Free Family Tree Charts

Tips on Searching for Your Ancestors

vintage family photo album and documents

Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images 

A number of websites offer free ancestry charts and forms to view, download, save, and print, including printable family tree-style documents, fan charts, and pedigree forms. These types of charts show the same types of information, such as birth, death, and marriage years for ancestors going back several generations. The difference between the types of charts lies in how the information is displayed. In a family tree, the ancestors branch out from the bottom to the top of the page; in a fan chart, they display in a fan shape. A pedigree chart looks like one half of a sports bracket and displays the information from left to right.

Where to Start With Tracing Your Ancestors

If you know your ancestor's birth, marriage, or death location, start with those counties to request the basic records. While you're there, search land records, court cases, and tax rolls. Court filings that can be helpful to a genealogy search include adoption, guardianship, probate, and more. After the Civil War, the federal income tax came about, and those records can also bring forth information to flesh out your family history.  

Finding Census Data to Fill Out the Chart

U.S. Census records come available for public search after 72 years. In 2012, the 1940 census became public record, and the documents are available from the National Archives. The institution advises that people start with the most recent census and work backward. Sites such as Ancestry.com (by subscription) and FamilySearch.org (free after registering) have digitized records and makes them searchable by name, which can be a real time-saver. Otherwise, you'll need to find the exact page your ancestors appear on, and the census takers went street by street collecting data, not in alphabetical order. So to find their actual records through the National Archives site, you'd need to know where they lived when the census was taken. Even if you think you know the exact address, there still could be pages and pages to sift through, full of tiny handwriting, to find their names.

When searching a genealogy database that's indexed by name, don't be afraid to try multiple spellings, and don't fill in every search box. Try variations on your search. Look out for nicknames, especially for children named after a parent. James leading to Jim or Robert to Bob is widely known, but if you don't know a Peggy, you might not know that first name could actually be short for Margaret. A person with an ethnicity that uses a different alphabet (such as Hebrew, Chinese, or Russian) could have wild variations in spellings appearing in records. 

Stay Organized

Genealogy can be a lifelong pursuit handed down among families, so having your information and sources organized can only help you in recording family stories and documents and not wasting time on duplicate research. Keep lists as to whom you've written for information, what links you've searched for whom, and any pertinent information—even knowing which are dead ends can be useful down the road. And keep track of information per person in more detail on separate pages, as family tree documents are useful for the at-a-glance information but don't have enough room for all the stories you're bound to gather.

Free Family Genealogy Documents

Two of the documents in the list here are interactive, meaning that you can type in the fields online before saving the information locally to your computer or sending to family members. The advantage is that they're neater because you type in them rather than hand-write and are editable when you find more information or need to correct it. The interactive forms require only the free Adobe Reader (for PDF format). 

Note: These forms may be copied for personal use only. The charts are protected by copyright and may not be posted elsewhere online (although links to this page are appreciated), or used for anything other than personal use without permission.

My Family Tree printable
Kimberly Powell

This free printable family tree records the ancestors from whom you directly descend in a traditional family tree format, suitable for sharing or even framing. A muted tree in the background and embellished boxes give it a bit of an old-fashioned feel.

This free family tree chart includes room for four generations in the familiar standard format. Each box includes enough room for the name, date, and birthplace, but the format is freeform, so you can choose the info you want to include. Males are commonly entered on the lefthand side of each branch, and females on the right. The chart prints at 8.5 by 11 inches.

Pedigree chart
Kimberly Powell

This free interactive pedigree chart records four generations of your ancestors. There are also fields that allow you to link from one chart to another. It prints at 8.5 by 11 inches.

Genealogy Fan Chart
Kimberly Powell

Display your family tree in style with this free five-generation genealogy fan chart with twining roses. 

This free family tree fan chart prints on 8-by-10 inch or 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper.