Building a Family Tree is something that has become much more widespread and easier to do in recent years. With the introduction of genealogy websites that allow people to create family trees with hardly any effort on their part, people find that jotting down their family history for future generations is enjoyable and easy to do. It is worthwhile keeping the following ten strategies in mind in order to help you when building your family tree…
Understand how large your family tree can potentially be Often, when people start working on plotting their family tree, they are unaware of how large their tree can become. People keep in mind siblings and even the first circle of relatives but forget extended relatives. Most people are able, with relatively little effort, to trace their family tree back 150 years- or five generations. This often equals thousands of potential people!
Work Backwards or Sideways?
You have to decide whether you want to take one family branch and follow it back as far as possible or to go sideways and try and note all branches that are still alive. Such decisions depend on where your family originates and how much time you have to devote to the project. If your family comes from a place that has official records then you will have an easier time working backwards. If not, it may be easier to start with the second option and try to build up a tree of living members.
The Older the Records, the More Effort Required
Usually people will try tracing their family tree both backwards and sideways simultaneously. If you decide to do so it is probably best to start tracing branches that are easiest to trace- which usually means the younger branches. In general, the further back one goes the more time, effort and resources required. Keep in mind that tracing information about one person from centuries ago may take the same amount of time and effort to trace a few people from an earlier period so think about where you want to concentrate your efforts.
Talk to Family Members
Living members of the family will often know information about the family that you don’t and it is worthwhile talking to as many family members as possible in order to build up the family tree and to fill in gaps that you yourself may not know. Take advantage of older family members who may not be around for long and who tend to be most knowledgeable about family history.
Don’t Waste Time Researching What Others Have Already Researched
Do make sure to find out if a family member has family records that could be helpful to you before doing your own independent research only to find that the information was under your nose all along! There are also online genealogy resources that contain records from genealogy forums and online family trees- make sure to check them out and to see if some family relative has been doing research before you started.
Use your Local Library
Much genealogy internet research can prove to be expensive with some charging monthly or pre-record fees. Free records do exist online but it can take some time to find them. Check out the free resources before dishing out money for the subscription websites. In addition be sure to take advantage of your local library- many libraries have internet subscriptions to popular genealogy websites.
It is important not to accept all sources as they are- not all people are vigilant when creating family trees, sources can be wrong or questionable. Make sure to read sources more than once and to verify that they are reliable.
Make Sure Your Records Are Reliable
As a natural follow-on from the above point, make sure that your records are carefully made. Document sources and it is worthwhile keeping a genealogical journal to prevent you having to redo work that you may forget about later. In addition, there will be periods when progress is slow and you may have to leave the work for a period of time and pick it up again at a later date when there are new leads. Be prepared to treat your family history research as a hobby on the one hand and on the other hand a serious hobby that you make serious records for.
It is commonplace for genealogists to come across conflicting information especially in the cases of individuals from many centuries ago when less people were literate and records were not kept as carefully. By keeping careful records and questioning all sources you will have an easier time sorting out such conflicting information.
If you want to be successful in building your family tree you have to know that at times the work will be slow and takes time and effort. Genealogy can take a long time but the most important thing is to enjoy the process! You are noting down invaluable information for generations to come and your family tree will reflect your ever-growing family- have fun with it!