Say you have three tables: Contract, CLIN and Funding.
Each contract may have many CLINs, each CLIN may have many funding entries.
The CLIN table has a foreign key to the contract table and the funding table has a foreign key to the CLIN table. It may also be useful if the funding table has a foreign key to the contract table. (You can implement this using a reference field in the funding table which references the foreign key in the CLIN table, that is, the foreign key to the contract. )
Connect the three tables using two relationships in a line from left to right:
(If you wish to be able to create a new record directly within the portal make them create relationships.)
Each table has two associated layouts: a list layout and a detail layout.
In the list layout there should be a button to switch to the details layout.
In the details layout there should be a portal to the next level down.
In the portal there should be a button to jump to the next level down.
This button should execute a "go to related records" command to jump to the list layout of the next level down. You may wish to add a second button to jump directly to the details layout of the next level down. Whichever you choose, it should be possible in the lower level to browse through the records without having to go back to the upper level.
The lower levels of course need a button to return to the upper levels.
This form of hierarchical relationship is very easy for the user to understand.
The beauty of FileMaker is that you are also able to place a button on the contracts layout which jumps directly to the funding list layout, selecting all of the funding entries which belong to this contract.
I hope this helps and good luck with the implementation!
Thank you very much for the information. Conceptually this is where I was going but you have given me specific implementation guidance (multiple layouts, buttons going up and down a level). This will shave considerable time off of my trial and error.
I can see the use of making the Contract ID a foreign field in the Funding table. This would seem to facilitate more easily getting a total of funding on a contract level without the need to go through the CLIN table.