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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice  by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Recording Your Information

Pedigree Chart

The Pedigree Chart (or Ancestral Chart) will record your ancestors’ information. In other words, you will record the dates and locations of births, christenings, marriages, deaths and burials from one father and mother to the next father and mother. A pedigree chart is like a guide to 16 different family groupings in your direct-line ancestry. While the potential is there for an endless number of ancestors, most of us in the beginning only have knowledge of two or three generations.

Coding System

The Sosa-Stradonitz system is very common. The first line, labeled number 1, is the name of the person whose genealogy you are doing. So if you’re doing your own genealogy, your name will be on line number 1. The codes are rather simple, B for date birth, M for date of marriage, D for date of death and W (where) P (place) for location of these events. Number 2 will be your father’s name and his factual information. Number 3 will be your mother’s name and her information. Number 4 is your father’s father, in other words, your paternal grandfather and number 5 your paternal grandmother. Numbers 6 and 7 are your maternal grandparents. Numbers 8 to 15 are your great-grandparents.

Notice that all even numbers indicate your male ancestors and all odd numbers indicate your female ancestors. Numbers 16 to 31 are the names of the fifth generation. Notice there is no room for their factual information. At this point we are simply writing in their names and here is the reason. Each chart is numbered at the top. Then over to the left notice the reference number. It indicates ‘the number 1 person on this chart is the number ____ person on chart number _____’. To the right of the last column (for ancestors 16 to 31) add the cross-reference number of the Pedigree Chart number where this ancestors’ continuing information will be recorded.

Start 16 new charts. If you are wondering why 16, it’s because we have 16 ancestors in the fifth generation. They are the people numbered from 16 to 31. Each one starts off being the #1 person, on a new chart. So if we look at person #16, we will transpose their name onto chart #2. On the left we will cross-reference this chart by indicating that ‘person number 1 on this chart is the same person as person number 16 on chart number 1’.

Do this for all remaining ancestors and complete all the information as you find it for each ancestor. When I began researching my ancestors, I had enough information from various sources indicating I should be able to trace back my roots at least ten generations. So I was convinced I would do this. When I started completing my ancestral forms, I numbered all future charts. This gave me over 250 charts. In retrospect, I’m glad I did this, because now my folder of ancestral forms, has a very logical order to them. I’m not suggesting that in all cases this is necessary. I would suggest though that once you start a second chart, you then number at least your next 16 charts.

For example, charts #2 to #17 would list people numbered from 16 to 31 on chart #1 and would list the factual information for generations 5, 6, 7 and 8. I would suggest that you wait until you are ready to proceed with your 9th generation, in other words, ancestors numbering 16 to 31 on charts #2 to #17, before numbering the next group of charts. Then you can evaluate your own research and make a decision as to the need for numbering the next couple of hundred sheets. Why so many, you ask? Well each chart, #2 to #17, now has 16 new ancestors numbered 16 to 31. So if you continue to generation 9 in each of these cases, you will have 16 new charts, one for each of your 16 new ancestors on charts #2 to #17. Don’t worry, it will all make sense once you start doing it. To make life a little easier, large charts (24 x 36 inches) are available for 9 generations. These are folded to fit in a three ring binder. You can order them at the Genealogy Store Website.

Abbreviations and Dates

A word of advice; do not use abbreviations. Put in the full names, including middle and nicknames if known. You may see the same names repeating themselves. With regard to dates, fewer mistakes will happen if you spell out the months, instead of using numbers. If you do use abbreviations try to be very consistent. I cannot over-emphasize the need for accuracy. Future generations may use your information some day.

Try to be consistent in writing your dates as day-month-year. Example: 10 March 1784, or 10 MAR 1784. This way, there is no confusion about whether it is the 10th day of the 3rd month, or the 3rd day of the 10th month, and we know it is 1784 (not 1884 or 1984).


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 16 April 2014, at 02:52.
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