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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

The Family Group Record

The next form I would like to introduce, the Family Group Record (or Individual Family Form), records all the information about an individual family. When completing any form, be as accurate as possible.

Don’t leave out any information that you know. Keep in mind that although your memory may be good, you will accumulate so much information that you will forget details. Write down everything and anything that comes to mind, even if you do not think it is important at this time.

Use the back of the form for general information. Indicate who told you something and where you found this information. If you need to return to this source of information months later, you won’t need to guess where it came from. A suggestion: always use a pencil, you will probably make many changes along the way.

On the Family Group chart, write down your fathers’ name, his date and place of birth, his christening/baptism (if available), date and place of marriage, and if deceased, his date and place of death and burial. You will provide the same information for your mother. Next, list in order of birth, their children with the date of birth and christening and location of each. If your parents have had children who died at a very young age, you should also indicate their names and dates and location of birth, christening, death and burial.

Family Group charts vary, so choose a chart that works for you. Your handwriting may also be a factor. How small can you write yet still maintaining legibility. The most important factor is consistency. So, choose the format you prefer and be consistent in your recording method.

What about adopted children and stepchildren? With any search we undertake, we must be very careful to consider people’s feelings. If a child is always treated as a son or daughter, include them. I would encourage you though, in your own records, to correctly indicate all situations. Your material may be used generations from now and we must try to make our research tell as much information as possible and, more importantly, be as accurate as possible.

Another touchy area is that of divorces or children given for adoption. Again for your records you should state the information accurately but, prior to presenting your work to other relatives, you may want to ask the person involved how they wish to have the situation handled. Be sensitive to how others may feel.

To come back to our form, the next step is to start a new page for each married child on the list.

Complete it in the same manner you completed the one for your parents. Next, work backwards, making up forms for your grandparents and aunts and uncles. Follow this same procedure for your great-grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles, etc.

Continue using your miniature tree as a guide so that when you are done everyone who is listed on your miniature tree will also appear on two of these forms, once as a child, and once as a parent. I must emphasize that these are work sheets, so write lots of notes. List unanswered questions. On the back of the form write down any general information.

You will want to breathe life into your family history, have it tell the story of your people. If there are interesting family anecdotes, write them down indicating who told you or gave you this interesting information. Later on, you may wish to ask that person more questions.


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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 wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 15 April 2014, at 17:49.
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