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18 September 2014
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Before You Start Your Family Tree

By Dr Nick Barratt
Detail of family tree
A section from the Hall family tree 

Discover how to read your family tree, the simple symbols and terms used by genealogists, and the importance of knowing who's who in your family's past. Then you can get going.


Genealogy is the study of information about your ancestors and who you are related to. One of the most widely recognised methods of organising genealogical data is the family tree. Most people know something about this way of presenting the past, but it's also useful to know a few of the special symbols and terms that genealogists employ, which may be less familiar.

  • Vertical lines show relationships between parents and offspring.
  • Horizontal lines link all the siblings from one set of parents.
  • Dotted lines signify a presumed relationship
  • Vertical lines show relationships between parents and offspring.

The following abbreviations are often used:

b born
bapt baptised
[=] married
m married
[1] [2] first / second marriage
d died
bur buried

The Hall family tree
The Hall family tree 
Genealogists describe family relationships in the same way as we all do - take a look at the Hall family tree shown above, to see how the family's relationships would be described by experts, just as by anyone else:
  • Katherine Sarah Hiscock is the granddaughter of Brian Laverick Hall
  • Christa Marilyn Smith is the cousin of Elizabeth Anne Hiscock
  • Reginald Leonard Hall is the father-in-law of Marilyn Ann Hall
  • Ida Phyllis Hall is the great grandmother of Tyler James Smith
  • Natalie Anne Hiscock is the aunt of Christa Marilyn Smith
  • Elizabeth Anne Hiscock is the niece of Michelle Elaine Smith
  • Natalie Anne Hiscock is the daughter of Brian Laverick Hall
  • Brian Laverick Hall married Marilyn Ann Porter in 1961

Published: 2004-09-13

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