether you use the form I created or another form, here are some tips for keeping your information consistent.
While it may seem like a waste of paper, you'll want to have a separate form for each family group, which means for every marriage for each person. If you are especially concerned about using paper, you may just wish to complete the form electronically.
Usually, the first name on the page is the male "head of the family." While it may seem a bit old fashioned, pretty much all family group pages are organized this way, and consistency is very helpful for accessing the information quickly, especially if you come across other versions of the form.
Sometimes you'll find family group reports on pedigree forms. Pedigree forms show genealogy in "branching" tree form. I generally prefer to use one type of form, and stick with it, and find the group record forms hold more information in a more convenient fashion, but, you may prefer another format.
First, write the surname in all capital letters. This will make it easier to spot amongst the other information on the page.
You may also notice that the standard date format used on genealogy reports is 3 Aug 1759 instead of August 3, 1759 or 8/3/1759. This makes it less likely that a slash or a comma might be confused as a digit.
You may've noticed that the "location" spaces all include the "county." It is very useful to include the county, and add it when it has been left off the form. Write them in this order: City/Township, County, State, Country. Denver, Denver County, Colorado, USA.
What Genealogy tidbits Can You Learn From a Family Group Form?
Sure, it seems obvious. But, what you really have on these forms is simply data. Good data, to be sure, but, to make it *information,* you'll need to go beyond the obvious.
Location, Location, Location
If your family was originally from a country other than the US, did they change the spelling of their last name? If so, you'll want to keep your eyes open for alternative spellings or versions of the name.
This is especially true of Census records. Census takers often wrote the name as it *sounded* and didn't bother to learn the correct spelling.
In addition, some ancestor may've *translated* their last name, and used the English equivalent. For example, I learned that one of my progenitors was not English at all, but rather, from Germany. After arriving here, they changed their name from "Maurer" to "Mason."
Also, many states have counties with the same names, or towns with the same names. How many Springfields are there in the US? How many Adams or Washington counties? Save yourself and future researchers some effort. Be specific.
Location is really the root of all genealogy research, you'll be very glad to have as much location information about your ancestors as possible.
Think this is just for background on your family? Think again.
Census records might list several people who have dozens of the same or similar names. You can pinpoint the information relavent to your family if you know the person's occupation.
What about looking in professional association lists as sources for information? Was your family member part of an Engineering association? Could be.
What about the tombstone in the city cemetery? Could it belong to your ancestor? Symbols of the person's occupation were sometimes indicated on grave markers. If they don't match, you can probably start looking in a different direction.
At a loss for where to research next? Government records for a specific county lost in a major flood? Look to the Church. You might find records of a christening, baptism, marriage or death. These are primary records, and can fill in genealogy gaps when other sources fail.
Also, if your last name is common, you may be able to determine if the name you are researching is actually related to you, or not. For example, John Smith I is Catholic, but research subject John Smith Jr is Protestant? Hmm. Maybe you're looking at the wrong John Smith. This isn't an absolute, certainly, but, it might save some time.
Children are often named for ancestors of the parents, so their names (even middle names) can be helpful in finding ancestors. In some countries, tradition dictated the names of the children, to honor the parents, grandparents, etc.
It can be hard to trace your maternal line, as every generation, the mother's surname changes. How many people know their grandmother's maiden name? Knowing these surnames is of vital importance, and can open up whole lines of research, and potential resources.
Think of each item of information on these forms as not only one less fact for you to have to locate, but also an avenue of verification and further discoveries.
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