Forms - Useful or Useless?

Let's see what two one-place studiers have to say about the usefulness of forms for their one-place study.

From Alex Coles:

Are forms useful or useless? That depends on how you define forms! Personally I am a digital girl, so paper forms like those for sketching out a family tree or recording census entries for my one-place study don’t have much place in my life. That said, transcribing difficult-to-read information by duplicating the handwriting yourself is a valuable skill to have in the toolbox, as physically making the shapes of the squiggles you see before you may suggest what those letters and words might be.

I’m definitely a fan of digital forms though. For example, the family history software I use, Family Historian, has a wonderful add-on called Ancestral Sources which is essentially an input form for a family’s census record or parish register entry. It then takes those inputs and drops all the various pieces of information complete with source citation against all the relevant individuals in your Family Historian database (and creating the individual if they are not in the database). Magic!

Another type of form is a simple spreadsheet template. One recent template I’ve used is the one provided by the Society to members last year to assist in tracking their research for their WW1 Shared Endeavour projects. I also have templates for census records, parish register entries and a whole host of other sources I’ve used for my one-place studies.

A well-constructed form can help you capture all the data from a historical source in a structured way so that you can easily turn it from data into information, or help you manage your one-place study research process. That sounds useful to me!

From Christine Sharbrough:

As a U.S.-based genealogist, I eschew forms because it is too easy to miss information in our haste to fill out a pre-designed form. Also, it is difficult to find room to place information if there is not a box in which to place it. The only forms that I do find useful are census forms. In both the U.S. and Canada, census records are often difficult to read, even in printed form. Having a blank census form (available online at most subscription genealogical sites for free) is handy when recording information or even reading a printed out document and can mean the difference between capturing accurate or inaccurate information. Otherwise, it is best to obtain a digital image via a camera or microfilm printout/digital copy for future reference than try to figure out what you may have missed. Sometimes forms change too, so the importance of "which" form was used does come into play.

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