Family History Federation

How To… Uncles And Aunties

Devonfhs Divider Graphic V1

Who should you put on your Family Tree?
And where do you keep it?

If you have just started to look at your Family History, you might find it is difficult to fit in your successive parent groups without including their brothers and sisters. This usually means you end up with far too many people to try and keep track of as a beginner.

Help is at hand! Try this.

You have to think about terms such as ‘direct descendant’, ‘blood relative’, ’bloodline’, ‘Uncle by marriage’.

Here are some online definitions-
A lineal descendant is a person who is in direct line from an ancestor; this includes a child, grandchild, great-grandchild etc.

A ‘blood relative’ is someone who is related to you by birth rather than through marriage or another relationship such as adoption (= becoming the legal parent of a child who is not biologically your own): I’d always known Sam was not a blood relative, but still regarded him as a brother.

Relatives are people who are related by blood or marriage. A family is a group of people, typically consisting of two parents and their children, living together as a unit. This is the key difference between family and relatives. However, a family is always made up of relatives.
Many families have a much-loved lady in the early lives of their children, known as ‘Auntie’, who turns out, when you start looking, to just be a family friend.

It all boils down to understanding that while you are ‘related to’ your siblings and your aunts and uncles, they are all ‘family’.
Your ‘bloodline’, of whom you are a ‘direct descendant’, is only your parents, their parents and their parent’s parent’s line through the generations.
Your Family Tree follows those folk that you ‘descend from directly’. The folk shown on the suggested coloured Pedigree Chart page.

While you are related to your brother and sister, your direct ancestors are your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents etc.

Those parents, grandparents and great grandparents etc. are also direct ancestors of your brother or sister. If you were person 1 in the tree, your sibling’s names could equally fit into that box instead of your name. Your siblings are not your direct ancestors.

Family Group Sheet

One family group on one page.
As with the FreeBMD pages, it is best to start with yourself first.
Your own family group is an ideal sample to practise with.
Here is a free FGS (Family Group Sheet) template found online at Family Tree Templates.

It is a one-page summary of one complete family covering 3 generations.
The information will be familiar as it has already been recorded on your family tree for some relatives. Other examples of an FGS are more complex and include – occupations, military service, and religion details. It is your Family History, choose your own content to suit.

If you are a married person with children, in position 1 on the coloured tree, then FGS 1 will show you as a parent, with your parents’ names and your children in chronological birth order.

You would also appear on either FGS 2 or 3, which would show you as a child of the family, before you married, along with your siblings, the aunts and uncles of your children.

When I married and started a family, FGS1 was started for me and my family, details are there for the BMD’s of us all. Me, my wife, our children are listed in birth date order, it even gives parents names for my wife and I.
Any when/where questions about my own immediate family should be able to be answered from this one page.

FGS2 is the family of my Mum and Dad. On that sheet I show as the eldest child with my younger sister’s names and dates below. My grandparents’ names appear there, but FGS4 is where my grandparents’ details all appear with my Dad as their child.

Here is an attempt to show some of my family group sheets using just the numbers from the coloured tree again.
First the numbers. You may have always thought of yourself as ‘Number One!’. In genealogy terms, you are. The numbering system used is called ‘Ahnentafel’ which translates to ‘Ancestor Table’.
You are number 1, your Dad is 2 and Mum 3. Dad’s parents are 4&5, Mum’s are 6&7.Your paternal great grandparents are then 8&9. The parental titles are a bit long winded so if you are talking to another person who has some family history knowledge then person 16 on your tree, is understood to be your Great Great Grandfather on your father’s side. The numbers also mean that the son of 16 is person 8, 8’s son is person 4 and 4 is your paternal Grandad. Your mother’s father is double her number 3. Double a person’s number and add 1 for their mother’s number.

For these, I took the basic headings from the earlier example and added some information. I did not find it easy writing on a screen with my finger. I hope it is legible.

My wife’s brother phoned last week, he is being security vetted for a job and needed to check his Mum’s death date and place. The FGS was useful.

Subscription sites

You may think about an online tree. Ancestry, Find my Past, The Genealogist and other subscription sites, or FamilySearch, a free to use site, allow (encourage) you to type in your family names, places and dates then build an online tree for your family. That tree will include all family members and many of them are able to easily include adoption, second marriages and step parents too. Those topics are outside the scope of this series of simple guides.
Most of the sites allow a free trial time, when you can see if you like the way the SEARCH works? Or there are lots of records for the area your family came from etc.
Most sites have most of the same records, then one may have the only online baptism records for that church from 1873 to 1893, and that is the one that could be so helpful.
Do you subscribe for the minimum period? Subscribe to a different one each year?
Be prepared to use different sites as they each have differences that could be important to you. If you have Devon Ancestry, subscribing to FindMyPast is recommended, as they hold the majority of Devon records, which other sites do not have. There are also many Devon records in the Members’ Area of this website, most of which you will not find elsewhere. You could always search online – ‘Where would I find records of the…….’? Sometimes an online search will find obscure references. If a family story says Gt Uncle Bill was murdered in Okehampton. Google it. ‘Okehampton murder William Stickers?’ may be enough to kickstart your next research mission. You could add a year etc. if there is no result at first.

Once you have an online tree on a pay site, you might feel tied to that site. Do check that if you pause your subscription for a year, your tree will still be there if you rejoin? Can you print your tree? All of it? just your ‘Direct line’? Could you send a copy to another relative?
Could you save a copy of your tree? or part of it? and work on it in a different computer program? You are strongly advised not to make one of these online sites your main method of storing your family tree. There are a variety of Genealogy software packages, including free options, which are mentioned below, or there is always good old pencil and paper.
Could you perhaps use one site free online at the local Library? Then just subscribe to another site and perhaps cover most choices? Libraries in Devon offer free access to Ancestry Library Edition on their computers. Just ask them for some computer time.

Many sites allow you to see other people’s trees. I was annoyed to find that one person had my great aunt’s name and details in her tree but had missed a generation and put the entry where her mother, my great grandmother, with the same forename, should be. My messages to the person were ignored. I hope not too many copy her online tree believing it to be accurate.

Some people are very possessive about their research work and prefer to keep it all to themselves. Others are happy to share their results and also to accept suggestions from others searching for some of the same names.

I am in occasional email contact with a fourth cousin. That means we are both descended from a shared ancestor, 5 generations back, our 3xgreat grandfather Joseph, born in 1800. Any research back beyond that into our surname, is of interest to us both. He has made suggestions and sent me useful snippets that he found. I hope that I have in return, shared useful information with him. I have never met this cousin. It is just nice to know he is there.

Family Tree software

What Family Tree building programs are there? Again, a Google search could find an up to date Top Ten best for this year. There are free programs and expensive ones.
I searched – What is the best UK family history software? And found this-

These were 2023 results. Try it.

I use Family Tree Maker, a program I have used for many years. It saves all the information I have on family members right back to before 1700 in a couple of cases, saved to my computer and Cloud. No one else can access it without my permission. I am happy to share with enquirers. I know who sees my tree and can contact them if they inadvertently copy a person to their own tree incorrectly.
I have an index of Names, a tree showing where everyone fits into the family, a space showing facts I know about a chosen person, another space shows their relationships. Yet another space shows their Family Group.

I choose a person and press MAPS, a modern street map of their birth village opens. Press MEDIA and a folder of appropriate screenshots, photos and text opens up. The final fun bit is being able to easily produce and print a tree to suit the moment. From a horizontal or vertical Pedigree Chart, via my direct connection to 7 times great Grandad to a full ‘Extended Family Chart’, which, if I printed it, would cover more than 30 A4 pages. All of these I can see on screen. I can colour the name boxes. Blue for the boys perhaps? Feature just names, name – Birth date to Death date, or B,M&D with where they lived.

Relationship Charts

I found it very helpful when sorting out where first and second cousins fit into the family tree to refer to an image.There are two very good diagrams on the Free to Visitors section of the Devon Family Hisatory Society website. See Relationship Charts.

Enjoy tracing and placing your family!

Similar guides in this series include How To… FreeBMD and How To… GRO Search.

The Devon Family History Society would like to thank our member Peter Blackaby for producing this guide.

Skip to content