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Just Four Generations Will Get You Started

Holly T. Hansen

By Holly T. Hansen

Family History is really exciting for those who do it. Those who have not been bitten by the bug may feel overwhelmed or disinterested. I love helping individuals begin their family history, and I believe that you can be the research expert on your own family. Simply learn to do it right the first time, or update, and fix it right for future generations. As you go through and document your personal four generations, you will have a great time. You will learn many fun and interesting things about your family. Most of all, you will gain some great research skills as you move back in time into records where you are not so familiar with the family members as you are with your immediate family in those first four generations.

Training is imperative and every person must begin with the first four generations. You simply cannot learn what is needed if you start your research where someone else left off. This week make a goal to document your personal first four generations.

A complete four-generation pedigree chart will include birth, marriage, and death dates with geographic locations for each individual.

1st Generation         = You and a spouse (if you are married)

2nd Generation        = Your father and mother

3rd Generation        = Your grandparents

4th Generation         = Your great grandparents

You may already have some of this data or know whom to ask for details. Once you have your pedigree penciled in, the fun begins.

Set a goal to create a full ‘Family Group Record’ for each couple on the chart, including each child and spouse. There are eight family groups in four generations. The only exception is when one ancestor has married multiple times or had children with more than one person. In this case you simply fill out a family group record for each family unit of that particular ancestor (one family group for each marriage and children from that marriage or children from a non-marriage relationship).

Just like learning to drive a car, you must learn to build a pedigree. It starts with observing the terrain, studying the records that mention your family members; practice identifying them in two or more sources. Then have an expert look at it. Having an expert’s opinion really assists in the feeling of accomplishment.

Think about it…

A person does not automatically get a driver’s license on a certain birthday or time of year. First, they have watched out the window of a car riding along with an experienced driver. Second, they had to study and take a test. Then they practiced in a safe environment. And, they actually drove with a licensed expert in order to receive their license.

Celebrate your four generations. First, gather what you have observed from family. Second, identify two or more records that identify each person on your pedigree. Next, collect data on everyone in the family group for each family unit on the pedigree. And finally, have an expert look it over. They might have some great suggestions for you as well.

You may be surprised at how much you will learn about your family and the history surrounding them. It’s a great time to do genealogy! Get busy and let me know what you discover.

Holly T. Hansen is the owner of Family History Expos and answers many of the questions submitted to Ask-the-Pros Q & A. Family History Expos sponsors online classes and live events where you can learn in-depth research skills from the experts. Holly can be contacted by email at

Family History Expos offers numerous products, books, video classes and research events for personal and in-depth learning. Check their offerings online at

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