17 January 2017

Haven’t I Seen You Before?

It can be fun to follow a genealogy lead online and begin gathering facts and downloading documents as fast as you find them.

But beware. If you’re not well organized, you may discover that the terrific documents you spent an hour downloading are documents you already had!

My Family Tree Research Secret Weapon

That’s why I like to keep my “cheat sheet” open whenever I’m looking at information.

My document tracker shows me what I have and what I'm missing in my family tree.
My document tracker shows me what I have and what I'm missing in my family tree.

I have a spreadsheet I call my Document Tracker. It has one person on each line and columns for the types of documents or facts I collect. The columns include birth, baptism, marriage, immigration, death, censuses, military, and more.

Whenever I'm investigating someone, I take a glance at that person in my alphabetical spreadsheet. Instantly I know what I have and what I need to find. No more wasted or duplicated effort.

To be thorough, I save the image of a census document and name it for the head of household and the year (e.g., IamarinoPietro1940.jpg). Then in my family tree software I attach it to each member of the household. Finally, I note it on each person’s line in my Document Tracker spreadsheet.

Now I can see which census years I've found for a father and each of his children as they move on to their own households.

This spreadsheet also helps you see what is missing for anyone in your family tree, such as the 1920 and 1940 census, or a World War II draft registration card.

Use your document tracker to focus on exactly what you need to locate. Think how much that will improve your productivity and fortify your family tree.


  1. I definitely need to do this!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Anita! I publish each Tuesday and Friday.

    2. I tried to email you at diann@forthecousins.com, but it would not go through. Please help!

    3. That address works. Either try again or tell me what you wanted to say here.