The best way for me to analyze genealogical information is to create a picture, table or a chart. It allows me to see patterns, to see gaps in my research and to make tentative conclusions.
Even in engineering school, visualizing math problems helped me to solve them.
We all have different learning styles and styles of intelligence. Its been a natural progression for me to apply this knowledge to my genealogy.
Some of the basic documents we begin with in genealogy are charts—descendant and ancestor charts. Many genealogy journal articles (like those in NGS Quarterly) include the use of charts.
The third step in the Genealogical Proof Standard involves analysis and correlation of the evidence. Tables and charts are perfect for helping to do this.
I create my tables in Microsoft Word, although I may use Excel if I want the ability to sort the data. None of these are necessary; a pen and pad works just fine.
Here are some of the tables and charts I created for my own research (this is a list, and the chart itself is not shown for every suggestion).
- Birthplace Tracking Chart:
- 1870 Neighbor Chart: Analyzing the neighbors in 1870 is especially crucial for African-American research. This is perfect information for a table. I often color-code the different surnames.
- Tax Tracking Chart:
- Land Records Chart: I saw this in Emily Croom’s book Unpuzzling Your Past. These track each piece of land for an ancestor or family. Be sure to record both when land was purchased and when it was sold.
- Slaveholder Tracking: I do lots of different slaveholder tracking. I make charts of “potential” slaveholders, showing their slaveholdings from census and other records. I have charts of their families, their transactions involving slaves, and their probate processes.
- Slave Charts: Once I gather enough information on enslaved property, I chart their lives.
There are many good websites with blank charts of all types for your genealogical research. Cyndi’s List has a category for Supplies, Charts, Forms. Ancestry, Family Tree Magazine , and Rootsweb have assorted charts and forms.
My favorite census forms are Gary Minder’s at the Census Tools website. There are also a wide array of private vendors who offer these sorts of products.
I encourage you to take a look at some of these downloadable charts. But don’t be afraid to create your own. The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination.
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.