They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. In genealogy, a picture can be worth many hours of research. Seeing your research in new ways can help you to detect errors, see patterns, and identify new opportunities for research.
The reports used most by genealogists are the old standbys. Pedigree charts are indispensible. They show ancestors back from a single person. For the beginning genealogist, a pedigree chart will be a good place to start. It will quickly allow you to add parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. It will quickly show the family structure. The sibling of the pedigree chart is the family group record. The family group record shows detailed information about individuals and families including birth, marriage, death, and other personal information. It will also show spouses, children, and parents of an individual. All family information can be represented with either a pedigree chart or a family group sheet. They are the foundation of genealogical documentation.
Once you have done more than a few generations, however, there are other reports that are much more useful. Many genealogical programs have begun using hour glass reports. They show the pedigree in two directions from an ancestor. They typically show the pedigree of ancestors to the right, and a descendancy view to the left. This chart can be very useful in seeing the whole family of an individual.
Timeline charts can help to identify inconsistencies in a person’s life. If children were born before the parents in your information it will show clearly. It will also point out other inconsistencies that may help to detect erroneous conclusions. A cousin to the timeline is a map of the person’s life. Often clues can be found by plotting the events of an individual’s life on a map that shows jurisdictional boundaries (city, county, state, etc). It may provide clues to look in new places for records.
Many new software programs have error checking reports that will look for inconsistencies in your data. These can be very helpful in identifying data entry or research errors.
Descendancy reports can be very useful for identifying new areas of research. When a great deal of research on a family has been completed, looking at descendancy research can provide new avenues for success. Starting with an ancestor a few generations back and running a descendancy report may provide new fields of research undiscovered before.
One of the most useful, and pretty charts, is the fan chart. It is similar to a pedigree chart, but more compact and visual. If you are looking for a great report to show all of your research and where the holes remain, a fan chart is probably your best option. A close relative of the fan chart is the circle chart that can show even more genealogical information in a small space.
We are approaching Christmas, and as you are thinking of gifts, you may want to consider a gift that shows family history in a fashion that someone would want to hang it on their wall. Certainly fan or circle charts can provide this, but there are more charts like family trees (typically a picture of a tree) with family photos showing how everyone is connected. These can be very fun and can become treasured gifts.
As you research you will continue to use the standard pedigree charts and family group records, but don’t forget that there are other very useful charts available to you. The right tool for the job, is what my father always said. Choosing the right report to help you see the genealogical picture clearly can give you that new perspective to solve the genealogical challenges in your life.