By the time you have genealogical information on a few hundred people, it will become nearly impossible to keep all those ancestors straight. Family historians use charts and forms to organize research and make findings easier to understand and share. Here's a brief lowdown on five of the most common types of genealogical charts and reports:

1

Pedigree chart

Flowing horizontally across a page, the Pedigree chart identifies a primary person by that person's name, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, and date and place of death. The chart uses lines to show the relationship to the person's father and mother, then each of their parents, then their parents, and so on until the chart runs off the page.

2

Descendant chart

A Descendant chart contains information about an ancestor and spouse (or spouses if more than one exists), their children and their spouses, grandchildren and spouses, and so on down the family line. The chart typically flows vertically on a page and resembles a business organizational chart.

3

Outline report

A family Outline report is a list of the descendants of a particular ancestor. The first numbered line contains the name (and sometimes the years for birth and death) of the primary ancestor.

The next line shows a spouse, followed by the next numbered line, which contains the name of the ancestor and spouse's child. If that child is married and has children, the child's spouse follows, as do the names and information on each of that child and spouse's children.

Each new generation within the family is indented from the last and is assigned the next number. For example, the focal ancestor is given the number 1; his or her children are all given the number 2 (for the second generation); his or her grandchildren are all given the number 3 (third generation); and so forth.

After the first child's entire family is complete, the outline report lists the next child and his or her family in the same manner.

4

Family Group Sheet

A Family Group Sheet is a summary of vital information about a particular family. At the top of the page, it shows the husband, followed by the wife, and then any children of the couple, as well as biographical information (such as dates and places of birth, marriage, and death).

In some contemporary Family Group Sheets, you can set the titles for the two main people if the terms Husband and Wife are not applicable. However, information on the children's spouses and children isn't included on this Family Group Sheet. That information would appear on a separate Family Group Sheet for the child's family in which the child is listed as either the husband or wife.

5

Kinship report

A Kinship report is a list of family members and how they relate directly to one particular ancestor. This report includes the name of the family member, the person's relationship to the primary ancestor, and the civil and canon codes reflecting the degree of relationship between the two people.

Civil and canon codes explain the bloodline relationship in legal terms — in other words, they identify how many degrees of separation — or steps — are between two people related by blood.

Civil law counts each step between two relatives as a degree, so two people who are first cousins have a degree of separation equal to four, which is the total of two steps between one cousin and the common grandparent and two steps between the other cousin and the common grandparent.

Canon law counts only the number of steps from the nearest common ancestor of both relatives, so the degree of separation between two first cousins is two. Two steps separate the grandparent from each of the cousins.