I've seen many family tree researchers get ecstatic when they discover their ancestor's hometown records are online.
For me, this moment came when I learned about the Italian website, Antenati. It has birth, marriage and death records for my four ancestral towns in Italy. Other genealogists are finding their ancestor's records on FamilySearch.org.
|That's a lot of records!|
How do you know what's in them?
- How to Use the Online Italian Genealogy Archives
- Collect Whole Set!
- Where Have You Been All My Life?
- Step-by-Step Discovery of My 5th Great Grandparents
- Finding the Siblings Your Ancestor Never Mentioned
If you've downloaded documents from your ancestral hometown, you may have hundreds or thousands of images on your computer.
If you're looking only at each year's index and finding what you know you need, you're missing the boat. And that boat is overloaded with your ancestors!
My recommendation: Make a spreadsheet database of every important fact in each document.
|My database-in-progress for several towns' birth, marriage and death records.|
There will no doubt be ancestors in your spreadsheet that you never knew existed.
Here are 5 steps to creating your ancestral hometown database from your downloaded files:
- Examine the records for the fields you want to capture. For example, birth records may contain the baby's name and birth date; father's name, age and occupation; mother's name and age; their address; and the baby's baptism date. Death records will contain different facts, and so will marriage records.
- Create columns in your spreadsheet to hold all the facts. I keep birth, death and marriage records on different sheets in my Excel file so they can have different column headings.
TIP: The best way to be able to sort your records by date is to keep the year, month and day in separate columns.
- Enter information from the documents into your spreadsheet. This takes time, but I found shortcuts as I did this last night.
- I went through one year's birth records, entering only the baby's name into the spreadsheet. I put the baby's last name in one column and first name in another. (I record parents' names as last-name-first to help with sorting.)
- On my second pass through the records, I entered the birth and baptism dates.
- On my third pass, I entered the mother and father's information.
- Sort the data by any column to uncover hidden facts. You may find an unknown sibling. You may find that a man had several wives over the years. You may find that a family moved from one part of town to another.
See Dr. Daniel Soper's YouTube channel for tips on using Excel. Many tips will apply to other spreadsheet software.
- Share your database! Years ago I documented the facts from the vital records for my grandfather's hometown. I gathered these facts while sitting at a microfilm viewer in a Family History Center, so I used a simple text file. You can't sort a text file, but at least you can search it. I shared this file, as well as a GEDCOM for the whole town, with other descendants of that town.
Your spreadsheet can be a valuable resource to other family tree researchers. Once you're done, I encourage you to share it everywhere you can think of.
I completed two years of records while watching the Yankees slaughter the Orioles last night. I expect to get much further tonight because of the shortcuts I found.
When you have your database, find an appropriate Facebook group or the like, and put the data out there. Genealogy is a collaborative sport!