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Kevin Airrington is a professional genealogist & historian with 15+ years experience. Specializing in adoptions - It's Who I Am!™
Genealogy Tip of the Day!
Search for Everyone On That Document?

If you have an 1856 marriage record for an ancestor‚ have you searched for everyone listed on the document in the 1850 and 1860 census‚ including the minister‚ any witnesses‚ etc.? Learning a little more about those individuals could help you with the actual ancestor.

When you first start tracing your family history you might be able to keep everything straight in your mind and mistakenly think you don’t need to follow a specific plan for organizing your materials. You’ll be able to get away with that for awhile but when you start interviewing older relatives and doing research at libraries and courthouses you’ll quickly reach the point of information overload. More importantly you won’t be able to remember just where it is you found that really critical piece of information about an ancestor you’ve spent hundreds of hours—or days—looking for.

Fortunately you don’t have to come up with a plan for organizing your information because there are standard forms designed just for that purpose. The Toolkit available with this article includes all the forms you need to get started.

download toolkit now

Forms in the toolkit include:

  • Pedigree Chart
  • Family Group Record
  • Research Calendar
  • Research Extracts
  • Contact Log
  • Checklist of Genealogical Sources
  • U.S. Census Abstract Forms

Let’s take a look at the three most basic forms: the Pedigree Chart the Family Group Record and the Research Calendar.

    • Pedigree Chart
      The Pedigree Chart is like a snapshot of your whole ancestry. You fill in the chart starting with yourself as Number 1—your father is Number 2 your mother Number 3. Go ahead and fill in everything you think you know about your family but do it in pencil. That way when you have to make corrections you can erase your mistakes easily.If you look at the upper right-hand corner you’ll see a spot that says Chart no. ____. The first chart is Chart no. 1(obviously). If you’re lucky enough to know about a great-great-grandparent you’ll have to make a continuation chart. Just fill in the next available Chart number where it says Cont. on Chart no. below your great-grandparent’s name. Mark the new chart with that number. Then right below where it says Pedigree Chart fill in the No. 1 on this chart … statement.
    • Family Group Record
      While the Pedigree Chart is a snapshot of your ancestry the Family Group Record is a detailed record of one family whether that family is just two people or twenty-two. Each family on your Pedigree Chart should have a corresponding Family Group Record. Optionally you might also want to make Family Group Records for the siblings of your ancestors.When you fill in the Family Group Record be sure to record the source of information for each “fact” you fill in. Use as many Notes pages as you need (the more Notes you have the better).


  • Research Calendar
    The Research Calendar is a brief record of your family history research—what you looked at when you looked at it and what you found. It helps you keep track of the clues you’ve found and their sources so that you’ll be able to find things again.

If you use these charts to help keep your family history research organized or purchase a genealogy software program to do the same you’ll have much better luck tracing your roots. Staying organized keeps genealogy fun!

get adobe reader Toolkit 
The free toolkit requires Adobe Reader available for download free of charge from


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