Airtable is a hybrid spreadsheet and database. Most database tools are beyond the technological level of typical users, so most people don’t use database tools. Yet, databases are highly useful. Luckily for us, Airtable is a database tool that doesn’t require that you know how to code. If you are familiar with spreadsheets, you’ll pick it up right away. Each database is called “base.” Think of it as a spreadsheet with multiple sheets/tabs. Each sheet within the base is a “table.” Rows in a table are called “records.” Columns in a table are called “fields.” Each field is customizable. You can group records and sort records in various ways. My favorite part is that you can link records from one table into a field in a separate table. This makes it different than a typical spreadsheet. Airtable is a powerful tool. I use it for large research projects that I’m working on over an extended period of time – like a DNA research project on a brick wall ancestor. I’ve recently started using Airtable to keep track of friends, associates, and neighbors of my research subject also.
Airtable Universe is a place where creators can publish their bases as templates for others to use. I have published two bases, a DNA Research Log and a FAN Club Research Log. Both bases include my basic table/sheet for tracking genealogy research, and then another table for tracking DNA matches or friends, associates, and neighbors. The entries in the research log are linked to the people that they go with in the other table. It saves me so much work, having all this information in one place.
Because Airtable is new to most people, I created two videos showing you how I use both bases. The videos are linked in the sections below.
DNA Research Log
As I shared in my post “DNA Research Logs: How to Keep Track of Genetic Genealogy Searches,” Airtable has become my new favorite tool for managing the DNA matches, correspondence, and traditional records used in DNA research projects. Originally, the base I made included two tables – one for DNA Matches, and one research log. Thanks to a suggestion from a reader, I updated the base to include a separate table just for correspondence. This allows you to track multiple messages and responses from the same match and see all the correspondence you’ve had with a match. To see how it works, you can view my filled out tables in the example. If you’re ready to try it on your own, make a copy of the blank template linked below.
You can watch my video about using the DNA Research Log here: How to Use Airtable for a DNA Research Log at YouTube.
FAN Club Research Log
I created a FAN Club research log in Airtable after a podcast listener asked Diana and me to do an episode of Research Like a Pro about how to track and organize the FAN Club. As Diana and I were talking and doing a little research about various ways to track these extra individuals that don’t fit into the family tree, I realized Airtable would allow me to do so much more with the FAN club than tracking them in Google Sheets could.
This Airtable base allows you to keep track of friends, associates, and neighbors that you find as you keep your research log. One table is for your typical research log entries. The FAN club table is for keeping track of the friends, associates, and neighbors found on each entry in the research log. Link to the record in the research log where the neighbor or associate was found. One of the best things you can do with this base is sort and group the people you track. I added many names of neighbors on tax lists and census records. I also included witnesses on deeds and other associates. There is a column for first name and last name. After adding all these people, I sorted by last name, then sorted by first name, so I would be able to see people who appeared in records with my research subject more than once. The grouping tool is helpful too, allowing you to group all the FANS that you listed by which record they were found on. You can choose any of the fields to group by.
You can watch my video about using the FAN Club Research Log here: How to Use Airtable to create a Genealogy FAN Club Research Log at YouTube
How to Use the Templates
In order to use one of the templates, you will need to duplicate the blank copy your own account. From there you can start adding your own rows. If you’re not sure what each row is supposed to mean, you can look at the example bases I published for more information.
How to Italicize Text in an Airtable Log
One of the limitations I found with Airtable when I first started using it was the inability to italicize text in my source citation column. As you know, titles of publications should be italicized in a Chicago style source citation. Airtable was almost perfect, except for that. Two days ago, I learned that it is now possible to italicize text in a cell. You can imagine my joy!
Let me show you how to enable this feature.
All that you need to do is enable rich text formatting. This option is only available for the “long text” field type. Each field has a type. It can be a URL, single line text, long text, attachment, checkbox, link to another record (my favorite), and more. Below is a drop-down list showing the field type.
As you can see, the source citation field type is long text. That means we can turn on rich text formatting! Just click the drop-down arrow in the field header, click “customize field type,” then click the toggle button next to “enable rich text formatting.”
When you click save, a dialog box will ask if you want to convert the field type. Click yes, and voila! You can now italicize your the publication title in your source citation. Just double click on a cell to begin editing the text, highlight the words you want to italicize, and a black toolbar opens right next to it. The toolbar options allow you to bold, italicize, strikethrough, code, and link. You can also use the keyboard shortcut ctrl+i.
So, will you try out Airtable to organize your larger DNA and FAN club projects? I hope these templates are helpful to you!