Discover your Family Tree Today

Easy Steps to Start Your Genealogy

Genealogy, often misspelled as geneology, is the study of someone's heritage and recording their lineage. Researching your ancestry is detective work. Finding that one source that helps us go one generation deeper, or helps to uncover a new family fact is very rewarding. To get started with discovering your heritage, follow these steps:

Start with what You Know

Record important information for yourself, your parents, and siblings. This includes: birth, marriage, death, graduations, military service, residence, stories, pictures, and everything that can be found. The next steps are to organize, analyze, and assemble all the documents and family facts. This can be overwhelming, especially as you start to add more information and more family members. Genealogy programs are great with organizing information. They allow users to attach documents and media files to multiple people, and they make it easy to change and add information to your family tree.

Interview Your Relatives

As a next step, reach out to relatives. Parents and grandparents are often helpful with heritage and folklore. Interview all your living relatives. Talking with aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends can produce pictures, documents, and stories. Not only will you learn about your ancestors, but you may learn something new about your living relatives.

When you speak with each person, it is important to ask questions that don’t just focus on when and where births and deaths occurred. Try learning more than just dates and places. Find out about the personalities of your ancestors, and what their lives were like. It is important to relax and take time when interviewing relatives to learn as much as possible.

Gather Family Genealogy Details

You may or may not have relatives that can help with your heritage quest. Even if you do, how much do they remember? What do they have to share? Don't rely solely on stories. Genealogists should back up their ancestry with documents to support their heritage. Find various genealogy records like: social security, death records, census records, obituaries, birth announcements, family letters, wills, etc. Using a variety of sources helps to build a solid family history.

When conducting genealogy searches, the Internet can be a fast way to find data, the information turned up may not always be the most reliable. Beware of databases, indexes, trees and documents that are found on the internet. Verify all documents that are not original sources, before adding them to a family tree. Sources that are not original may have errors as the person doing the copying and typing can make mistakes.

Family Tree Genealogy

Record Relationships and Kinship

Finding the right historical records to establish biological kinship is essential to building a reliable family tree. Ideally original records are the best, since the data within those sources are not tampered with and you can see the details first-hand. Finding vital documents, and last will and testaments usually contain the most reliable family history information. This is because these types of documents contain facts that are recorded by someone with first-hand knowledge, which tends to be accurate.

Finding facts through websites and databases where the information is transcribed from original document should be used with caution, as errors can and do occur while copying data. Genealogists must skillfully assemble their findings and analyze the data for evidence in order to build a case of identity and kinship for the people listed in their tree to create a cohesive family genealogy.

Through your research, you may find someone that claims they are a relative. If you desire to meet them, be careful and conduct a people search to make sure they do not have a criminal record.

Get Organized, Stay Focused

Create a task list for your family genealogy research. Add as much detail as possible with what is known and what has already been tried. Research takes many years and there will be times you get busy with other things and your hobby will be put on the back burner. If you created and maintained a task and research list it will be easy to pick up where you left off; it will save you from redoing research that was already done.

When planning a trip to a historical society or library find out as much as possible before making the trip. Know the hours of operation, what records they have, and plan for what you want to accomplish. Time might be limited so make the most out of your visit. When looking through books and films, take the time to record everything, stay organized, and stay focused. Upon returning home, you will be better prepared to analyze and evaluate the data.

We all run into issues where we need to reference the original document and if the data gathered doesn’t make sense, what is copied may end up as erroneous data. Worse than that, is if you get home and try to sort through your notes and copies, and can’t make heads or tails of the information, the time and money spent might not yield the same results as being organized and staying focused. Building a solid family history with sources requires many hours of research. Some search efforts will help further your genealogy and some will not. Documenting all findings, whether successful or not, will help to pave new search ideas as well as keep you from doing the same research again in the future.

Share with Family

Keep your relatives up to date on all of your discoveries by sharing your results through an online genealogy tree. As you add new details, it may help jog the memories of your relatives to uncover and fill in missing family history information.