Are you curious about your ancestry? Researching your family background and creating a family tree is becoming a popular thing to do, and there are many ways to go about it. So where should you begin?
Creating a Family Tree
When you’re ready to begin delving into your genealogy, here are some tips to get you started:
1) Get Organized. Before you take on the task of researching your family’s past, make sure you’re organized and know what information you want to start out looking for. Staying organized will help you focus and know the scope of what you want to research.
2) Start at home. Go through your own belongings- look for photo albums and important papers you might have stored away in your attic, filing cabinets or closets. Ask family members if they have any items they might be willing to share for your research. Some people like to hold on to mementos like letters and photographs or even books, and you can find hints often written on the backs of old photographs or postcards. You can even interview aging family members and collect stories surrounding your family, not just random names and dates. Your aging loved ones often contain a wealth of knowledge and history, and it’s much easier to start with Grandma or Grandpa and move on in your search from there.
3) Focus your search. It’s best to start with one or two family names or one surname and discover everything you can about these people before moving on to the next one. This way, you can keep your research on track and won’t miss any important details.
4) Use the resources at hand. The internet has a vast variety of genealogy databases, from those you need a subscription for like Ancestry.com and WorldVitalRecords.com, to free sites like FamilySearch.org and U.S. GenWeb. You can also visit your local library or family history center and look for the records of your ancestors, like birth and death certificates, wills, land deeds, etc. If possible, travel to the places your family lived, visit cemeteries and courthouses and obtain what local information you can.
5) Put it all together. Keep notes and document everything you possibly can. Decide whether you’ll write an actual family history book or design a graphical family tree based on all your research.
Researching your family’s past might not be an easy endeavor, but don’t give up! It can be tricky to find the information you’re looking for in old records and databases, so be sure to research things a few different ways before giving up. Remember that sometimes records can be incorrect; try swapping out first names for last names, use nicknames or initials, even try entering alternate spellings of names. Depending on what information you’re looking for, search multiple databases that allow you to search for specific things, like census information or military information.
Creating a family tree can be a fun, eye-opening experience. It’s something that once created, can be added to year after year for multiple generations to enjoy.
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