Tag Archives: forms

iPad Users – free app today that can fill out B&F genealogy forms

If you use an iPad, I’d like to recommend you download an app that is free today, PDF Forms. It’s normally $9.99. It’s free today, and I think will go back to cost $9.99 tomorrow.

The app lets you load and fill out PDF forms. You can then share the forms filled out via e-mail, and you can decide whether to send it as an editable form, or as a ‘flattened’ PDF which is no longer editable. Why would you want a program to fill out PDF forms on your iPad? Obviously, so you can fill out this site’s series of genealogy forms – The B&F Forms System.

Ancestor+Form+v2
B&F Ancestor Form

I’ve tested some of my forms in the program, and it seems to work pretty well. You just put the PDFs you want to edit on either Dropbox or Google Drive, and then connect with the program and it loads them directly. You can edit all the fields on the form, and then save the filled-out form as a separate file, e-mail it (either as an editable form, or flattened), print it, or load it into another program on your iPad that supports PDFs.

For those who do not have a genealogy program on their iPad, this is a good way to collect information while visiting relatives, as well as sharing information with people. Even those who do have genealogy programs on their iPad, can still benefit by using the forms as a way to collect information and to share information. For example, you can fill out a form with the information you know about a particular family, then send it in editable form to someone else and ask them to fill in the blanks.

I’m hoping to come out with some updated version of the forms soon, to take advantage of some new form capabilities, to add support for the 1940 census to the census form, and to make it possible to translate the forms into other languages (such as Hebrew). If you have any suggestions for improving the forms, please let me know in the comments below. Hopefully by the summer I’ll have time to update the forms. In the meantime, go download PDF Forms on your iPad and use the current forms and let me know what you think.

UPDATE: The app is no longer free, but it seems they’re lowered the price to $8.99.

New Genealogy Forms Posted

Thank you to all those who made suggestions for changes to my genealogy forms. The new revised forms, with the changes described in my previous post, are now live on the Forms page.

In addition to the new Ancestor Form, Family Form, Sibling Form and Ancestor Location Form, there is an all-new form called the US Immigrant Census Form. This is the first in a new series of research-oriented forms. I had originally intended to release this form after another form I am working on, but as I finished this one and I though people would find it useful, I’ve decided to post it first.


The US Immigrant Census Form is intended to help those researching people who immigrated to the US during the huge influx between the 1870s and 1930s, although it is useful for those people who immigrated earlier but were living in the US during this period as well. The idea is that each census provides different information that is useful for researchers and can help you find more records.

For example, in 1900 and 1910, the census listed how many children were born to a woman, and how many were still living. You can use this information to figure out if children may have been left behind in the old country, or may have died young. While the country of origin of each person and their parents is listed in all the censuses on the form, the language spoken by each parent is collected only in 1920. This can sometimes be more useful than the country of origin which is frequently vague – ‘Russia’ for example is not a very useful country to have listed in a census form as it could correspond to over a dozen countries that were part of the Russian Empire during those years. From 1900 on the naturalization status of each person is listed in the census, but in 1920 the actual year the person was naturalized is recorded. These bits of information are all very useful for researchers who are looking to use census records as a springboard to getting more information on immigrants to the US.

Thank you to Michael Goldstein who had an early look at the census form and reminded me to add the Military Service field.

As always, please let me know what you think of the forms, and if there are any improvements you’d like to see please post them in the comments.

So go check out the now-improved B&F Forms System.

Revising the B&F Forms System

A few weeks ago I launched a series of genealogy forms I call the B&F Forms System. The forms page has received nearly 2000 visits since it launched just a few weeks ago, and while I don’t know how many people are actually using them, I have received some good feedback from some of those who have tried them out.

I’m in the process of integrating suggestions from users of the B&F Forms System into new versions of the forms, and I want to go over what some of the changes will be before I finalize them. I think it’s important to get feedback on these types of forms, since so many people use them in so many different ways. Some changes are easy to make, and some more difficult. One reason I want to make sure everyone has had their say on the forms is that it’s relatively easy to change the layout of the forms, but it is very difficult to make them fill-able on the computer, so I don’t want to do that so too many times if I can help it.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1) I’ve added a box where you can add the Date you filled out the form. In some forms where there is limited space, I’ve merged this with the Author box, which is not ideal, but if you’re filling out the form on the computer there should be plenty of space for both the name and date.

2) Terminology is a funny thing. I started with First Name and Last Name which are the terms I generally use, even though I don’t use them completely literally. In the genealogy program I use, for example, it has you add both the First and Middle name if it’s present to the same field. This may be why I didn’t think about the First Name field being a problem. However, to keep the terminology consistent and accurate, I’ve changed the first two fields for each person from First Name and Last Name to Given Name and Family Name. Given name is intended for all names that were given to the person, and thus includes any number of names that precede the Family Name. There is room in the Given Name field for several names.

3) I’ve added a field called Nickname/Alias. This is especially important for people who immigrated from one country to another, where their names may have changed many times. This field can be used to add any number of variations and alternate versions of the person’s given name. For example, I have an ancestor who moved from Romania to the US and was known as Shubsa. On the passenger manifest of the ship he took to the US, he is listed as Schaps. In America his name was Sam. He was probably also known as Shmuel (the Hebrew form of Samuel) in religious settings. If you were to enter ‘Sam’ as his Given Name, then in the Nickname/Alias field you could enter ‘Shubsa, Schaps, Shmuel’.

4) In order to make room for the new Nickname/Alias field, I merged the Birth City and Birth Country fields into the Birth Location field. There should be enough room to enter both a city and a country in this field, especially if you fill out the form on the computer. For consistency I’ve also changed Death City to Death Location, and Marriage City to Marriage Location. These changes actually make the forms more consistent overall.

Clicking on the image below will bring up a full page version of the Ancestor Form, which should illustrate the above changes. Changes on other forms are similar. If you have any comments on these changes, or think that other changes are needed, please post a comment and let me know. If there are no major comments, then I’ll get started soon making the forms fill-able on the computer, and then will update the forms online.

Special thanks to Cathy Moulton for the Date suggestion, and Thomas MacEntee for the Nicknames suggestion and for pointing out that many people are hard to differentiate by just their ‘First’ name.