How To Research Your Family Tree

by pkmcr

Have you been thinking about researching your family history or genealogy and are not sure where to start? Let's take a look at How To Research Your Family Tree for beginners then

When it comes to researching their Family Tree a lot of people wonder where to start. There seems to be so much information available and trying to get to grips with it can be very confusing.

Genealogy has certainly become more popular due to television shows such as, "Who Do You Think You Are?" and this has led to more people spending time on the internet trying to learn what they can about the origins of their family.

However, the problem is knowing how to research your family tree at first can appear to be quite a daunting prospect, but in actual fact it is easier than you think as we will now show you.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History
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Use a Free Family Tree Program To Keep Things In Order

One of the first tips is to look at using a free family tree program online to keep all of those links and snippets of information in order.

You may come across the term GEDCOM or alternatively look at and use their free program as this will allow you to grow those branches, upload images under their names, enter information about their date of birth, marriage, death, and a whole lot more that just helps to build the picture of your family.

One of my favorite Family Tree Programs is the Legacy one and you can download a free one at Legacy Family Tree alongside some of the enhanced paid for versions.

Start Close To Home

What is meant by this phrase is to begin your search by looking for family photographs, diaries, newspaper cuttings or anything else that you have lying around as they can often be a great resource for information that you can then build on.

After doing this, always start by talking to your immediate family, and try to talk to the oldest ones first, and get as much information out of them as you possibly can.

By doing this, you will be able to start with the roots of your family tree, which will of course be yourself, and by rights you should be able to get back a couple of generations before you have to even think about doing some research online.

Take a look at this useful article on how to Arrange a Family Tree Interview.

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Focus On One One Family At A Time

The problem with going back a generation is that you will then have more branches to explore, but it is important that you focus on one part of the family at a time and continue to work on it until you have managed to go as far back as possible.

The reason why this is important is that you can often get sidetracked by searching too many people and the result is often a number of mistakes being made or you just losing track of where somebody comes on your family tree.

Key Questions To Ask Yourself

When looking at each family member there are certain key questions that you must ask yourself each time and it is important that you then spend time trying to get as many answers as you possibly can before moving on to the next person.

These key questions include:

  • What are their birth details?
  • Did they marry and if so what are the details?
  • Did they have any children?
  • When and where did they die?

The answers to these questions should then go into your family tree along with any additional information that you pick up during your research, but there is no doubt that these questions are the basic things that any genealogist, professional or amateur, should be asking.

Contact Your Local Family History Society

There are now a number of local family history societies in existence and it is always a good idea to join one, there may be a small fee involved, as they will not only give you access to all kinds of records, but there will also be people there that are either experienced amateur genealogists or they may actually be professionals.

By going to these groups you should find that you are less likely to come up against a brick wall at an early stage as they will give you some pointers on what to do or where to search for a specific piece of information, so if you are serious about doing your family tree, then this is certainly something that you should consider doing.

Use Free Genealogy Resources Online

Apart from potentially paying a fee to join a family history society, there are a number of resources available online that are completely free to use and capable of providing you with all kinds of information about not only your relatives, but also give you access to branches of your family tree that have been completed by other people.

Websites to look out for include Rootsweb and as they have access to millions of records and there is a very good chance that you will be able to uncover all kinds of information without it costing you any money whatsoever.

Don't Forget To Use Genealogy Message Boards or Local Resources

There will come a point where you do get stuck and this is when it may be useful for you to post on a message board either directly related to family history or a message board for the town or city that you are interested in.

There is no doubt that this will increase the chances of you finding out about a particular address or an individual that lived there, but if a message board also comes up with nothing, then use other local resources such as local church records to try to further your research.

Try To Visit Places Associated With Your Ancestors

Even though so much information is available online it is still very useful indeed to go and actually visit a place in person and check out that gravestone or that building that appears in your family tree.

This is a fantastic way to just add to the story of your family, but if you are unable to travel, then do try searching online as it may surprise you as to the images that are already out there.

More Helpful Genealogy Articles

At some stage in our lives many of us feel the need to "find my Family History" to help us understand our place in the world. If you are new to genealogy then let's get started!

Enjoy Researching Your Family Tree!

Hopefully these tips on how to research your family tree will be of use to you. I hope that you will now see that it does not have to be as stressful or daunting as you may have initially thought.

The key thing is to stay focused and be organized at all times and life will then become a lot easier, but do be aware that researching your family tree can be quite addictive and do not be surprised if you are still trying to find out about that ancestor a few years down the line.

Updated: 12/04/2016, pkmcr
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pkmcr on 05/20/2013

@kimbesa it is amazing how much information can be gleaned from family member interviews with a lot of colour being added to the picture by their memories and recollections.

kimbesa on 05/20/2013

Time for me to dust off my research, too, before more of the old folks have passed on. If you ask the right questions, they will spill the answers.

pkmcr on 05/19/2013

@jptanabe that's brilliant and exactly what I would have hoped the page and research tips would do. Do let me know how you go on!

jptanabe on 05/19/2013

I did make an effort to research my family - got my mother to write down all she knew. Hit a couple of snags and put the project aside, for a few years! Your tips here have inspired me to dust of that effort and start up again.

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