When you make the decision to delve into your family tree it can seem like an overwhelming process & you may not know where to start. Here are some helpful tips to guide you on your way!
1. Gather As Much Information as Possible
What do you already know? Logically, the best place is to start with you & your own immediate family. Gather any information from records you may have laying around the house, or by asking parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc for information. This should give you a starting point. While you may not have the details, such as important dates, you should have enough information to begin your search.
2. Get Organized
Whether you’re just looking to learn about your grandparents or trying to trace your tree back as far as you can, it just makes sense to organize yourself. With so much information it can seem hard to keep track of it. Luckily, we have so many different programs today at our fingertips to use.
Ancestry.com has an excellent program called Family Tree Maker. You can purchase the software right from their website & easily get started.
Another alternative is to find freeware to use instead. There are a countless free & outstanding programs out there, such as GRAMPS, Legacy Family Tree or Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage (which is pictured below).
You should find any of these options relatively straightforward to use. Programs like these make it easy to keep track of all of that information & most will even create a diagram for you.
Researching your family tree can be a daunting task. Your best bet is to single in on one part of the family to research. Start off by picking one person, or even a surname. This should help you narrow your search & keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
4. Try to Find Accurate Sources
While talking with relatives may give you a general idea of some information, it’s not always the most reliable source. A good researcher will always back up their information with credible sources, such as birth certificates, marriage licences, death records, etc.
You may be able to get copies of these directly from family members, or, if your family is in/from a nearby town, you can visit courthouses, city hall, libraries & sometimes even local museums for documentation.
5. Go Online
We live in the digital age, so it makes sense that your search will at one point lead you to the internet. While information here can be less accurate, there still are a lot of credible websites to use, such as ancestry.com. There are also great databases & discussion boards to take advantage of. Get involved on Facebook & Twitter. These are great ways to either start a group with your relatives, or reach out to companies & other passionate people to swap stories, get information or share helpful tips!
6. Stay Organized!
Make sure you’re keeping track of all the new information you’ve been gathering. Be sure to keep updating your records with dates, pictures, etc. Keep all your hardcopies in a safe, dry place. You may even wish to scan them into your computer & then import them directly into your family tree software.
7. Share Your Information
This may not seem like a step about researching, but it can be. By sharing your findings with your family, you may just uncover another detail that was forgotten, or even inspire another relative (or two) to join you on your search.
8. Figure out What’s Next
If you get as far as you want, or are able to, why not think about visiting the place where your ancestors lived? This is a thrilling way to retrace the steps of your relatives & have a meaningful experience.
When you’re ready to, why not focus in on another branch of the family & repeat the process all over again? There’s always another journey to take & more stories to unfold!