Keeping Records - first steps


The first step is to commence your family tree chart.

Print (photocopy enlarging if necessary) and then complete a "Pedigree Chart" for yourself. This will have you at the bottom and then work backwards, generation by generation. You will need two copies of the chart if you are doing both your own and spouse's families. Always use capitals for SURNAMES, as sometimes they can be confused with given names.

The first chart should be your own.

On this first chart;

  1. Start with yourself at Number 1. (add in your spouse's name)
  2. Your father (No. 2) and mother (No. 3)
  3. The four sets of grandparents and so on.

Then proceed to make 'Family Group Record'  this is where you start with the parents and add in all the children.

Create your hard copy and electronic files. Remember, electronic files should reflect the contents of your physical files and vice-versa.

For my hard copy files and original documents, I use a filing cabinet, with hanging files in which are dividers, one for each surname in alphabetical order. In the hanging files are acid-free folders, one for each generation. All documents are in acid-free plastic sleeves. Keep a copy of any original document. Do not carry around the originals.  They should be kept in a very safe place.

My electronic files are created in and sunchronised with Family Tree Maker on my desktop.  Family Tree Maker produces my charts for me. I print them and file them in my physical filing system along with any source documents that I have.  I download any source documents that I can from the online records and print them as well as store them in the electronic files.


  • Always file your lists under the SURNAMES.
  • Women are always recorded under their maiden name. Though when looking at census records (like 1881 and 1901) work out whether the couple was married then - if they were, they will be under their married name.
  • Remember that research can usually only be done on folk over 100 years old. If you do not know someone's age estimate it (but mark it as an 'estimate only') - it usually works on average that the age at marriage is 25 for males and 20 for females.
  • Marriages are usually 1-2 years before the birth of the 1st child
  • BACKUP all your electronic files and keep a copy off-site or on an external drive that you can grab on your way out of the house in case of emergency.


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