Part 2 in a Series
How to Fill Out Your Genealogy Pedigree Chart
by Joan Stewart Smith, Guest Blogger
If you've ever wondered who your ancestors are, there's no better time than now to find out – especially with the plentiful genealogy online resources available for you to tap into. When you start your family tree research, the first step is to fill out your pedigree chart, one of the most widely used standard forms in genealogy.
But not many people are sure what a pedigree chart looks like or how to complete it properly, although it's quite simple once you learn about it step-by-step. The word “pedigree” brings to mind dog breeds and racehorses, but the shining star of your pedigree chart is you. The 8-1/2 x 11-inch pedigree chart is basically a family tree turned sideways instead of upward, giving you a snapshot of essential info about your direct lineage. At first glance, anyone can follow the pedigree chart’s path between you and your direct-line ancestors, and check out their names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death (“BMD”).
|DAR PEDIGREE CHART|
Where do you find a blank pedigree chart? You can download this free printable pedigree form from the Daughters of the American Revolution DAR.org, which you can fill out by pencil.
Another good option is to use this no-cost interactive PDF form from Brigham Young University's Public TV & Radio Stations BYUB.org to fill out on your computer.
Now that you have the blank chart, you’re ready to start. Remember this first step of your quest is only to fill in the information that you already know, so don’t be frustrated if you think you should know more. You’ll start your detective work later when you ask other family members and begin to search for the missing information.
1. Write the number “1” where it says “Chart No.” in the upper right-hand corner. Then move your eyes to the far left side of the page. Fill in your name over the line labeled Number 1. Write the info requested under your name. If you’re married, write your spouse’s name on the line below. Now record your father’s name in the Number 2 spot and your mother’s name in the Number 3 spot, and fill in the info under each.
2. Before you continue, note a few general tips: Capitalize all surnames such as JOHNSON or RODRIGUEZ. Use only maiden names for all the women on your chart. If you can’t recall someone’s first and middle name, just leave it blank with spaces to fill in later. If someone has a nickname, enter it in quotes (“Katie”) with their given name. If you’re just not sure about something you wrote, flag it with a question mark.
3. Write dates down as “day-month-year,” so for example, you will record, “7 Sep 1955.” You don’t need to add punctuation after the month’s abbreviation. You won’t know all dates, of course, so simply leave the spot blank or write “abt. 1901.” When you list places, write the sequence “city, county, state, country” such as “Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA” or “Drangan, Tipperary, Ireland.” There is no need to write “county” with the county name.
4. Focusing back on the chart, do you see how your father’s side is growing toward the top of the chart and your mother’s side toward the bottom? And how all males are even numbers and all females are odd numbers? With that in mind, add your paternal grandparents (your father’s parents) in Number 4 and Number 5, and your maternal grandparents (your mother’s parents) in Number 6 and Number 7.
5. If you can, continue adding names until you’ve filled in the last blanks on your chart, which is usually the 4th generation, your four sets of great grandparents. When you reach this point, you’ll need to start additional pedigree charts. Just re-enter each great grandparent’s name on a newly numbered pedigree chart, referencing his or her number in the original. For example, your great grandfather (your father’s father’s father), who is Number 8 on your chart, becomes ancestor #1 on a new chart.
Chances are you soon will use the computer to track your research. Your genealogy software will display and print out the standard format of your pedigree chart, and other charts and forms used by genealogists everywhere. After you finish your first pedigree chart, don’t worry if you can only go back so far. This is only the beginning of your exciting new adventure exploring your family history.
You never know who'll you discover in your tree...
About the Author
Joan Stewart Smith, who ranks genealogy among her favorite hobbies, is a married mom of a son who will soon be starting the college application process. As a highly creative talent, she heads Stewart Communications, an independent consultancy specializing in PR, marketing communications, social media, and writing. During her career, she has promoted products and services for clients ranging from fast-growing startups to established Fortune 100 companies, as well as PR and advertising agencies. Previously, she was a vice president at a leading high tech PR agency in Los Angeles. Joan holds a B.A. in English and Journalism from San Jose State University and studied in the UCLA Department of Information Studies. Follow Joan on Twitter.