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The Spiker Gazette
Oxford, WVVolume  10Issue  10October  2016
In this Issue:Treasured Family Records
Family Group Sheets
Source Checklists


Treasured Family Records

Written by:  Bobbi Spiker-Conley

     Historically, one's identity was defined as much by his pedigree as by individual achievement. His wealth, authority and social standing -- good or bad -- were purely consequences of birth. So it should be no surprise that some family histories may have been, shall we say, "improved."  Conflicting information is just one reason why documenting our genealogy research with source citations is essential. The main purpose is two-fold, 1) to show a summary of the evidence we used to reach a conclusion, and 2) to enable others to retrace our steps to find the same information. In other words, we'll be able to prove that we didn't just make all this stuff up.

     Our parents and grandparents provided many of the sources that are cited in our research. Their first goal was to document the "basic info" for each person in our family tree:

  • Full names (including maiden names for the women)
  • Event dates (or approximate dates) for birth, marriage, death, burial, residence, occupation, etc.
  • Event locations (key to locating vital records.)

     Obviously, our tree has grown much larger since then, but we lack a lot of that "basic info" for events that occurred after 1940. You can help us fill in the blanks. The easiest way to begin is by completing our Family Group Sheets. These forms are used to record information about the parents and children in a single family. Print a copy for yourself and, if you were married more than once, print another record for each additional marriage, especially if the marriage produced children. (While you're at it, print a copy for each of your children and have them complete their own forms too.) 

     Start with what you already know. (Scroll down this page; you'll find some suggestions for completing these forms.) The next step is to locate the materials/evidence that will support/prove everything that you've written. And since you're already searching for your own documents, you might as well look for items that will help us complete our parents' and grandparents' Group Sheets. Now let's find those family records.

     Search all of your storage areas -- attic, basement, garage, closets, desks, bookshelves and so forth. Encourage other relatives to make similar searches of their storage areas. Ask for copies or photos of what they have. You never know who might have the very letter, document, book, or story for which you are searching. In the process, you may even jog memories of family members who may provide more clues. A partial list of things to look for is shown on our Family Source Checklist. Print several copies to have on hand to easily keep track of where you've looked and what you've found.      

     One relative may remember parts of the family story that others have forgotten, so as you're searching, ask everyone questions like:

  • Are there old letters or postcards sitting in a trunk somewhere?
  • Who ended up with old family photo albums/scrapbooks?
  • Do you recall seeing Grandpa's military medals?
  • Has our family ever been mentioned in a book or magazine?
  • Are we related to any famous (or infamous) people?
  • Do any artifacts exist that would show the impact that world events had on the family?
  • Which child has Grandma's personal cookbook?
  • Does anyone have copies of ancestral maps?

     Once you've gathered the "basic info," cited the sources of your data, and made copies of your treasured family documents, please send a copy of your files to me. I will update our PRIVATE tree with info on living relatives and I will update our PUBLIC tree with info on deceased ancestors. Our goal is a thorough and accurate record of our family history. That'd be so much easier with your help.



Tips/Suggestions for Recording Information on the Family Group Sheet:


  • Write names in the order they are spoken -- first names, then middle name(s), then last name. 
  • Capitalize the surname (last name) for easier identification.
  • Use maiden names for women.
  • Variations are extremely important to note. Did they go by a middle name rather than their first name? Did they change their name? Were they known by a nickname? Example from our family tree -- Uncle Lynn was was born "Jacob Verlynne Spiker," known by a shortened version of his middle name "Lynn," and as an adult, formally changed his name to "Lynn Spiker."  
  • Blog writer, Kris Williams, provides more examples as she answers the question, "What's in a Name?"


  • Write the day, then the month, then the complete year, like this -- 08 Jun 1891.
  • Never use numbers for months. Always spell them out or use the abbreviation (writing 08-06-91 could be interpreted as August 6 or June 8.)
  • Always write out the complete year (writing 08-06-91 could mean 1791, 1891 or 1991)
  • When exact dates cannot be documented, approximate dates may be used. Examples from our family tree -- circa=around; abt=about; bet=between; bef=before; aft=after.


  • Write in the name (if known) of hospitals, cemeteries, churches, etc., followed by the location.
  • List all jurisdictions in order from smallest to largest. Start with the city (or township or parish,) followed by the county (province or district,) then the state, ending with the nation last. Example from our family tree -- Pennsboro, Ritchie County, West Virginia, United States.
  • Do not use abbreviations. They can be confusing (writing the abbreviation "WA" could mean the state of Washington or it could mean Western Australia.)

Research Notes - other uses for this space

  • Photo(s)
  • List of residences
  • List of schools
  • List of clubs, associations, and societies
  • Divorces or separations
  • Foster children and adoptions



     This is the third in a series of articles about preserving our family history. Check out the articles -- Treasured Family Heirlooms and Photos