Data Entry Guidelines for Your Family Pedigree Chart

If you are new to family research, you are probably new to filling out pedigree charts or creating a family tree. Whether you are hand filling out a paper chart or entering data into fields in a software program, it will be important to follow standardized guidelines and be consistent in how you add and organize the information.

Some recognized data entry standards to keep in mind are as follows. Note that in some instances two options for standard practice are given. In this case, select one and use it consistently.


Guidelines for Recording Names:

  1. Record your ancestors’ names in normal order:
    1. first name (given), middle name, last name (surname)
  2. Use full names when recording names.
  3. If the middle name is unknown, use an initial if possible.
  4. Use alternate fields to enter nicknames, titles, and relationships.
  5. It is common practice to print surnames in all upper case letters. Though this is not required, it does make finding the surname quicker.
    1. Example: James Morrison BROADFIELD
  6. Option: record the names of direct ancestors in ALL upper case letters (thus making it visually easy to follow your direct line).
  7. ** Record women by their maiden name (surname at birth)not their married name.
    1. If you do not know a woman’s maiden name, use empty parentheses () for the missing name.
      1. Example: Mary Katherine ()
    2. Alternate: For a female ancestor who has been married several times, it is acceptable to enter her given name, followed by her maiden name in parenthesis followed by names of spouses in order of marriage. In this example, Elizabeth Allen DEAN was married three times.
      1. Example: Elizabeth Allen (Dean) JARRATT BORING BROADFIELD
    3. Abbreviations should not be used as part of names, as the abbreviations themselves could be real names. Leave the space/field blank or use the empty parentheses described above. Don’t use the word “unknown” in the field.
      1. Early on in my research I adopted the also common use of the abbreviation MNU for Maiden Name Unknown. I still use it; it’s time that I begin correcting this by eliminating the use. Common abbreviations:
        1. MNU — Maiden Name Unknown
        2. FNU — First Name Unknown
        3. NMN — No Middle Name
      2. For nicknames commonly associated with an ancestor, include the name in quotes after the given name.
        1. Example: James Early “Jimmy” CARTER, Jr.
      3. Do not use professional or military titles in the given name field. These titles are not part of a birth name but, instead, are earned titles.
      4. If a person is known by more than one name due to a name change, you may include the alternate name/names in parentheses after the surname.
        1. Use the abbreviation a.k.a (Also Known As)
        2. Example: Thomas Michael RAY (a.k.a. Thomas Michael SMITH)

Guidelines for Recording Dates:

  1. Record dates by the accepted European standard of day, month, 4-digit year.
    1. Example: 30 January 1831 or 30 Jan 1831
    2. Example: 16 May 2006
  2. Spell the names of months in their entirety. Months may also be abbreviated with three letters; for example, Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr. Three months that are usually not abbreviated are May, June, and July.
  3. If part of a date is not known, draw a line to indicate where the missing information should appear.
    1. Example: __ Sept 1876
  4. Accepted abbreviations for approximate dates include:
    1. “abt.” — about
    2. “ca.” or “c” — circa
    3. “aft.” — after
    4. “bef.” — before
    5. “bet.” — between

Guidelines for Recording Place Names:

  1. Record locations/place names from the smallest jurisdiction to the largest. This equates to: town/township/locality; county/parish/district; state/province; country.
    1. Example: Annapolis, Anne Arundel, Maryland, USA
    2. Example: Islay, Argyll, Scotland
  2. County or parish boundaries will likely have changed over the years. Enter the place-name as it was known the day the event took place. Some software provides a current place-name field to include the most current name. It can always be described in the research notes.
  3. Whenever possible, spell out the full name of locales being described. Long country names, such as The United States of America, can be abbreviated (USA).
  4. If a record found mentions landmarks or geographic features such as a road or creek, include it in the notes section.
  5. Allowable abbreviations include:
    1. “Co.” — County
    2. “Par.” — Parish
    3. “Twp.” — Township
  6. Where an exact location is unknown, insert commas as placeholders.

Additional Standard Genealogical Abbreviations:

If in doubt, do not abbreviate as abbreviations can be misconstrued or taken out of context. However, some standard abbreviations that may be used in filling out a pedigree chart and are generally accepted by genealogists are as follows:

b.- born; bap. or bapt. – baptized; bcer. – birth certificate; bd. or bdt. – birth date; bur. – buried; c. or chr. – christened; cem. – cemetery; c/o or ch/o – child of; d. – died; DOD – date of death; m. – married; mp. – place of marriage


  1. Lori Torres

    Excellent guidelines for new genealogists and reminders for the more seasoned family researchers. Thank you!

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Thank you Lori! I appreciate your continued support! I was in a suburb of LA in California last week– aren’t you near San Fran? I should have headed north and met you. I am just getting back to the blog; I spent the last six months working full time on putting on a big foot race, so this blog got ignored. We had 1700 participants and raised $121,000 for a residential shelter being developed for underage girls rescued out of sex trafficking.

      1. Lori Torres

        Julie! I completely missed this note from June. I’m here looking this information up for someone and saw your note. Yes, I am in the San Francisco Bay Area. Next time! I sure would love to get together. Congratulations on your efforts with the race and the fundraising success for such a worthy cause. Well done!


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