Thankfully, the internet has made it possible to locate significant amounts of genealogical data online. What would have taken our grandparents months of writing letters and searching library indexes can now be found with just a few key strokes. The availability of incredibly beneficial software programs and web applications like Family Tree Maker and have also made it easier than ever to build out family trees, compile and share research, and track genealogical sources. But one of the things is often lost amidst all this amazing technology is an understanding of how to create and document solid genealogical records.

There are some basic materials that anyone pursuing genealogical research should be using including lineage charts, family group records, research calendars, and source checklists. Some of these are provided, in one form or another, in the software packages mentioned above but it is important for genealogy enthusiasts to understand what each of these are and how they are used in the absence of technology.

Lineage Charts

This is a standard chart that enables you to trace lineage from one generation to another. It generally begins with you and traces back each generation, child to parent. It differs from a family tree diagram in that it only shows your direct line ancestors, meaning it doesn’t include any information about anyone who is not your parent or grandparent.

This chart may include basic details for each person like their birth, marriage, and death dates with locations or it may just be their names. It is generally drawn as a horizontal bracket diagram that lists generations from left to right but there are several different ways of doing it. If you are using lineage charts on paper, there is a complex numbering system commonly used by genealogists that enables you to provide traceability across multiple sheets of paper. Sources are not cited on a lineage chart.

Family Group Sheets/Records

These sheets are created for each family within your family tree and provide a way of documenting all information related to that family. Each set of parents will have their own family group sheet which means the details related to an individual will show up on two different family group sheets, the one where they are one of the parents, and the one where they are one of the children. These sheets are where you record the results of your research like names, dates, and places. This is also where you can cite some of your sources, although most genealogists you a separate form because there are generally too many sources to list them all on the family group sheet.

Research Calendars

This is a form that can be beneficial in keeping track of what you have researched and ideas for what to research next. It can be created for a specific research problem, a person, an event, etc. It enables you to track where you have looked and what you found so that you have a record while also making it easy to keep track of ideas for where to look next.

Source Checklist

This is a simple form that lists all the possible sources of genealogical information. It is used to track the research progress of a specific person or family. As you use each source, you simply check it off which makes it easy to keep track of where you have looked and where you can look next.