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La Crosse Area Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 1782
La Crosse, WI 54602-1782

Anita Palmquist

There are any number of procedures and regulations for genealogical record keeping. However, adhering to a few generally accepted rules makes the genealogical work "standard." Beginning genealogists often develop their own systems as they go along. Too late, they realize that they are ensnared in their own volumes of paper work and inconsistencies. Perhaps the most helpful suggestion for the recorder is to try to look at his/her work through the eyes of the person who will interpret one’s work one hundred years from now.

The two most widely used forms are the family group sheet and the ancestor chart. Use of standard abbreviations and practices on these forms will assure the interpreter that the researcher was careful in his/her recording. The following rules are usually accepted as being standard:

  1. Record the surname in capital letters: Albert John JONES. This is not a hard and fast rule, but seems to be preferable. Always record the person’s full name and refer to that person consistently by the same name.
  2. Record a woman by her maiden name. If her married surname is the same as her maiden surname, underline it to show it is correctly recorded.
  3. Record dates in this order: day, month, year. 4 June 1983. Do not abbreviate the year (’83). This could be interpreted as 1883 or 1983. DO not use forms such as 6-4-83 or 6/4/83. In some countries the interpretation of this would not be June 4, but April 6. There is also a chance that the numbers may run together or the dashes or slashes may be interpreted as numbers if they are carelessly recorded.
  4. Months may be abbreviated or written out. June should never be abbreviated as there is a possibility of confusing it with January.
  5. Jan. Apr. July Oct.

    Feb. May Aug. Nov.

    Mar. June Sept. Dec.

  6. Underline material which looks doubtful but is true. An example is a person who is known by his second name. James Jonathan PEASE. Also underline nicknames used as given names. Ex: Jack Don JONES.
  7. Underline dates which are true but look doubtful. Marriage date, 1 June 1909. Child born 3 July 1909. Underlining indicates no further research needs to be done as the dates are true.
  8. If you use a baptism date instead of a birth date, so indicate: Bap. 8 Jan. 1917. Also indicate if a burial date is used instead of a death date: Bur. 3 Aug. 1891.
  9. Put in parenthesis: (divorced), (step-brother), (twin), (adopted), (stillborn). Also put in parenthesis titles such as: (Rev.), (Dr.), (Maj.), (Col.). Major and Colonel may be proper names and not titles. Put nicknames in parenthesis: Frederick (Shorty) ABLE. If a name has been abandoned, write Ralph (adopted name Peter) SMITH.
  10. If information is doubtful, as in a birthdate, use (?) after it: b. 7 Oct. 1867 (?)
  11. If you know someone never married, so indicate: Never married. If you know someone never had children, indicate: no issue.
  12. (sic) after copied material that looks doubtful signifies that it is true.
  13. x placed next to a child on your family group sheet signifies that is your direct ancestor.
  14. Use a question mark if a name is not known, as: ____? BROWN.
  15. The following are standard genealogical abbreviations:
  16. b. born ca (circa) about

    m. married bap. baptized

    d. died chr. christened

    bur. buried m/1 married first

    dau. daughter m/2 married second

  17. Abbreviate only very standard things: Dr., names of states, St., etc. If in doubt, write it out.
  18. When an ancestor marries more than once, make a separate family group sheet for each marriage. Prefix the name with number of marriage: (2) O’BRIAN, Michael Ray.
  19. Places are recorded in order of town (or parish), county, and state (or country). The smallest unit is recorded first. Names of counties and countries may be abbreviated but towns, townships and parishes should be written out.

Following a few standard rules will help make your genealogy and family history authentic!

©2004 Roxanne Munns
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Last updated 2.3.2004