Member guide

How to complete a Birth Brief

Birth briefs are five-generation pedigree charts, going back to the compiler’s sixteen great-great grandparents.

If you would like to have your birth brief added to our collection, please follow the below guidelines.

A guide to completing Birth Briefs

Ideally, the form should be as complete as possible before being submitted. Completed forms are filed in the Birth Brief Collection, and the names are indexed and listed in the Genealogists’ Magazine each quarter. The electronic version of the birth brief form is an editable PDF, so it can be downloaded, filled in on your computer or other device and submitted by e-mail - there’s no need to print it out.

The actual form is A3 size, so it’s easier to fill in if you enlarge the image. Download Birth brief

What are Birth briefs?

Birth briefs are five-generation pedigree charts, going back to the compiler’s sixteen great-great grandparents. Since the early days of the Society, we have encouraged members to submit a completed birth brief for inclusion in our Birth Brief Collection. Some of the earliest birth briefs record ancestral lines going back to the 1720s. As the name suggests, a birth brief is not intended to be an extensive family tree - it provides a brief synopsis of your direct descent for five generations in the male and female lines.

How to fill in the form:

  • Compile the form in your name (maiden name, if married)
  • Only include those ancestors for whom there is documentary proof (i.e. not just an index entry)
  • Record each person’s name in full (first names and surname) in capital letters. Any aliases or adoptive names should also be recorded
  • Record all dates in full to avoid confusion - for example, 11 May 1857.
  • Record all place names in full (town/parish, county and, if necessary, country.) For large towns and cities, the parish and dedication of the church/ chapel should also be included. To save space, you may wish to use the Chapman codes for counties and countries (see
  • Give brief details of occupations
  • Where a woman has been married before, also include her former surname(s) and make it clear which one is her maiden name
  • Cite any special sources used, such as wills, newspapers, military records, family Bibles, birthday books, diaries and oral testimony. Standard sources (BMD certificates, censuses and church registers) don’t need to be cited, as these are presumed to have been used as a matter of course.

What if I’ve got gaps?

A ‘gap’ is actually a brick wall that needs to be overcome before you can go back any further - which is what genealogy is all about. You should establish an unbroken paper trail from one generation to the next. If you can’t trace a particular birth, marriage or death certificate, then parish/nonconformist register entries of Christenings, marriages and burials are an acceptable alternative. In the case of deaths, wills can also be useful. If no record of an event can be found at all and you’re forced to leave a name, date or other detail blank, put ‘not found’ in the space so that the situation is clear for other researchers.

What if I’ve got back further than five generations and/or have more than the birth brief allows for?

We’d still like to have your birth brief for our collection but if, in addition, you have a more substantial pedigree or research notes that you wish to deposit, we’d be happy to consider them for inclusion in the Society’s archive. We accept both paper and digital files (please ask for details, a storage fee may apply or donation required to cover processing).

Where do I send my completed birth brief?

Please e-mail your completed birth brief to: Your name will be mentioned as the compiler in the Genealogists’ Magazine listing, but no other personal details will be published.

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