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Recording Your Data


Now that you have gathered family information, you are ready to record it.

Your first step is to learn to write the information in a way consistent with standard genealogical styles. The examples below show the proper formats for writing names, dates, and places. Genealogists use these styles to prevent confusion.


  • NAMES: When entering names, preference dictates. The full name is given and you can write first names first, or surnames first. You can write the surname all in capitals or in upper and lower case. Admittedly, it is easier to scan your records if the surnames are all in capitals. Whatever way you decide to enter your names, you must be consistent. Nicknames, if important, are inserted just before the surname, and put in quotation marks:

Norma Jean BAKER
James Earl "Jimmy" CARTER, Jr.
Dwight David "Ike" EISENHOWER
John Quincy ADAMS

If part of the name is not known, leave a blank or draw a line where the unknown part should go. If an entire name is not known, leave the space blank or draw a line.

Harriet __?__ Stowe

Women were not born married! Therefore, their married names are not recorded anywhere on forms unless they happen to be widows [or from a previous marriage]. If that is the case, write the maiden name in parentheses and the previously married name outside the parentheses

Norma Jean (Baker) Dimaggio

  • DATES: Dates on all forms are entered military style: day, month, year - and always with a four-digit year. By the time you'll have reached your fourth generation back you'll be changing centuries. The four-digit year assures that you or anyone else reading your research won't get confused as to the century. Months may be abbreviated:

20 October 1770 or 20 Oct 1770
1 March 1842 or 1 Mar 1842
16 May 1871

If part or all of the date is not known, draw a line where the information should go.

__October 1770
1 Mar ____

  • PLACES: Places are written so that the order is: town or township, county/parish, state/province, country (when necessary).

Chicago, Cook Co., IL
Seattle, King Co., Washington
Franklin Twp., DeKalb Co., Indiana
Detroit, Michigan Territory
Wuerzburg, Bavaria, Germany

It is important to remember that county/parish boundaries may have changed with the years. Record the event in the county/parish it was in at the time of the event in question.

If part of the location is unknown, draw a line with a question mark in the center where the information should go.

Tallahassee, ___?___, FL
____?____, Wayne, MI

  • ABBREVIATIONS: Some standard genealogical abbreviations that you will need to know are given below.

o        b. = born

o        bap. = baptized

o        bp. = birthplace

o        bur. = buried

o        c. or chr. = christened

o        c. or ca. = circa; approximately (ca. 1833 = about, approximately 1833)

o        d. = died

o        dp. = place of death

o        m. = married

o        mar. = married

o        mp. = place of marriage

  • Use standard postal abbreviations for states.

If, at the beginning, you are handwriting your information ~ please, for the sake of being able to correctly read your data, PRINT the information onto your forms. And, unless you have absolute proof of one generation linking to the next with documentation to accompany it, do not use pen. [Pencil lead allows you to change what you initially thought was the correct information; ink isn't as forgiving.]


Now that you know how to write genealogical information, you are ready to place it on standard genealogical forms. The two most commonly used are the pedigree chart and the family group sheet:


The pedigree chart records basic information about your direct-line ancestors from one generation to the next - that is, from you to your grandparents, to your great- grandparents, and so on. It shows parents only, not full families. Enter basic information (birth, marriage, death) on your direct ancestors (grandparents, etc.) on this chart. Pedigree charts are available from the same source where you'll get your family group records. They'll be available in four, five or six generation varieties. There are several different designs of pedigree charts, no one better than the other. Your preferences of style will be all that matters.

  The first position on the pedigree chart can be male or female. Thereafter, the male line is always on top and is always an even number.

  Use birth/maiden names for females and who are always odd numbers.

4 Grandfather

2 Father

5 Grandmother

1 You

6 Grandfather

3 Mother

7 Grandmother


The appropriate form used to record a family group is naturally called the family group sheet [or just group sheet]. A family group includes parents, children, and the spouse of each of those children. Organize your family into family groups. Record their dates and places of birth, marriage, and death. Be neat and accurate. Be sure to include the exact source and location of each piece of information.

  One for each marriage.

  Record all known information about one father, one mother, and their children.

  List children in birth order.

If a person was married more than once, fill out a separate sheet for each marriage that resulted in children.

You can download both forms from the Family Tree Maker site or you can use the ones from here.




A genealogy or family history without sources or documentation
is considered fiction!

Document your information sources for any individual in a family group on the family group sheet. Always note the source of information that you record or photocopy, and date it too. Months or years later further into your research, you may need to review your sources again. Someone may want to verify your research, or someone may need to pick up where you left off.

If the material is from a book, record the:

    • Title
    • Author
    • Volume
    • Publisher
    • year and place of publication
    • ISBN or ISSN [if it has one]
    • Page
    • Library where you found the book

[Easier would be to just photocopy the title and publishers page. ]

The point here is to make sure you or anyone reading your material can walk back into the same place five years later, locate the book and find the reference again.

For archival and manuscript sources in addition to the above, include the box or volume number, record group, or library classification number, and record group or item title.

For microfilmed material, in addition to the above, be sure to include the microfilm reel number.

Good luck in your research!


Next: Pedigree Chart


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