Family Search Style Guide 2019

What is a Family History Style Guide?

One of the most common mistakes I see when helping with someone’s family tree is incorrect stylization of information. What does this mean? Genealogical databases utilize style guides to log and process information. When you input a name, the database will read it and present it to other researchers who may be looking for it. However, if you input information in the incorrect style, it may be unreadable and rendered useless.

It’s these kinds of errors that create duplicate profiles and confusion.

Following the style guide mitigates the chance for errors, and helps everyone to utilize the research you perform. But where do you find the style guide?

Well, we’ve got it right here for you. Give it a read and leave any questions in the comments.

Family Search Style Guide 2019

The following guidelines for recording family history information can be found in the Introduction to Family History Student Manual [4.4], used in the Religion 261, Introduction to Family History, Institute Course.[i] (The most recent updates have been included here.)

Note: These guidelines are for use with the family tree at FamilySearch.org, other online trees may utilize different guidelines and standardizations. The industry is working toward universal standards.

Guidelines for recording names. [4.4.1]

Provide names that are as complete as possible. Below are some examples of complete names:

  • Elizabeth Blackenshaw
  • Claus Cornelius Vanderhofen
  • Gonzalez Espinoze y de Nunez y Sainz y Rodriguez
  • Ah-Yueh Chen

If a person was known by a nickname or called by more than one name, do not put this information in the name field, but include this information in a separate information field.

Do not include descriptions or titles—boy, girl, child, stillborn, Miss, Mr., Jr., Dr., or such—as part of the person’s name. Also avoid using explanations such as unknown. Also avoid quote marks, brackets, or parenthesis in the name fields. The software used to find record matches and clear names for temple work may limit or interpret titles or explanations as given names or surnames.

Guidelines for recording dates. [4.4.2]

Record dates as completely as possible with the day, month, and year. If you do not know the exact date, use the words before, after, or about.

Record dates as completely as possible with the day, month, and year. If you do not know the exact date, use the words before, after, or about.

Record dates as day, month (Do Not Abbreviate), and year. If you do not have a complete date, provide what you know. If you have more than one date for the same event, separate the dates with a slash (/) or the word or. Some examples follow:

  • Born: 23 March 1742
  • Christened: December 1952
  • Died: 14/16 July 1822
  • Born: 2 February 1839/40
  • Married: 1878 or 1881

If you record the dates in Chinese-based characters, FamilySearch correctly interprets dates from the lunar calendars used in China, Japan, and Korea.

Guidelines for recording places. [4.4.3]

Provide a place name that is as complete as possible. For place names in English and other languages that use a Roman alphabet, record from the smallest to the largest geographical division, separating the divisions by commas. Some examples follow:

  • Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States
  • St. Dunstan, Canterbury, Kent, England
  • Azusa-mura, Minami Azumi-gun, Nagano-ken, Japan
  • Maugerud, Flesbert, Buskeruf, Norway

For place names recorded in Asian writing systems, start with the largest geographical level, and then move to the smallest. (For example, start with the country and end with the village.)

You should avoid using brief postal abbreviations for states and provinces (such as IL for Illinois). These abbreviations are often misinterpreted. Whenever possible, use the complete name of the state or province.

If you do not know all the levels of a place name, FamilySearch will likely give a list of complete place names you can choose from. In any case, do the best you can with the information you have.

*Always choose a standardized date and place from the drop-down menu provided.

Only enter information you have sourced and cited records for. Assuming name, place, and date information can lead to incorrect family lines and bigger problems that will need correction later.


[i] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/introduction-to-family-history-student-manual/chapter-4?lang=eng

Produced and used in conjunction with the TEGM program at FamilyHistoryTechCoach.com

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