On the Charts

By Rick Crume Premium

How do you know which family tree report or chart is right for the purpose you have in mind? What’s the difference between all those options in your genealogy software? And what the heck is an Ahnentafel, anyway? Here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular chart and report formats and terms:

Ahnentafel Numbering: Used in pedigree charts and ancestor-oriented genealogy reports, this numbering system gives unique numbers to the starting person and each ancestor. Double a person’s number to get the father’s number and add one to the father’s number to get the mother’s number. Ahnentafel means ancestor table in German.

All-in-One Tree: This chart in Family Tree Maker shows everyone in your file, including ancestors, descendants and cousins. It’s great for visualizing everyone at once, but quickly becomes confusing as your family file grows larger.

Ancestor Tree: Shows a person’s ancestors. Family Tree Maker provides three forms:

• The standard version is compact and shows the starting individual at the left and the ancestors branching off to the right.

• The fan chart shows the starting individual in the middle of a circle and the ancestors branching out in all directions. You can also select half-circle and quarter-circle variations.

• The vertical ancestor tree shows an individual’s ancestors branching upward.

Cascading Pedigree Charts: Several programs can print a series of numbered pedigree charts showing a person’s ancestry. It’s faster than printing one chart at a time and the chart numbers are calculated automatically.

Descendant Report: Similar to an Outline Descendant Chart (below), the Descendant Report in Generations also includes dates and places of birth, death and burial. It’s useful as a compact format for displaying detailed information on a person’s descendants.

Descendant Tree: Family Tree Maker provides two forms:

• The fan chart shows the first generation as the center circle and each generation of descendants branching outward in a larger circle, half-circle or quarter-circle.

• The standard version is more compact and shows the starting individual at the top and descendants branching off downward.

Family Group Record (or Sheet): Succinctly summarizes your information on a couple and their children. Includes names; dates and places of birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial; and source citations. Arrange these sheets by husband’s last name in a three-ring binder for easy reference at home and on research outings.

Family History Report: Generations’ Family History Report is a book-form descendant report. It’s something like a Register Report (below), but uses a more confusing numbering system. You’re better off using the more standard Register Report.

Fan Chart: Shaped like a circle or semicircle with the starting individual in the middle. A generation of ancestors or descendants appears in each circle moving outward from the center. A fan chart takes up more space than a standard chart, but makes it easy to visualize which branches are missing from the tree.

Genealogy Report: A narrative history showing the ancestors or descendants of the starting person. Ideal for publishing all your information on an individual’s ancestors or descendants in book form. Choose from three numbering systems: Register or NGS Quarterly (Modified Register) for descendants or Ahnentafel for ancestors.

Hourglass Tree: The starting individual appears in the middle with parents and grandchildren above and children and grandchildren below. The best chart for showing one person’s ancestors and descendants.

Kinship Report: Features an alphabetical list of names and each person’s relationship to a selected individual. Lets you quickly see how anyone in your file is related.

Life Bar Chart: These timeline charts in Genelines show important milestones over the course of a person’s lifetime. You can add historical perspective by including national and international events.

Modified Register Report: Identical to the NGS Quarterly Report (below).

NGS Quarterly Report: A narrative report showing an individual’s descendants arranged by generation, this uses an alternative numbering system to the Register report (below). Every child in a family gets both a Roman numeral and an Arabic numeral. A plus sign indicates that a child appears as a parent in the next generation. Both the NGS Quarterly Report and Register Report make good books.

Outline Descendant Tree (or Chart): Shows a person’s descendants in a compact outline format without boxes. Each successive generation is indented a little farther to the right. Since it uses a lot less paper than a comparable tree chart, this works well in a family history book.

Pedigree Chart (or Ancestor Chart): Usually shows between three and five generations in tree form on a letter-size sheet of paper. Like family group records, pedigree charts are useful “at-a-glance” summaries of what you know and they should go in your three-ring binder on research trips. The closest thing to a standard pedigree chart in Family Tree Maker is a “book layout” ancestor tree.

Register Report: A narrative report showing an individual’s descendants arranged by generation. All children in a family get Roman numerals (i, ii, iii…) and every child later listed as a parent also gets an Arabic numeral (2, 3,4 …) so you can easily trace a family line from generation to generation.

Timeline Chart: This chart in Generations uses bars to show each person’s life span so you can see at a glance who was living in a certain year and whose lifetimes overlapped.

Tiny Tafel Report: For each surname in an individual’s ancestry, the report shows the Soundex code (which groups together similarly spelled names), the range of years when individuals with that name were born and where the earliest and most recent births occurred. This report in Generations is a handy summary of the surnames, time periods and places you’re researching.

Waterfall Chart: In addition to the Top-To-Bottom and Left-To-Right format for descendant charts, Generations’ EasyChart gives this option, with descendants cascading down from upper left to lower right. Choose whichever design you think is the easiest to understand and fits your display area.

In addition to commercial printers in your area, you might consider these publishers specializing in family and local histories. See Cyndi’s List <> for other short-run publishers.

You’ll find helpful guidelines for book preparation on these companies’ Web sites and in their brochures. The Genealogy Printing Co. produces an especially helpful booklet called Your Family History: From an Idea to a Printed and Bound Document. It features advice on preparing the various parts of your book and a detailed list of options to help you figure out your project’s total price.

In addition to printing your book, some of these companies offer other services, such as writing, editing, indexing and cover design:

Anundsen Publishing Company

Decorah, Iowa <> (888) 382-4291

Family Heritage Publishers

Salt Lake City, Utah <> (888) 700-3871

Family History Publishers

Bountiful, Utah <> (801) 295-7490

Gateway Press

Baltimore, Md. <> (800) 296-6687

The Genealogy Printing Co.

Renton, Wash. <> (800) 200-2782

Gregath Publishing Co.

Wyandotte, Okla. <> (918) 542-4148

Picton Press

Rockport, Maine <> (207) 236-6565


York, Pa. <> (800) 711-8014

Southern Heritage Press

Murfreesboro, Tenn. <> (615) 895-5642

Tennessee Valley Publishing

Knoxville, Tenn. <> (865) 584-5235 or (800) 762-7079

If your book interests a lot of genealogists, you might find a publisher willing to print the book at its expense and pay you a royalty on sales. For example, Heritage Books (<>, 800-398-7709), a leading publisher of local history and genealogy books, is most interested in early source records, genealogical dictionaries covering many early settlers in a given area and single-surname genealogies.

Family Tree Calligrahers

Marie Lynskey’s prices range from $150 for a five- or six-generation family tree to more than $1,500 for an illustrated family tree showing 20-plus generations. Add $100 or more for vellum, depending on the size of the chart, <>

George Thomson charges about $285 for a typical letter-size chart; additional copies of the same chart are about $60. <>

Clare McVickar Ward creates hand-lettered and illuminated pedigree charts and trees. Each is illustrated with pen-and-ink and full-color drawings. They might include a coat of arms or a map showing where the family originated in Europe, as well as a distinctive border, such as nautical knots for a Navy family or steel oil-well girders framing “gushers” for a family in the oil business. Prices vary. (732) 758-0898, e-mail

• The Association for the Calligraphic Arts has a directory of calligraphers at <>, some of whom create hand-lettered family trees.

Use a word processor to polish up your book

While most genealogy software does a marvelous job of automating the creation of a family history book, the end product often benefits from some editing. Several popular programs, including Family Origins, Generations, Legacy, PAF 5.0, PAF Companion and The Master Genealogist, let you save your book in a format that you can edit with a word processor such as Microsoft Word.

First, create a genealogy report and then, instead of printing it, save it as a Rich Text File (RTF). Open the document in your word processor so you can insert photographs, reword awkward sentences, add more narrative history and use the spell-checker. You might even change the layout from one to two columns. Word also makes it easy to print on both sides of the page (which works well with a laser printer, but not necessarily with an ink-jet printer): First print the odd-numbered pages, then reinsert the paper to print the even-numbered pages on the other side.

The nice thing about working with a Rich Text File — instead of a plain text file — is that you can make changes to the document without fouling up the table of contents and index. Markers in the file indicate section names that should appear in the table of contents and terms that should be listed in the index. So you can add whole sections to the book or new terms to the index and the corresponding page numbers in the table of contents and index will be adjusted accordingly when those components are generated. (Note that Family Tree Maker can export a genealogy report as an RTF file; however, it doesn’t have markers for indexed terms, so you can’t generate an index in your word processor.)

In Microsoft Word, you can also mark additional items that you want to appear in the table of contents or index. Perhaps you added narrative history, either as notes in your genealogy software or while editing the document in Word. If that narrative includes personal names, they won’t appear in your book’s index unless you mark them as index terms. Let’s say a John Smith is mentioned. To add the name to the index, just highlight the name Smith and select Index and Tables from the Insert pull-down menu. Click on the Mark Entry button and Smith will appear as the Main entry. Fill in John as the Subentry, click on Mark and then Close. When you finish editing the document, you’re ready to generate the index. Place your cursor at the end of the document where the index should appear, select Index and Tables from the Insert pull-down menu and click OK. Voila! Your book now has a complete name index.

Explore your publishing options

Once your charts and text are combined into book form, you have several printing options. Your best solution will depend largely on how many copies you want to print and what kind of computer printer you have.

Let’s say your book will have 225 pages and you’d like to include some color photographs. Here’s a sample breakdown of the typical expenses that might be involved with four printing methods:

Laser printer: Laser printers that print at 600 dpi or higher do a good job on photographs. If you print on both sides of the page, you use 111 sheets of 24-lb. paper at 1.2 cents per page and print on 221 sides at 3 cents each for toner. You could also print four pages of color photos on an ink-jet printer at a cost of 50 cents per page for paper and 50 cents per page for ink. (Or you could have the color photos copied on a color copier.) And you can get a 1-inch three-ring binder for $3.69. Cost per book: $15.66.

Ink-jet printer: All newer ink-jet printers do a good job on photographs and let you easily incorporate color throughout the book. Printing on one side of the page, you use 221 sheets of 24-lb. paper at 1.2 cents per page and four sheets of photo paper at 50 cents per page. Per-page costs for ink vary widely among ink-jet printers, but might average 10 cents per page for pages with mostly text and 50 cents per page for the four pages with mostly photographs. Add a 1-inch three-ring binder for $3.69. Cost per book: $32.45.

Copy shop: At Kinko’s you can have 111 copies made at 8 cents per page for the first side and 110 copies made at 7 cents per page for the second side, all on regular 20-lb. paper. (Heavier 70-lb. paper costs 11 cents per page for the first side.) You might also get four pages of color copies for $1.29 each and coil binding with clear acetate covers for $4.45. Cost per book: $26.19 (or $29.52 on heavier paper).

Commercial printer: Let’s say you have 75 books printed. For that quantity, the Genealogy Printing Co. charges 6.7 cents per page for black-and-white laser copying and 42 cents per page for color laser copying. So 221 black-and-white pages and four color pages on 60-lb. paper would cost $16.49. Other charges would cover scanning photographs as halftones, cover preparation and shipping. Approximate cost per book: $25.16 softcover or $3131 hardcover.

Your ultimate cost per book depends on many factors, including the paper you choose, the number of pages, binding, use of color photographs and the number of books you have printed. Still, we can make some generalizations:

• Using your own laser printer is by far the cheapest way to print your book, no matter how many copies you need.

• Ink-jet printers make it easy to use color throughout your book, but they’re generally too slow and too expensive per page for more than a few books.

• Copy shops offer a convenient, high-quality service, especially suitable if you need fewer than 100 copies of the book.

• If you want 75 or more copies of your book, consider commercial printers for the best photograph reproduction and the most professional bindings.

• For cost-effective use of color, group color photographs together on a few pages and either print them with an ink-jet printer or copy them with a color photocopier.

• If you’ll be scanning the photographs for your book, first test a few samples to make sure they reproduce acceptably when printed.

• For the best-quality printing, save your book as an Adobe PostScript file (see the section on chart-printing services, page 25). Then submit the file to a commercial printer or copy shop on a Zip disk or CD-R disk or by e-mail. The photographs in your book will probably turn out better if the commercial printer can work from a file rather than from your printed output.

On the bookshelf

Paper Trees: Genealogical Clip-Art by Tony Matthews (Genealogical Publishing Co.)

Creativitree: Design Ideas for Family Trees by Tony Matthews (Clearfield Co.)

Family Trees: A Manual for Their Design, Layout J Display by Marie Lynskey (Phillimore)

Learn Calligraphy: The Complete Book of Lettering and Design by Margaret Shepherd (Broadway Books)

The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book by Dan Poynter (Para Publishing)

Writing and Marketing a Family History in the New Millennium by Dwain L Kitchel (Tennessee Valley Publishing)

Creations by Nancy has designed a 9×12-inch three-generation photo chart and an 11×14-inch seven-generation pedigree chart in your choice of mauve or hunter green. <>, (206) 463-4419

Paper Tree publishes hand-colored family tree charts showing between four and eight generations for you to fill in by hand. More than 200 designs available. <>, (940) 668-6282

Petersen Prints carries various pre-printed family tree charts including a reproduction of an 1888 family tree photo holder. <> (877) 259-6144
From the June 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine