You are Number One on the Pedigree Chart

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You are Number One on the Pedigree Chart

The Pedigree or Ancestral Chart is a summary of your family at a glance.  It contains basic information about each maternal and paternal generation of your family.  Whether you are just beginning your family history or reviewing your research, your pedigree chart is the guide to your family tree.

For beginners, it is helpful to print and complete the form(s) manually before entering the data in a genealogy software program.  Filling out the form uniformly will enhance your research and save time later. Sample forms for a four-generation chart are available here.



Write all the names in their natural sequence; First, Middle, SURNAME and title, if any.  Example: Samuel J. JONES, Jr.

Some good rules to follow are:


Surnames can be written in all CAPITAL letters.

Always use maiden surnames for women.

Nicknames can be shown in quotation marks or in the notes.

When the surname spelling varies within families or in various years, enter both names with a slash between the names. Example  Samuel  J. JONES/JONAS


Vital Dates

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Handwritten dates should be shown as Day, Month, Year without punctuation.    Example  05 Jan 1850

The day and year are written in numbers without punctuation.  Abbreviate the month to three letters:  Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

On handwritten ancestral forms, it may be preferable to spell out the month of June to avoid confusion with January.

Always show all four numbers of the year.  When your family tree includes history from several centuries, you will be glad you did.   Computer programs can be pre-set so that when entered, they convert automatically to the selected format.


Using Date Abbreviations

When a date is estimated or speculative, it is prefaced by abt (about)  or ca (circa, meaning around.)  The ‘c’ is not capitalized.  This abbreviation can be confused with CA, the postal abbreviation for the state of California.

Begin with the smallest identifying information and continue to the largest, separating entries with commas to show the divisions  Example:  Chicago, Cook, IL. It is not necessary to repeat the word County.   If only the county is known, write it as Cook County, IL.

The space for ‘country’ can be left blank.  When all or most of your entries are in the United States, identify all other countries.


Numbering the Handwritten Chart

1.  YOU are #1, whether male or female.  If married, enter your spouse’s name in the space provided.  Complete a separate Pedigree Chart for the spouse where he or she will be #1.

2.  Your FATHER is person #2. Paternal entries are shown on the upper line of each generation.  Each male generation number is multiplied by 2 and they always have even numbers.

3.  Your MOTHER is person #3.  Maternal entries are on the lower lines.  Each female generation number is multiplied by 2 and then by adding one.  They always have odd numbers.


Computer Numbering

Some computer genealogy software programs may be unnumbered or they may assign numbers automatically which do not agree with the manual numbering system described in this lesson.  Review the software help section to determine if the numbering system can be shown or modified.

Regardless of the numbering system you choose or use, the Pedigree Chart will be your map to the past.


Chart from image can be found here.

About Vi Parsons

Vi Parsons has a life-long passion for history, travel and teaching. As a teen, she taught children’s classes at church. About that time, she began her pursuit of genealogy, when she questioned her parents about her deceased ancestors. She became seriously involved in family history research with the birth of her first grandchild.. These combined interests merged into a joyful journey of studying and teaching genealogy. She received accreditation from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah for her studies in Beginning Genealogy. She was awarded a certificate in American Genealogy from the National Genealogical Society of Virginia. Vi volunteered for the Dragoo Family Association for fifteen years. She documented her Dragoo ancestors to France and England in the 1600s, published books on her Dragoo family history, the Dragoo Cemetery of Marion County, West Virginia, and her great great grandfather, The Legendary Indian Billy Dragoo. Vi co-authored Double Take, a book of short stories of childhood memories. Vi and her twin Violet C. Moore are the creators of Carr Twins & Co.

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  • February 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    A great primer! If beginners all started off on the right foot on some of these basic protocols, they’d save themselves a lot of grief later! (I speak partly from experience.)

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