You want to learn more about your family history and be able to create a great tree with the technology available today.
Start with what you know already, yourself!
One of the first things that you should do is gather as much information as you can. In your research, an important fact finding resource you have is living relatives. Visit or call your grandparents and older relatives now to record your findings. Then collect everything you have gathered together into one area before you start filling in the genealogy sheets that you will be downloading.
Basically the first thing that comes to mind for a family tree is everyone thinks of it like a chart. This chart is called a ‘Pedigree Chart’, it displays the people you are directly descended from. Sometimes the form can be called the ‘Ancestor Chart’, the Pedigree Chart covers the basics of your written records, it’s your starting point. This will be covered in more detail below.
The chart does not show siblings, aunts, uncles or cousins. The ‘Pedigree Chart‘ will only show direct ancestors: your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents, and so on. It all depends on the chart you use and fill out.
There are lots of resources online of charts and sheets for you to download. Various forms are readily available from online genealogy websites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, Cyndi’s List, etc. It’s best to start off by printing off a copy of the form you will be using for tree. All you really need is a basic form to start off with.
Today, I am recommending you download the forms from the ‘National Genealogical Society – NGS‘. It is a well known recognized society that has been around since 1903. They have excellent charts to download and are fillable PDF’s that you can complete right on your computer and print off. Fillable forms let you type onto them so you can save them digitally.
The most important thing to do when working on your family tree is to record and document all of your information. Once you do, you will appreciate it later. Record the information that you have gathered onto the forms. To do this you need to download two charts to begin your tree.
The two charts that that I recommend you to download are the ‘Pedigree Chart’ and the ‘Family Group Sheet’ (will be covered in the next blog).
Once you have downloaded the PDF’s, you will start by filling in the ‘Pedigree Chart‘ first. It’s best to print it off first, fill them in with a pencil as it’s easier to make amendments or corrections. Later on in your research you may have to make changes. You can always fill it in on your computer or on an online genealogy program once you know the basics of genealogy and then print them off.
The forms are self-explanatory but if you are a newbie we will go over the entire form so you can complete the chart, ‘Step by step!’
If you are just beginning your tree you have to start somewhere and completing the ‘Pedigree Chart‘ is one of the first things you should do.
You could use a standalone or an online genealogy program but I would strongly suggest doing it by hand first. You will learn a lot more and the tools you gain will show in your finished charts and forms. Also, you will appreciate the end results more.
Before you start, some good tips and practices to pay attention to when you are filling out any genealogical forms and charts are:
- Write surnames in capital letters to distinguish last names from first and middle names. Always list last name first when recording names. Do not abbreviate names and record nicknames in quotation marks. (ie JONES, Harold “Red” Walter). If you know the middle name, spell it out as the person may have gone by their middle name when they were living and would help you when you are searching census records or newspaper articles. Record names by entering the full name: last, first, and middle.
- List women’s maiden names, not their married names and if you don’t know the maiden name just put a “?” in the area for the surname. If the woman has been married more than once then it is a good idea to record other married names in brackets (i.e. WHITE/ALBERTSON). This can also help in your research.
- For consistency, it is best practice to format dates as <day, month, full year>. For example record the date as 21 December 1867. In your research you may have to record some dates as either; Unknown, 1867, before 1902 or after 1936.
Start filling in your first ‘Pedigree Chart‘, beginning with yourself. At the top right hand corner of the form, fill in the Page number, in this case #1. Fill in the Pedigree Chart for – the family surname and first & middle name of person (your name); and then fill the Chart no., again in this case #1.
Begin filling in the data about yourself in #1. On the bottom left of the form you will see a legend for the areas and what they mean when you complete it. The legend is as follows:
b. = birth / m. = marriage / d. = death / p. = place
Next step is to fill in your parents information. Your father is inserted into #2; and #3 is your mother’s information. Fill it in as per the example below:
The next step is recording the information you have on your grandparents. Fill in as much info as you can on all of your other grandparents.
Next, fill in the information on your great grandparents. Beside each of your great grandparents you will notice another block to fill in to continue to another page (see below) and continuing the tree for each of the other great grandparents family ancestors. If you have the information, that’s great as you can begin inputting more of your family onto separate Pedigree Charts to continue the tree further. As per the example, the JONES family will continue on the 2nd Pedigree Chart on Page 2 and his wife Rebecca Conrad on Page 3.
On a new Pedigree Chart, you will fill in the far left box (as you did on the first one) of the tree with the information of one of your great grandparents. You would do the same process on each of your great grandparents (you will have 8 to do).
As you can see, your family tree is growing substantially if you get to this point. Genealogy is a continuous and never-ending hobby but is very rewarding.
Remember, you have a lot of choices in selecting a ‘Pedigree Chart‘ from various sources and I have only covered the one from NGS. They are all basically the same.
So, have fun completing your Pedigree Chart on your family and ancestors. Next, you can continue recording your genealogy saga with Family Group Sheets which will covered in the next blog.
Enjoy ‘Discovering Your Past’ and learning about Genealogy. Learn everything you can and share your tree with others in your family and/or other genealogists.