What is a birth brief?

Birth Briefs are five-generation ancestral or pedigree charts submitted by past and present society members. Completed charts record names and vital records (birth or baptism, marriage and death or burial) of the member and up to 30 of her/his direct ancestors. Once digitised, they allow fellow family historians to search for common ancestors. To date some 37,000 names are included on Birth Briefs returned to the society and all are indexed on the website. They form an important resource and it is worth looking at them in more detail.

The member’s research is summarised in a Birth Brief. It is not a presentation of their entire family tree and, like members’ interests, can be updated at any time.

A Birth Brief form is sent to all new members when they first join the society.

Most people start with themselves as the first generation, then parents and so on back to the fifth generation of great-great-grandparents. (While you can begin with a different ancestor, say a grandparent, that would 'exclude' three-quarters of that family – the descendants and forebears of the other three grandparents.)

For each person, enter date and place of birth/baptism, marriage, and death/burial. You should leave blanks where you are unsure of the details, because you can always update a Birth Brief at some point in the future. Family members of the society are encouraged to complete separate forms.

If you are a society member and you have a family history program, complete your Birth Brief using your family history program and then export the GEDCOM file (see the help pages). Send the data by e-mail as a GEDCOM file to the birth briefs co-ordinator This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

How does it work?

Once received by the society, paper Birth Briefs are entered into a family history program and a GEDCOM file is produced. The GEDCOM file is then indexed for easy search and retrieval.

The index gives surname, forename, one or more life events and the county (as a Chapman Code — an abbreviation for the historic county, as in BRK for Berkshire, or NFK for Norfolk), as submitted.

Most Birth Briefs contain some Berkshire content but a number have little or no connection with the Royal County, as the key link is the descendant's membership (past or present) of Berkshire Family History Society.

You will find the Birth Briefs Index at www.berksfhs.org.uk under Berkshire Resources


Respecting contemporary concerns over privacy, today's accepted practice is to exclude living individuals from Birth Briefs, and from any other documents shared or otherwise made public — in online family trees, as an example.

Names of living ancestors can be replaced with 'living female' or 'living male' and no further details included.

Until you have confirmed details of someone's death, treat all people under 100 years of age as 'living'.

Before releasing any personal details, consider carefully the privacy of others, and whether you could be placing sensitive information into the public domain that other family members, for example, may prefer to be kept private.

Always secure explicit and prior consent from any living person before including them ina Birth Brief. And always get their consent first before placing their name and family details on record in a public space (which includes on the internet) or sharing them with anyone else.

Page reviewed and updated 16th November 2018

Additional information