At this point, you should be asking family and relatives what they know about your family history and you should have made a decision on the type of filing system that you’ll use to stay organized. If you’ve not done either, please review the above articles before proceeding.
Now that you’re starting to get bits and pieces of your family history together, we’re going to begin piecing together everything in order to find out what names, dates and other information you might be missing in your genealogy research. One easy way to do this is to organize everything into a chart, form or outline format.
Genealogy very similar to working on a large puzzle, where the goal is to take all of the pieces that you have laid out on a table and you try to piece everything together in order to create a complete picture.
The difference with genealogy though, is that you do not have a finished picture on top of a box to refer to. Right now we’re at the stage where you’ve got some of the pieces of the puzzle (names, dates, etc.), but you’re not sure what types of information you are missing or what to research next.
Our next step is to create as complete of a picture of your family history as possible. The primary purpose for doing this is to more easily spot gaps in your family history. This “picture” will also give you some ideas on what to focus on next in your research.
In genealogy, this “picture” can take a couple of different forms. It might be the recording of names and dates in a typed or written outline format or it might be a one page family tree (pedigree chart) that displays the overall family hierarchy. Let’s look at each of these:
- Pedigree Chart – A pedigree chart is what we think of when we think of a family tree because it looks like a tree laying on its side. You would use this to list your parents, grandparents, great grandparents from largest branch to smallest branch.
- Family Group Record – A family group record is a more detailed one page document that lists information (names, dates, etc.) for an entire family. Typically there will be one page per family, but you may have to use more than one page to list all family members.
- Outline – An outline is a document in an outline format listing an individual’s descendants indented by generation. This is useful as a summary because it lists only one person per line.
If you are starting out with a Pedigree Chart, begin to fill in the blanks starting with yourself. If you’re starting out with a Family Group Record, be sure to record yourself as a “Child” if you do not have a spouse or children. If you have a spouse and children, record your name at the top as a parent.
You’ll also want to keep records of where your information came from. We’ll go into much more detail on citing sources in a future article, but for now, just make a simple note like “discussion with [person’s name] on [date]” or “From a book titled [book name]”.
In our next article Genealogy Research we’ll talk about the next steps, after you’ve gathered all of the information available from family and friends.