will need to know which charts or forms to use and how to enter the
data that you have collected.
The most often used chart is the ascendant pedigree chart. The
ascendant pedigree chart will start with you and move backwards
through time. Your first entry will be yourself and then there will be
two branches where you enter your parents. It will then move onto
four branches where you will enter your parents parents (your
grandparents) and so on. On these forms you will record the name,
birth, marriage and death dates and places of your ancestors.
These charts normally record four or five generations on each page,
but are available with up to fifteen generations per page. You will find
that the four generation per page format is easier and more
convenient to work with.
There is also a numbering system for the pedigree chart known as the
ahnentafel numbering system (after the older ahnentafel chart which
is not used very often today. The numbering system is very easy and
works like this: You would be number one on the chart, your father
would be two times the child's number (2x1=2) and your mother
would be two times the child's plus one (2x1+1=3). Your male
ancestors will always be an even number and your female ancestors
will always have an odd number assigned.
Another type of form you will use, is the family group sheet. The
family group sheet is basically the worksheet that is used for your
research. This is the form you will use to keep track of your family unit
and the cousins, aunts and uncles that are in your family. A separate
form is used for each single family unit and you will record dates and
places of birth, marriage, death and burial and make notes on this
There are some rules you should follow when entering your data on
the various charts. These rules will make it easier for you to refer back
to the data you have entered.
When entering names, you should enter them in their normal order,
first, middle and last (or surname). Putting last names in all capital
letters will make it easier for you to follow the different family names
and to tell the last, middle and first name apart.
If a female ancestors maiden name is known, you should enter this
name, If it is not known, enter either a set of empty parentheses or
the husbands last name.
If a female ancestor has had more then one marriage, you should
enter her given name and then the maiden name followed by the last
name of her previous husband(s).
If an ancestor was commonly referred to by a nickname, you should
enter that in quotes after their given name.
If your ancestors last name spelling has changed due to a move to
another country or for ease of use, include both spellings on the form.
When entering dates it is best to use the European standard of day.
month and four digit year. For example 12 November 1903. You
should spell out the month but, you can abbreviate the longer months
using standard abbreviations. If you are unsure of the exact date you
can use "about" or "circa" to specify the approximate date.
The generally accepted method for recording place names is to begin
with the smallest locality first and then work your way up to the
largest. You would therefore begin with the town or city name then the
county or district name, then the state or province name and lastly the
country name. If you do not have all of this information you can easily
research it on the Internet. Just type the search phrase "geographic
place names" into Google or another search engine and you will find
many online resources.
How To Find Clues In Family Resources
The first step in the-actual investigative process is of course that of
gaining access to family documents, bibles ,books, photograph albums
and so on. One must also of necessity decide which side of the family
will be traced; whether the male or female line.
Usually the male line is traced, making for easier access to similar
names throughout the relevant generations. Obviously the process is
not nearly so easy when it is the female line which is featured as the
center of interest.
Also at this point one may make an educated but very important
decision concerning the name concerned. In past centuries many
names were derived from places, father's names, and sometimes from
the trade one is engaged in, and hence we come by many named
'London', 'Hill', 'Wood' (places); 'Williamson', 'Smithson' and 'Johnson'
(father's names or 'son of '); or 'Baker' and 'Smith' (trades).
The normal process of gathering information, as we have already
considered, begins with informal chats with members of your family,
particularly the older members whose memory can be relied upon to
uncover facts which hitherto had passed into those deep recesses and
which might otherwise never have been extracted if not for the
purposes of tracing your family's history.
Amongst the most relevant information required at this stage are
details relating to family members, names (even of those stillborn or
who died at birth or shortly afterwards and whose existence might
have been temporarily 'forgotten'), dates of birth, marriage details
and dates, details and dates of death, and various other family events
including baptisms, educational and career-related information, and so
Next is the task of interviewing family, friends and relatives; the older
the better, as long of course as time has not weakened the memory.
Old family legends are often the motivating factor in making that
decision to trace and document the family tree. Stories of blue-blooded
ancestors, famous relatives, criminals and heroes, all are handed down
from generation to generation. Many of these tales will doubtless have
been expanded upon and elaborated with time, but it is always worth
recording even the seemingly tallest and unlikely of stories; it is not
unknown for a germ of truth or even a totally accurate legend to be
still making the rounds of the family. Write it all down, or if your
interviewees don't object, take a small recorder with you to tape the
conversation ready for transcribing to paper when time permits.
Amongst the best sources of information virtually guaranteed to set
you straight on course for access to the family history in recent
decades, hopefully up to a century or more, are family bibles,
photographs (often with messages written alongside or on the
reverse), diaries, letters, and tombstones. Access to any of these
items, even if you must sit and physically take notes from whatever
source is available, will prove a more than worthwhile investment in
terms of the time, trouble, and sometimes expense involved.
Old photos can be on of the best resources for researching your family
tree. Many times the date and place that the photo was taken will be
on the back of the photo as well as notes from a family member, The
type of clothes that your ancestor was wearing can give you a clue to
when it was taken if there is no date. The buildings in the background
of a picture may also provide you with a clue as to where the photo
Postcards can also be a good source of information. Many times an
ancestor who moved away from the family home sent postcards to
keep in touch with their family. Postal marks and photos on the
postcards can provide important clues about where to look for
Family bibles are probably the best of the resources you will find in
searching out a family tree. Many families kept records of births and
deaths as well as smaller family trees in the family bible. Look through
the whole bible because sometimes you will find notes written in the
margin that can provide clues.