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She teaches at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. our editorial process Kimberly Powell Updated July 11, 2019 A number of websites offer free ancestry charts and forms to view, download, save, and print, including family tree-style documents, fan charts, and pedigree forms. All of them show the same basic types of information, such as birth, death, and marriage years for ancestors going back several generations. The difference between them is in how that 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're displayed in a fan shape, while a pedigree chart looks like half of a sports bracket and displays the pertinent information reading from left to right. Where to Start Tracing Your Ancestors If you know the location of an ancestor's birth, marriage, or death, begin with those counties to request basic records. While you're there, search land records (deeds), court cases, and tax rolls. Court filings that can be helpful in a genealogy search include adoption, guardianship, and probate records. The federal income tax was introduced not long after the Civil War, and those records may also contain valuable information to help you flesh out your family history. Finding Census Data to Fill Out the Chart U.S. Census records become available to the public after 72 years. For instance, in 2012, the 1940 census became public record. Such documents are available from the National Archives, and the institution advises people to start with the most recent census and work backward. Sites such as Ancestry.com (by subscription) and FamilySearch.org (free after registration) have digitized records, searchable by name, which can be a real time-saver. Otherwise, you'll have to find the exact page your ancestors appear on, and since the census takers went street by street collecting data, the information is not alphabetical order. To find actual records through the National Archives site, you need to know where your ancestors lived at the time the census was taken. Even if you think you know the exact address, you might be faced with sifting through pages and pages filled with hard-to-decipher handwriting to find their names. When searching a genealogy database indexed by name, don't be afraid to try multiple spellings, and don't fill in every search parameter box. Variations can help you find what you're looking for. For instance, check nicknames, especially when hunting for children named after a parent: James may lead you to Jim, Robert to Bob, and so forth. Those, of course, are the easy ones. Onomastics is the study of names and you might have to do a little research in this area. While Peggy is a common name, not everyone knows that it's a diminutive of Margaret. Another variation to be on the lookout are names tied to a specific religion or ethnicity—especially those that rely on a different alphabet (such as Hebrew, Chinese, or Russian) or pronunciation (such as Gaelic). Stay Organized Genealogy can be a lifelong pursuit when handed down among families. Having the information you've collected and the sources you've already consulted organized saves time by eliminating duplicate research. Keep lists as to whom you've written for information, what links you've searched for which ancestors, and any other pertinent information. Even knowing what turned out to be dead ends may prove useful down the road. Keeping track of detailed data for each ancestor on separate pages can also be helpful. Family tree documents are great for at-a-glance information but don't offer enough room for all the stories you're bound to gather. Free Family Genealogy Documents Two of the following documents are interactive which will allow you to type information in the fields online before saving it locally to your computer or sending the updated document to family members. The advantage here is that typed entries are neater than those of the hand-written variety, plus they are editable should you find more information and need to correct or update them. (Note: These forms may be copied for personal use only. They are protected by copyright and may not be posted elsewhere online, or used for anything other than personal use without permission.) Family Tree Chart Kimberly Powell, 2019 ThoughtCo This free printable family tree records the ancestors from whom you've directly descended in a traditional family tree format and is suitable for sharing or framing. The muted tree in the background and embellished boxes give it a bit of an old-fashioned feel and includes space for four generations in the standard format. Each box includes enough room for the name, date, and birthplace, however, the format is freeform, so you can choose what information you wish to include. Males are commonly entered on the lefthand side of each branch, and females on the right. The chart prints in 8.5" X 11" format. Interactive Pedigree Chart Kimberly Powell, 2019 ThoughtCo 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 in an 8.5" X 11" format. Five-Generation Family Tree Fan Chart Kimberly Powell, 2019 ThoughtCo Display your family tree in style with this free five-generation genealogy fan chart embellished with twining roses. This chart prints in on either 8" X 10" or 8.5" X 11" paper.