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Strategies for Starting Your Family History: Recording Your Findings

    Last week I discussed collecting evidence from documents, and beginning the analysis process.  Where do you put the information you’ve collected and how do you develop a research plan for the next steps?  You may have selected a software package to assist you in recording your findings, but at this point, a word processor will also work (or even hand written notes).  Forms can be helpful at this point in recording your information, however it’s important that you focus on the evidence you’ve collected (citing each source) rather than just filling out information you “think” is correct on the form.  People have a tendency to want to fill in all the blanks, whether it’s a form or a search box on an internet site...Don’t!  Be will save you a great deal of time in the future.  You don’t want former ancestors!  (Those are the ones that got into your database and you’ve been searching for years, only to discover they’re the wrong ones.)  Proper research, evidence analysis and recording will prevent this problem.

    There are many sites on the internet where you can download forms, and if you’re using genealogical software, you can print out the forms, either blank, or with the information you’ve input during your research.  Here are some places to look.


Here are the forms I think you need to start. 

    First is the Source Summary.  This is one I’ve created myself.  It is just a consecutively numbered worksheet where you fill in the appropriate information for the citation.  The format for the citation can be taken from the resources listed in my blog Citing Sources.  Remember to fill out the Source Summary first, that way you can refer to the citation number when you’re recording the information from your source.  If it is a book or document with multiple references, always provide the detail when you use the source, for example, Date of Death: 20 Feb 1904.6 p204  That way you can later convert the information to a proper footnote or endnote.   

    Next is the Family Group Sheet.  As the name suggests, this form collects all of the information about a family group.  As you analyze your document, such as the death certificate of Patrick Moughty we looked at last week, you would fill in the appropriate places on the form with the information from the death certificate.  For each piece of information you enter, you would use a superscript number that corresponds to the number on your source summary.  For example, you would indicate that his birthplace was Ireland1 and that his mother’s name was Mary.1  You might find another document that contains the exact (or a different) location for birth or his mother’s maiden name, and you would cite that also on the Family Group Sheet.  It’s fine to have multiple sources for your information because that will help you evaluate the information.

    Once you have extracted the information from the record, you should write an analysis of your findings, and a list of next steps.  You might put this in the “Notes” section of your Family Group Sheet, or simply type or write a report. 

Patrick J. Moughty

Death Certificate


Patrick J. Moughty died 8 May 1973 at his home on 34 Hassake Road, Old Greenwich, Fairfield, Connecticut.  He was married to Beatrice Moughty, and born in Ireland [no location given] on 26 Oct 1889 to Bernard Moughty and Mary [maiden name unobtainable].   His Social Security Number was 043-03-2720 and he was a retired chauffeur for Electrolux Corporation.   He was not a veteran.  The informant on the death certificate was Mrs. Christine Dennis of the same address [his daughter].

According to his death certificate, the cause of death was “Myocardial Insufficiency, 1 wk.”  This information was given by the assistant medical examiner (J. Colman Kelly, MD) who certified the death at 8:30 a.m. on 8 May 1973.  

The undertaker was Leo F. Gallagher & Sons, Inc., 31 Arch Street, Greenwich, Connecticut.  Patrick was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Greenwich, Connecticut on 10 May 1973.  


Most of the information provided on the death certificate was known with the following discrepancies to be researched:

    Middle initial “J” not seen on any other document.  What does it stand for?

    Wife was always known as “Bridget.”  Where did Beatrice come from? 

    [If not already known, the name of the cemetery would confirm the religion as Roman Catholic.]

Next Steps


Birth Certificate

Marriage Certificate

Census Records (both US and Irish)



WWI Draft Registration

Social Security Records 

Church/Cemetery Records


“Patrick J. Moughty,” Certificate of Death, Connecticut State Department of Health, 8 May 1973, Greenwich, CT, State File Number 211 (1973), Certified Copy.

Note that an analysis of each document in the Next Steps could provide additional (or conflicting) information and might suggest additional Next Steps.   Patrick’s obituary, for example, mentioned he was born in Westmeath [one step closer to the information needed for Irish research], and that he had a sibling, Mrs. Ann Ledwith of Westmeath, still living at the time of his death (information not already known).  His Naturalization gave his birth date as 18 Oct 1889, however his birth certificate recorded the date as 20 Oct 1888; his mother’s maiden name as Mary Lynn and the townland of birth as Aughnaboy.

    If you follow this strategy of analyzing documents and working back one generation at a time, you’ll be more successful with your genealogical research.

    One last thing, here’s a great blog from one of my friends, Tom Kemp, that showed up last week.  Seems like we may be writing in parallel, so bookmark his blog as well!

    Happy Hunting!

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018