Ben Crowder

Family group record redesigns

Traditional family group records (at least the ones I’m used to) are usually a little ugly, but man, they don’t have to be. Here are a couple of redesigns I’ve been playing around with (and you can click on the screenshots to get a full PDF of each).

Original

I should add that they normally don’t look quite this bad — this happens to be printed from the new FamilySearch website, and the print stylesheets need a bit of work. But this is the general layout of traditional family group records.

Too many lines. And lots of wasted space on information that isn’t present. (If you intend to fill it out as a form later, however, then it’s a good thing. For the purposes of this redesign, I’m assuming you’re doing your data entry on the computer.)

Also, the visual hierarchy is essentially flat, making it hard to see the names of the people involved.

Version A

  1. At a glance, you can tell which family the record is for. This is handy when you’ve got a lot of family group records.
  2. The layout’s a little more compact. (If a family has lots of kids, I’m thinking the second page would drop the parent sidebar and go full-width, kind of like in Version B.)
  3. For the parents’ parents, I’m including a lifespan to help place things in context (see John Crowder).
  4. I’m using “born” and “died” instead of “birth” and “death” since they’re shorter.
  5. The LDS ordinances are a lot more compact. (And for people who aren’t LDS, it’d be really easy to remove them from the layout.)
  6. I’m still not very happy with the placement of the gender designation on the children.
  7. The footer is home to some “family stats,” interesting tidbits on the family that aren’t immediately visible from the absolute dates.

Version B

  1. The parents are now side-by-side on the top. This layout emphasizes the vertical hierarchy of the family, for what that’s worth.
  2. There’s more space for each child’s information. I’m not sure that space is necessary, though. Hard to say.

Conclusion

I see these as initial explorations into the area of family group record design — there’s still a lot of work to be done, and I’ve got lots of other ideas for ways to visualize family history data.

Anyway, feedback is welcome as usual.

Comments

  1. Meridith

    I'm still drawn to Version A. It seems more balanced to me and has a lot less wasted space. Love the font and the initial parent titles at the top. :)

  2. Tina Crowder

    I like both versions better than anything I have ever seen. I do like Version A more than B, but they are both very eye-appealing and easy to retrieve needed information.

  3. Jonathan Urie

    It's interesting to note how the current output is informed by previous technologies (handwritten records and typewriters) . I think that the current generation of family history buffs are comfortable seeing the inputs and outputs match. I'm excited for the day when we become comfortable with the separation of style and content.

    By the way, can you please chat with the IRS? They need help.

  4. Trevor

    Awesome. And I agree with Jonathan. 1040-EZ is pretty much an oxymoron. It needs to be Ben-ified.

  5. Barry F Ward

    Version A or B, look pretty good if using a computer, but the important thing is the ease of looking at the form and transferring the information corrently with ease. Also you have to start from somewhere, old paper FGS's, are a necessity for accuracy. Best of luck.

  6. Kim Siever

    I’s be interested to see what the form would look like if the persons on it had 2 or 3 middle names.

  7. Ben Crowder Admin

    I’ve mocked one up. The “male” designator on the first child would obviously need to be moved, but other than that, I think it works okay with the longer names.

  8. Michaela Stephens

    I think I favor form A more than form B. It seems to be a better use of space of children’s data, so I think it would be good for families with lots of children. However, there is still the big block of space underneath the parent names that seems to go unused. Is there anything else that could go there? (Or maybe it is space that could be used for research notes and source notes?)

  9. Ben Crowder Admin

    Yep, I was envisioning it as being a note-taking area. An alternative would be more family stats (as in the footer). I’ve got some related things coming up soon in that area.

  10. Ellen Hiro

    What about previous or later marriages for the parents?

  11. Ben Crowder Admin

    Other marriages would get their own family group record. Other spouses could also be added to the parents’ information in the left or placed in the lower left blank area.

  12. Mark Warner

    I would recommend a revision to Form B where the wife is listed below the husband. This way you can read the file, line by line, top to bottom, with a computer program without the need to separate information on two people from one line of information. you can also put key headers for each individual like Husband, Wife, Child, to help the computer program scan and collect data. Actual format may not be as important as a key word followed by the information.

  13. Linda Drake

    I like version B. It is easier to read and not as "busy". Filled out 100s of the original type. Look nice, but I would rather be able to see all the family at once, and B looks to be more suited for that.

  14. Travis Morris

    Both of these are great for a finished FGS but how would you design a blank FGS with these designs.

  15. Ben Crowder Admin

    To Mark and Travis: This isn’t intended to be a blank form filled out by hand — it’s meant to be printed out from a genealogy app, so the data would already be in the computer.

  16. Beckie Morales

    I like both of them! So if there were more children, could you do version B with 2 columns for the children? That would take up lots of the empty space.

    There are times when I would love to have the NOTES positioned right after each person's information because I use the NOTES to put reminders or questions needing further research.

  17. Maggie Olson

    I'm so glad someone else thinks it is time to update the family record sheets.

    I like both designs. Initially I had some confusion about the couple's names being repeated; I tried to make it be their parents because of the old sheets, but that didn't last long.

    I have similar misgivings to Travis concerning a blank sheet meant to be filled in by hand. There is still need for that, and for those of us with a little older grey matter, the more the hand written form looks like the computer printed, the less error there will be. Jonathan Urie is right-on in his 'technology driven' insight. The older researchers are getting fewer in number. But we are still out there!

    Ellen Hiro commented on additional marriages. Yes, they get their own sheet, but there should be, in my perspective, a place to inform someone who is looking at the information for the first time and has no previous knowledge about the family to be told that there are additional spouses on other records. So, the way you have additional marriages for John Franklin on version B…would that same format work for the parents?

    I do like having the blank space for notes or sources, and having it right at your fingertips. That space could also list additional marriages, perhaps?

    I really do like the clean feel of either design. Quite nice.

  18. Fern Law

    I would probably favor a version C that would have the Husband and Wife's names only once at the top, side by side, in large print like you have the header, with their marriage date, then "He was born" etc. and "She was born" etc. with their other data, also side by side separating the page into two columns which would continue into the two columns for the children after the heavy line border.

  19. Dave Whittle

    I was just about to suggest a Version C, and then noticed that Fern's version is pretty close to what I was going to suggest. So I vote for Fern's version C!

  20. Jim

    Ben, just couple of notes, first of all the old family Group sheets were designed so yo could write in information. It has only been in the last 10 years or so that one could take a laptop into an archive or library, there are still some but they are few. So you needed a paper form that allowed to add information on the hard copy that WAS allowed in the library and transferred later. On your forms a large enough blank line would work. Second, your new designs need black space for information you need to find. On your forms you don't leave blank to help folks find missing information or target their research. You should also allow for more than one line per event. You have a birth date in the family bible and a different date on a marriage license. and good researcher records both till you find a better source. Third you need to know that the current FG sheet fails to be usable for adopted, guardian, and non biological families. In LDS families we find grand children sealed to and raised by grand parents. We are finding same sex relationship that are family groups, and about 40 percent of family's are blended (her's, his, and their's) and the current FG sheets really get overwhelmed with this information. So you need to note the relationship to Head of Household and if not biological you need a space for additional "parents". Your right the FG sheet needs changing and updating… When we do it, we also need to make it more functional.

  21. Joan Hamblin

    I like B! But it looks like "Jim" has made some well-considered comments. anybody related to Jacob Hamblin, the Buckskin Apostle, out there? If so, check out his new websites… jacobhamblin.org and jacobhamblin.com thanks.

  22. Janell

    I like the idea of Fern's C too! One more comment - it would be great to print alongside the men/women little images of men and women, as a placeholder for a picture or something similar. But they all look great!

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