Leave a Paper Trail

When I began researching my family tree, the only equipment at my disposal were pens, pencils and loose-leaf. As I talked with family members, scanned obituaries and searched micro-film, I recorded everything on paper.

To organize families, I created a page for each person. On the page, I recorded their full name, when and where they were born, when and where they died, their parents’ names, who they married and their children.

When it came to listing children, I wrote them on the mother’s page. On the father’s page, I noted ‘See Name of Mother’ for details.

Arranging the children on the mother’s page provided two advantages. First, it grouped all the children together who were birthed by that woman. The full name of the child was given with the father’s surname. If the mother was unmarried, the child was given her last name unless another was found.

Second, it was easier to see if a woman had died in childbirth. Unfortunately, many of our grandmothers and mothers before her died bringing our ancestors into the world. If a woman died on the date or shortly after the date of her youngest child, it is highly likely this was the case.

Diane Lynn Tibert

Will ‘Pop’ Typert in the wagon on the left.

This method of creating a page for each individual provided a clear picture of the person’s life. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was creating Family Group Sheets. These pages were arranged in alphabetical order in a 3-ring binder. I easily transported the binder and quickly found individuals when needed.

Another advantage to writing information on paper is I can see several pages at once. Sometimes I had trouble placing a person in the right family. To solve the mystery, I spread the pages of possible families across the floor. One by one, I eliminated the ones that did not fit. If left with two or three options, I could compare the data by placing the pages side by side.

At times, I have a problem understanding information and seeing mistakes on the computer screen. It might be because I grew up in a paper world or because my brain takes a break. Whatever the reason, I better comprehend and see mistakes on paper. At first, I thought it was a personal problem, but after talking with others, I found this is common. Reading a paper copy (hand-written or typed) eliminates this problem.

Another advantage of a paper copy is data will not be lost in a technical glitch. If data is only stored on a computer, it can be lost if the computer crashes or a virus attacks. The software for reading data on paper never needs updating (grin).

Family group and other genealogy sheets can be found in genealogy books, family tree programs and the Ancestors website or you can create your own. They vary in format, but the basic information is the same.


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