October is National Family History Month. Colorful fallen leaves are among the month’s symbols. Have some leaves fallen from your tree? Is your tree almost bare? For about 18 months now, I have been sharing family stories and my journey towards becoming a more efficient and effective genealogist. This month is no different. Today, I reflect on the use of pedigree charts as a genealogy tool to fill in branches and add leaves.
Start small and stay focused. Work on one family and one generation at a time. If you feel like you are going too far out on a limb, scoot back and try another branch. Your tree doesn’t have to be large or old. I have 5-8 generations and 200-300 people per tree (Dad, Mom, Dad-in-law, Mom-in-law). I have large and small branches. Some branches have many leaves, some have only a few.
Compare a pedigree chart to a sapling. The trunk is still small with a few branches and leaves. My initial pedigree charts showed 3-4 generations (branches) with many incomplete details (leaves). Over time, I added information on these charts. I use a pencil and question marks extensively until I can prove facts. I am still learning to be very careful with research. As a start, become familiar with the concepts behind pedigree charts.
Basically, a pedigree chart shows a person’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and, sometimes, more generations. One of the easiest formats is 3-4 generations designed for printing on standard 8 ½ x 11 inch paper. Limiting the number of generations on the page means that basic vital information (birth, death, marriage) can be included and easily read when printed. You are number 1 on the chart, or anyone else of interest in your family tree. As you expand the number of generations, start new charts as needed.
You may want to start with a blank printed chart and fill it in by hand. Those who advocate doing everything on the computer, please don’t choke! Freely use pencil or question marks as needed.
Since recent posts focused on mom’s family, here is copy of mom’s pedigree chart from RootsMagic, the genealogy software program that I use. Look for this feature in your program. When first opened, online family tree databases usually show this standard type of pedigree chart. Options may include flipping the chart so the home person (a.k.a. Person number 1) is at the top or bottom of the page. The option chosen depends on what you are trying to show.
Traditional pedigree charts start on the left side of the page (person number 1). However, person number 1 can be on the right, top or bottom of the page. I have seen charts that start at the top of the page then list children across the page. Choose a format that best fits the message.
Kristen Williams, self proclaimed Genealogy Addict, presents easy to follow directions in her May 2016 blog post, “How do I get started?”
Want a basic 4-generation pedigree chart? Try this one from National Archives and Records Administration: 4 generation pedigree chart
Here is another form of the standard pedigree chart: Grandma’s 6 generation box chart
In my first genealogy class, we received large 24 inches x 24 inches foldable 6-generation pedigree charts. This chart is unique because it has room to list the children of the first 4 generations. I haven’t found a comparable pedigree chart online. If anyone knows of a source, please comment!
There are other types of pedigree charts, including fan and bowtie charts. These formats provide different ways to view your ancestors. Printable and fillable forms are readily available online.
This chart looks like a folded out fan. Color coded fan charts can be impressive. As with other pedigree charts, you can easily add more generations.
One genealogist offers a different view of fan charts in his blog post of 16 April 2013. James Tanner cautions about using any type of pedigree chart. Specifically, he discusses “ unspoken inference that the information you find to create your fan chart is correct. “ His caution about pedigree charts applies to all of us who publish information about our families.
This expanded fan chart looks like, well, a bowtie. The person of interest (Person number 1 on other charts) is in the middle. Person number 1’s parents are on the left and right of the center circle. Also described as two connected fans.
Similar to the bowtie chart is an hour-glass chart. In this chart, person number 1 is in the middle with parents above and below.
These are only three of the many choices for showing your family pedigree. On your web browser, type in ‘family pedigree chart’ for many images and forms.
For Family History Month, pick out a pedigree chart format and fill it out as much as you can. Try at least one of the other formats.
Websites: Pedigree charts and other family history forms
https://www.focusedfamilyresearch.com/free-genealogy-charts.html Accessed 7 October 2018. Free genealogy charts, no publication date. Author: Paul Hoesl.
https://www.familytreemagazine.com/freebie/fivegenerationancestorchart/ Free downloadable chart. Accessed 7 October 2018.
https://www.thoughtco.com/filling-out-genealogical-forms-1421955 Accessed 7 October 2018. Updated 3 August 2018. Author: Kimberly Powell
https://www.thoughtco.com/free-family-tree-charts-4122824 Accessed 7 October 2018. Author: Kimberly Powell. Updated 30 May 2018
Need more ideas for Family History Month? Here are two websites with suggestions.
Kimberly Powell, ThoughtCo. Ways to celebrate family history month.
“Family History month for non-genealogists”, blog post, 4 October 2013, by Laura Hedgecock, Treasure Chest of Memories blog.
I am taking a short break from record clean-up for my Genealogy Do-Over. In some respects, I continually celebrate “Family History Month”. I found suggestions for doing more than just recording birth, death, and marriage information. I like the idea of different pedigree formats. I respect Mr. Tanner’s practice of not using fan charts and agree with his caution about continuing to publish information that may not be correct.
What I learned: some of the ‘fillable’ online pedigree forms require purchase of additional software. Formats and amount of information vary widely. Format of choice may depend on how readable you want all of the information to be. Some genealogical software programs offer more than one type of printable pedigree chart.
What helped: Software program that prints traditional format pedigree with options for number of generations and information. I learned how to fill in and use pedigree charts in my first genealogy class, taken about 30 years ago. GULP! Has it really been that long ago???
What didn’t help: At least one online genealogy database does not offer user-friendly, printable pedigrees. I didn’t try to print pedigrees from other online genealogy databases.
To-do: Continue trying to locate company that makes large scale, foldable pedigree format that includes names of children. Create own form, based on the original one that I have.
© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2018