1. Parenting
Introduction to Genealogy
Lesson 1c: Charting Your Course
 Intro to Genealogy:
 Lesson One
• Course FAQ
• Course Outline

• Why Genealogy?
• Genealogy: The Basics
• Charting Your Course
• Recording Names
• Recording Dates
• Recording Places
• Putting It All Together
• Lesson 1: Quiz
 Interactive Classroom

Visit the Let's Learn Genealogy forum to post your questions and comments and interact with your classmates.
Get Help with Lesson 1

Genealogy is basically one big puzzle. If you don't put the pieces together in just the right way, then you'll never get to see the final picture. To make sure your puzzle pieces end up in the proper positions you should use genealogy charts and family group sheets to record your research data. While many genealogy software programs will help you to properly record data and print it out in a variety of formats, for the purposes of this lesson we will be discussing the old-fashioned paper and pencil method. It is important as a genealogy newbie that you understand the principals behind the charts and numbering systems before you turn that responsibility over to your computer :)

The two basic forms for recording genealogical information are ascendant charts and descendant charts. An ascendant chart starts with you and moves back through the generations of your ancestors. A descendant chart starts with you or another individual in your family tree and lists all of the descendants coming down through the generations. On these forms you record the names of your ancestors or descendants and the dates and places of the three major genealogical events (birth, marriage and death). They basically serve as a master outline of your genealogy information and make it easy to see at a glance where you have gaps in your knowledge of people or events.

The chart which most people begin with is the pedigree chart, a type of ascendant chart. The most common type of pedigree chart displays five generations of family data on a single page (also known as a five generation chart), but you can purchase paper charts which will accommodate as many as 15 generations. Personally, I prefer working with a four-generation chart as it fits neatly on a standard size page and leaves enough room for data.

The first individual named on the left of the chart is the one whose ancestry the tree documents. You should start by placing yourself as person number one on your first pedigree chart. The chart then branches in two to show your parents, then in fourths to show your grandparents and so on. This chart only shows your ancestors - there is no room on a pedigree chart for siblings, multiple marriages, etc. 

An ahnentafel is another type of pedigree chart in the form of a table or list. The pedigree chart is the more graphic representation of a person's ancestors, while the ahnentafel presents the information in a neat, compact manner. Ahnentafels are not used quite as often today as they were in the past.

Ancestors are numbered on pedigree charts and ahnentafels using a system known as the ahnentafel numbering system. You (or the person whose ancestry is being traced) are number 1. A father is twice his child’s number (1 x 2 = 2) and a mother is twice the child’s number plus one (1 x 2 = 2 + 1 = 3). The numbers for men are always even and the numbers for women are always odd, with the exception of number 1 which can obviously be either. One thing which I think is neat is that the first number for each generation is equal to the number of people in that generation.

Download a Free Pedigree Chart

Descendant Charts

You won't find descendant charts to be extremely useful to you as you are starting out, although you should prepare one to include your children and grandchildren if that applies. In general, however, descendant charts begin with a progenitor, a term usually used by genealogists to refer to the earliest proven ancestor in a line. This means that you must do some research first before you can create this type of chart. Descendant charts are most often used to chart all of the descendants (or at least as many as can be found) of a specific ancestor (often an immigrant ancestor or the first one living in a specific area or country). 

Family Group Sheets

By now I bet you are wondering what you do with all those aunts, uncles and cousins you have floating around. This is where the family group sheet comes in. A family group sheet is the basic worksheet used for genealogical research. While a pedigree chart identifies your ancestry and serves primarily as a culmination of your work, the family group sheet is how you get there.

There are many different formats available, but each Family Group Sheet is based on a single family unit - husband, wife and children. A family group sheet has space for the basic genealogical events for each family member, including dates and places of birth, marriage, death and burial. For each child on the list, a name of a spouse can be given, along with a date and place of the marriage. There is usually a place for notes where you should record where you got your information (source) as well as make note of any discrepancies in your findings. Family Group Sheets are essential because they 1) serve as a simple means of recording data 2) make it easy to see at a glance what information is known and what is missing and 3) serve as a means of easily exchanging information with other researchers. 

Download Chart - a free, downloadable Family Group Sheet from Ancestors. If you need room for more children, you can also download Page Two.

Next page
> Recording Names



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