Filling out Genealogical Forms

How to Use the Pedigree Chart & Family Group Sheet

Family tree and Diagram laying on a table

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The two most basic forms used by genealogists to record ancestral information are the pedigree chart and the family group sheet. They help you keep track of what you find on your family in a standard, easy-to-read format — recognized by genealogists around the world. Even if you use your computer to enter information, almost all genealogy software programs will print out or display the information in these standard formats.

Pedigree Chart

The chart most people begin with is a pedigree chart. This chart begins with you and branches back in time, displaying the line of your direct ancestors. Most pedigree charts cover four generations, including space to include names plus dates and places of birth, marriage, and death for each individual. Larger pedigree charts, sometimes referred to as ancestral charts, are also available with room for more generations, but these are used less often as they generally are larger than the standard 8 1/2 x 11" format.

The standard pedigree chart always begins with you, or the individual whose ancestry you are tracing, on the first line — number 1 on the chart. Information on your father (or ancestor #1's father) is entered as number 2 on the chart, while your mother is number 3. The male line follows the upper track, while the female line follows the bottom track. As in an ahnentafel chart, men are assigned even numbers, and the numbers for women are odd.

After you've traced your family tree back more than 4 generations, you will need to create additional pedigree charts for each of the individuals included in the fourth generation on your first chart. Each individual will become ancestor #1 on a new chart, with a reference to their number on the original chart so you can easily follow the family through the generations. Each new chart you create will also be given its own individual number (chart #2, chart #3, etc.).

For example, your father's father's father will be ancestor #8 on the original chart. As you follow his particular family line further back in history, you will need to create a new chart (chart #2), listing him in the #1 position. To make it easy to follow the family from chart to chart you record the numbers of the continuation charts next to each individual in the fourth generation on your original chart. On each new chart, you will also include a note referring back to the original chart (Person #1 on this chart is the same as Person #___ on Chart #___).

Family Group Sheet

The other commonly used form encountered in genealogy is the family group sheet. Focusing on the family unit, rather than ancestors, the family group sheet includes space for a couple and their children, along with fields to record birth, death, marriage and burial places for each. Many family group sheets also include a line to record the name of each child's spouse, as well as a section for comments and source citations.

Family Group sheets are an important genealogy tool because they allow room to include information on the children of your ancestors, along with their spouses. These collateral lines often prove important when tracing your family tree, providing another source of information on your ancestors. When you have difficulty locating a birth record for your own ancestor, for example, you may be able to learn the names of his parents through the birth record of his brother.

Family group sheets and pedigree charts work hand in hand. For each marriage included on your Pedigree Chart, you will also complete a Family Group Sheet. The pedigree chart provides an easy at-a-glance look at your family tree, while the family group sheet provides additional details on each generation.

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Filling out Genealogical Forms." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 28). Filling out Genealogical Forms. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Filling out Genealogical Forms." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).