A pedigree chart is a chart which tells one all of the known phenotypes for an organism and its ancestors, most commonly humans, show dogs, and race horses. The word pedigree is a corruption of the French "pied de gru" or crane's foot, because the typical lines and split lines (each split leading to different offspring of the one parent line) resemble the thin leg and foot of a crane.


A genetics pedigree chart following a recessive trait.

In human genealogy[]

Pedigrees are also a common tool in human genealogy. Equally common, however, is the "family tree" form of pedigree chart, which shows the descendants of a particular individual, and thereby highlights sibling and cousin In addition to the names of the individuals, it is common to include each person's birth date and place, death date and place, and the marriage date and place of each couple.

In England and Wales pedigrees are officially recorded in the College of Arms, which has records going back to the middle ages, including pedigrees collected during roving inquiries by its heralds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The purpose of these heraldic visitations was to register and regulate the use of coats of arms. Those who claimed the right to bear arms had to provide proof either of a grant of arms to them by the College, or of descent from an ancestor entitled to arms. It was for this reason that pedigrees were recorded by the visitations. Pedigrees continue to be registered at the College of Arms and kept up to date on a voluntary basis but they are not accessible to the general public without payment of a fee.

More visible, therefore, are the pedigrees recorded in published works, such as Burke's Peerage and Burke's Landed Gentry in the United Kingdom and, in continental Europe by the Almanach de Gotha. Due to space considerations, however, these publications typically use a narrative pedigree, whereby relationships are indicated by numbers (one for each child, a different format for each generation) and by indentations (each generation being indented further than its predecessor). This format is very flexible, and allows for a great deal of information to be included, but it lacks the clarity of the traditional chart pedigree.

United States usage[]

In the United States, the term "pedigree chart" refers to a chart showing the direct ancestors of a given individual. In addition to the names of the individuals, the chart often includes each person's birth date and place, death date and place, and each couple's marriage date and place. It is also common for persons on the chart to be numbered according to the Ahnentafel numbering system.[1]

Pedigree chart numbered on the Ahnentafel system
                                            8.  Paul Russell Posey
                    4. James Alvin Posey-|
                    |                       9.  Doris Evenlyn Lintecomb
          2. Jeff James Posey-|
          |         |                       10. Franklin Ira Ettelson
          |         5. Rebecca Lou Ettelson-|
          |                                 11. Mary Geneva Gates
1. Allison Kimberlee-|
          |                                 12.  
          |         6. Thomas Vinner -|
          |         |                       13.  
          3. Kimberlee Lynn-|        
                    |                       14.  
                    7. Lynn-|


  1. ^ U.S.-style pedigree chart (PDF). Includes lines for birth, marriage, and death data, and utilizes Ahnentafel numbering.

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