Do you have several research logs, reports, and other research tools for your ancestors that represent months or years of research? Do you ever forget that you’ve created a tool such as a timeline only to recreate it? I set up an Airtable base to track my research projects, and today am sharing my thought process. You can do something similar for your research. I’ve published my base under the title Track Your Ancestral Research Template on Airtable Universe. When you click the link, you’ll be able to explore the base and make a copy for yourself. I left examples that you can delete once you understand how it works.
Why Track Research Projects
After we put aside our research, we may not recall that we completed a project on an ancestor a few years ago and start to recreate a timeline or research log. Sadly, I’ve done this more than once. Corraling links to the ancestor in our Google Drive, links to research logs, a note showing their research status, etc., can all be done within an Airtable base. Grouping and sorting within the base will show us which ancestor needs a little love in the way of more research.
The Airtable Base
I created my Airtable base from scratch, thinking through the information I’d like captured. I will likely tweak the base, but for right now, this is what I’ve developed. You can take my ideas and personalize them for your research. I decided to have one base for my paternal line and one for my maternal line. You could certainly have all your ancestors in one base, but my lines are very different, and it makes sense to separate them. If you have maternal and paternal lines that cross over, I’d recommend one base.
In Airtable, you create tables within the base. I have three tables: Ancestral Research, Research Status, and Projects. Let’s look at each table and what information it holds.
Ancestral Research Table
The Ancestral Research Table holds the name of each direct-line ancestor, basic information, research status, notes on future research, and links to various research items and helps. Here are the fields and their descriptions.
- Ancestor – enter the full name of the ancestor. I use the maiden name for women.
- Dates – enter the birth and death dates for the ancestor, estimate if necessary.
- Ahnentafel # – enter the ancestor’s number based on the Ahnentafel numbering system.
- Localities – enter as many localities as desired for the ancestor. I’m using birth, death, and census locales.
- Research Status – enter the status of your research. See the following discussion on the Research Status Table to understand this field.
- Notes – describe what research has been done and what you’d like to do next.
- Google Drive Folder – If you have a Google Drive folder for each ancestor, you can link directly to it.
- Research Log – Link to the research log or describe where the log is in your digital or paper files.
- Projects – enter the names of each project completed on this ancestor. This is a linked field. See the following description of the Project Table for more information.
- FamilySearch Details – add a link to the ancestor’s details page on FamilySearch.
- Ancestry Tree Details – add a link to the ancestor’s details page on Ancestry.
The screenshot below shows my father, my paternal grandparents, and two of my paternal great-grandparents. At a glance, I can see their birth and death dates, places they lived, their research status, and notes about completed research. For example, I’ve researched Dora Algie Royston more in-depth than my other ancestors, so her status is a 5 indicating I have met the genealogical proof standard in my research of her life. This is because she was the subject of my four-generation report for Accreditation. I have done reasonably exhaustive research, analyzed and correlated the evidence, and resolved any conflicts in my source-cited report. I uploaded my report to Dora’s details page on FamilySearch. My next step will be to write a source-cited biography adding the historical context, and then I can mark her with the source status of 6, the final step. This is a great reminder for me not to forget Dora!
Research Status Table
The next table I created in the Airtable base is titled Research Status. Yvette Hoitink wrote “Six Levels of Ancestral Profiles – Level-up Challenge” in January of 2021. She identifies six levels of research, and I used her levels as the basis for the research status table.
This is a static table, meaning I use it for reference only and don’t add to it. I wasn’t sure if I’d remember the levels without some help. I also tweaked the record checklist to reflect U.S. research, as Yvette’s list is based on Dutch records.
The Ancestral Research Table has a linked field titled “Projects.” When I enter the name of a project for an ancestor into this field, a new record is automatically created in the Project Table. For example, I entered “2017 Four Generation Project” in Dora Algie Royston’s project field and in that of her spouse, William Huston Shults, since he is also discussed in that project.
That entry created a new record in the Project table where I could then add more information about that specific project. Airtable automatically entered the ancestors’ names from the description field; then, I created additional fields to describe the project. I generally do multiple projects for an ancestor and can add them all to the project field. Each will have its own record (row) in the Project Table. This way, I can see at a glance the objective, localities, summary, and future research for that project.
Here are the fields I’m using for the Project Table.
- Project Name – Give each research project a name and date. I generally use the Ancestor’s surname plus the year I did the research.
- Project Date – Enter the date the project was completed.
- Ancestors – This is a linked field, and the names of ancestors are automatically filled from the Ancestral Research Table.
- Objective – Copy the objective for the research project from the project document or research log.
- Localities – Add the various localities covered in the project.
- Summary – Type in a summary of what the project covered.
- Future Research – Add notes about what you recommended from the report.
- Research Project Document – Add a link to the project document in Google Drive. This document holds my research objective, plan, analysis, etc. It is basically my brain as I’m working through a project.
- Research Log – Enter a link to the research log for that project or file location.
- Research Report – Add a link to the research report for that project or file location.
- Diagram – Add a link to any diagrams that you’ve created for the ancestor – especially if you’ve been mapping DNA matches.
- FamilySearch Tree Updated – check if you updated the tree with new sources and information from the project.
- Ancestry Tree Updated – check if you updated the tree with new sources and information from the project.
The screenshot below shows a portion of the record for the 2017 Four Generation Project. Notice all the important information available at a glance!
If you’ve been searching for a way to organize your research projects, maybe my Airtable base will give you some ideas. Do you have another way you organize projects or ideas for other fields/tables? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!
This looks amazing! Organizing is so important and you’ve given a wonderful way to keep all your research straight. I love Airtable and use it regularly. Thanks for all the great tips!
Thanks, Gray! Enjoy setting up your own research project table.
Thank you for sharing this additional use for AirTable. I’m currently enrolled in SLIG Adv. Practicum and taking both ProGen63 and GenProof78 so with all the case studies, in addition to my own family research, this is an excellent way to see where I’m at with all these projects. Your discussion of this use for AirTable couldn’t have come at a better time! Thanks again.
I’m glad this idea will be useful to you. It’s amazing how we can actually forget we worked on a project! Good luck with all of your learning opportunities.
This is a great organizational tool! I am wondering if this base is somewhere it can be copied like many of your other Airtable tools. I have not mastered linking fields so a blank base for this tool would be extremely helpful and save a lot of time.
Thanks for laying out this method of organizing research, it is very helpful for me. I do have a detailed question about Airtable – how did you get the Research Status field of you Paternal Ancestors table to be color coded? I set mine up the same way (link to Research status table) and all of the linked values are the same color, light blue.
Great question. Any field that is single-select or multiple-select will have a color assigned to it. After you’ve created the field and chosen one of those field types, the first time you type in an entry, Airtable will create the color and save the entry. Then when you reuse it, you can start typing and select it. I hope this helps!
I came for the Airtable link but absolutely love the Ahnentafel link – I’ve never seen an Ahnentafel done that way and had to recreate it for my own family in Excel! It’s a great way to illustrate the Leeds Method to a newbie.
Thanks for all you and Nicole do.
I’m glad you’re enjoying the Ahnentafel idea!