Handy family tree templates

As you begin your family history research, it is surprisingly helpful to use the many family history templates, family tree charts and other forms which are available online. They can remind you of questions to ask and help organise your note taking. You can usually print off as many templates as you like (or your printer cartridges will take).

You probably plan on using dedicated family tree software and other genealogical online resources. If so, you can use these templates to collect your information and then upload the details into your chosen family history software.

Ancestry have a very useful page providing various free templates for you to download.

Here are some examples of templates and forms that you may wish to print off before you pay your relatives a visit.

Family tree templates

Even if you plan on building your family tree by hand, a family tree template will make life much easier. You can then simply fill it in rather than actually draw it from scratch (which becomes extremely difficult as the tree ‘grows’). If you plan on using family history software, these templates are useful for sketching details ‘in rough’ prior to the information being uploaded.

Handy tip: Keep a rough copy for noting taking and keep a good copy as a master. If you spoil a copy, give it a date and number and then file it away (for possible future reference). Then start a new copy with a fresh sheet.

Pedigree Chart (aka Ancestral Chart) templates

The branches of family tree templates can quickly become overwhelming, particularly if you get bogged down with lots of half-brothers and sisters, second marriages etc. If you are getting disheartened by the sheer numbers of ancestors, then consider starting with a pedigree chart instead.

A pedigree chart only records direct ancestors i.e. parents, grand-parents, great-grandparents and so on. Pedigree charts are really easy to complete and you can often go back in time really quickly so that you feel that you are making real progress. The information is usually recorded from left to right. Men are always recorded above women and the paternal line is always recorded above the maternal line. As a result, the paternal surname is always maintained at the top of the chart. You can easily add to the charts as you go back through the generations.

Ancestry offer a free version, or you could buy a more comprehensive Ten Generation Family History Record Book.

Personal record sheets

There are many variations of these online: this is our version: Personal record sheet template. We use a fresh record sheet for each relative, regardless of whether they are alive or available. Some family historians prefer to use a separate sheet for each person interviewed, rather than each person researched. There are various online templates if you prefer to use this method. It really is down to personal preference. It is quite long so you may wish to just refer to it as a check-list. Our form includes the following questions but you will probably decide to dispense with some and add others:

  • Personal details:
    • Full name, previous names(s)
    • date and places of birth, marriage(s) and death (where applicable).

  • Residential places: A chronological list detailing where (and when) the relative lived throughout his/her life.
  • Educational and professional details. A chronological list of schools, university and other institutions attended. Ask about qualifications/certificates/other awards. Remember to ask for dates.
  • Experience in the Armed Forces (if applicable): Ask about force/regiment/rank etc. When and where was your relative stationed?
  • Occupation(s): A chronological list of your relative’s occupation(s). What did he/she do? Who did he/she work for? Where did he/she work and when did he/she work there?
  • Personal interests and hobbies.
  • A brief chronological history. A summary of your relative’s personal life throughout the decades. Discuss the world in which your relative lived; recollections of major events and memories of fashions, music and films.
  • Favourite things: favourite job, favourite memory, favourite holiday.
  • Relations: Find as much information as possible regarding your relative’s parents, grandparents, siblings and children. Including:
    • Full name, previous names(s)
    • date and places of birth, marriage(s) and death (where applicable).

  • Relations: Memories/descriptions of relative’s parents, grandparents, siblings etc. including their personalities and physical traits.


  • Complete a fresh record sheet for each relative.
  • Often, the person supplying the information is not the individual you are researching. If so,
    • note the name/initials of the person who is supplying the information in the right hand column.
    • some questions (such as personal memories/favourite things etc.) will clearly not be relevant.

Documents checklist

Again, there are many variations online. This is our version: Documents Checklist. Although by no means exhaustive, it prompts you to search for the following documents:

  • Official documents. The most important documents you will ever need are birth and marriage certificates as they will help you build back your family tree. Other documents you should be looking for are: death certificate, passport, driving licence and any national ID cards.
  • Qualifications/certificates: These could be from school, university, or work related.
  • Military: Medals, awards, uniforms, call up papers etc.
  • Pictures: Photographs, photo albums, portraits.
  • Writings: Letters, diaries, invoices/receipts etc.
  • Newspaper cuttings.
  • Heirlooms: Does anyone in your family have an old family bible? It could possibly have a family tree or at least details of the owner(s).

Research log (aka Research Calendar)

This is like a reminders diary and ‘to do’ list. keep one for each ancestor so that you know what you’ve asked, what you need to ask, lines to pursue (and not to pursue) etc. Without it, you can quickly lose track.

So you don’t lose track of what information you have or have not been able to obtain, it is essential that you keep an online or paper based research log. It is particularly important that you record blinds alleys – so you don’t ask the same fruitless questions over again, wasting everyone’s time.

Ancestry have a free template for you to download.

Blank Census Forms

Ancestry supply many excellent blank UK Census Forms (for the UK Census Years 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 & 1911) that you can print off, fill in and file away. These blank census sheets are especially useful if the original Census is very hard to read.