Introduction: In this article, Jessica Edwards continues her three-part series giving tips how to start and maintain your family tree, and shows some free family history forms she downloaded from the internet. Jessica has had a lifelong interest in her family’s history – especially on her father’s side, which goes back to the first settlers in Pennsylvania, Jamestown and New England – and has documented and added more than 21,000 people to her family tree!
If you decide to go the “paper route” with your family tree, two types of forms that are really helpful in organizing the research you are doing for your family history are called “Family Group Sheets” and “Pedigree Charts.” Your local genealogy society might have physical copies for you to use. Alternatively, you can download free copies of these forms on the internet.
As I mentioned in Part I of this article, there are a variety of free family history forms (including family tree templates) available to download. If you Google the phrase “free family history forms,” you will get about 1.5 billion returns!
Here in Part II, I’m going to show you a few examples of the free forms I found with that simple Google search. There are many, many others; do this search yourself, look the forms over, and choose whichever forms you like the best. [A word of warning: be careful in clicking on links for a site you’re not familiar with; some links may expose your computer to viruses and malware SO BE CAREFUL on where you choose to go. Examine a site carefully to make sure it’s legitimate before downloading anything from it. Talk to some of your friends who enjoy genealogy and see what they have found.]
Here are two reputable links for free downloadable family history forms:
- Charts and Forms (National Archives) from the federal government. This site has downloadable forms as well as a blank copy of each census that has been used (be familiar with the form used for each decade’s census; knowing what questions were asked will help you better use each census record). This site also has blank military and immigration forms.
- Genealogy Research Forms (FamilySearch) from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They also have many free videos on a number of genealogy-related subjects.
Family Group Sheet
A Family Group Sheet allows you to record the names and detailed information on the parents and children for an individual family. In the sample form shown below, you have room for each of the parents and children, the names of the spouses (be sure to list the woman’s maiden name instead of her married name) and other information as you find it. For example, let’s say you discover “Uncle Joe” was in the Army in World War II. If his name is in the #4 position, you write a note for him in the Military section for #4 and in pencil write WWII; then when you find out what unit he was in and for what years, you replace the penciled-in part with specific dates and numbers.
You make out one of these sheets for each set of parents and their children, so that you have one set for your maternal grandparents and then one page for each of their children as parents with their children, and so on. A pro to this form is it allows you to boil down important dates for each generation. The down side is there are so many things that happen in a person’s life that there is no section for in this form. Also, you may frequently run out of room – for example, if a child has more than one spouse in their lifetime, this form has a place only for their name and nothing else. If multiple marriages happen and they have children from each marriage or adopted children, you need to have a separate page for each and it gets confusing to follow.
Another useful form is called a Pedigree Chart or Pedigree Tree (it sort of looks like a tree on its side). Here is one of the free ones I found on the internet.
This form allows you to see back six generations, with the names of the parents of each and birth dates, that starts with you and goes back in time. The advantage to this form is that you can record information about several layers of your family, rather than just one individual family. A downside to this form is that it doesn’t allow you to record additional family information that the Family Group Sheet shows. There are many other similar forms for a Pedigree Chart, some with additional space that allows you to record a bit more information than others, but the downside to them is they don’t go back six generations, and omit space for other important events, like this example.
If you decide to go the paper-only route to record and organize your family history research, I would also suggest downloading or creating a Research Checklist, or Research Log, for each person in your family tree so that you can keep track of where you have looked for information on the person and the results you found. Over time, this will help you avoid duplicating your research efforts.
There are other free family history forms you can download from the internet. I just discovered one for step-families, and another one that is a relationship tree, allowing you to figure out how you are related to someone else in the tree.
Do a Google search and see what free forms are out there, and try different ones to discover which best help you organize your family history research.