Discover your Family Tree Today

Tips for Tracing Your Family Roots through Genealogy Research

You might be amazed at what you can discover about your heritage. Researching your family tree can be very rewarding when you find "the document" that reveals family history. It can also be frustrating when you can’t locate what you are looking for. But by attaining that one source that helps you go one generation deeper, or discover a new genealogy fact is satisfying to all genealogy hunters. Building a solid family history with proper sources requires many hours of research and tons of patience. As you make progress, it’s important to carefully track all of your findings. This is essential to preserving your ancestry and ensures that all the hours of hard work put into growing your genealogy roots won’t go unnoticed.

Manage Your Sources

Once you start your research and start to unearth sources, be sure to document where you found the source. This is known as the repository. Writing down everything and copying all pertinent family information will make it easy for yourself and others to go back and investigate the record again. And yes, on more than one occasion, you will end up needing to go back and look up the document or directing a relative to the same source.

Sources abound on the Internet, the library, genealogical societies, and government records. It’s really easy to copy information from someone's tree, but beware of doing this. Most trees contain little or no sources. Locate sources that substantiate a family history, before copying and sharing your collection with others. Otherwise you might discover a lot of roots and no branches. If you do copy the information, make sure you give credit to the person and repository where you found it. Your documented heritage should always contain sources to back-up your ancestry.

Keep Track of the Little Things

Recording both your research methods and findings will help keep all research efforts up-to-date and, if another relative takes over as the record keeper in the years to come, this documentation will make his or her task easier.

Record your successes and failures too. Pointing out dead ends will help prevent future genealogists from making the same mistake and could even remind you of leads you followed that went nowhere.

Many genealogists recognize that carefully documenting their research (both the successful leads and the dead ends) often helps in paving the way for a new research idea. You never know when or where you’re going to come across a key piece of genealogy information that will unlock more family history.

Analyze your Genealogy Research"

Accurate Family Genealogy Research

You will inevitably find sources that contradict collected genealogy information that was thought to be true. This may be due to inaccurate memories passed down within a family, or it could be a mistake by the person who created the written record. You may even locate a historical document that contradicts another one. For example, a census could have been filled out by someone who didn't bother to ask the spelling of the relative’s name or the information could have been given by a neighbor or the eldest child in the house.

To make sure a tree is as accurate as possible, write down all dates and events and make notes as to why you think certain genealogy information is correct. You can spend years trying to figure out which exact dates and places are relevant when you have multiple sources that don't have the same details. Transcribing everything from your research will make it easier to compare notes later.

Stay Focused with One Task at a Time

When you get over-whelmed with your genealogy research, document what you have done, take a break, and come back to it later. At the end of the day, the process should be enjoyable and rewarding, so when things get frustrating take a step back and take a deep breath. Clear your mind of the forest. Concentrate on the core, the roots. This will help you stay energized and focused with the task at hand.

Begin your Family Tree with Yourself

You may be surprised at how much you already know about people, places, and events. Begin your search by writing down everything that you can remember about yourself and your relative's births, deaths, marriages, graduations, military service, places of employment, and so on. You’ll also want to set up a filing system that you will use to collect the photographs, newspaper clippings, diaries, and letters that your ancestors kept. You’ll use these tools to gather and organize the many documents that you uncover during your genealogical research.

Whatever your organization preference is – folders, notebooks, boxes, large envelopes, etc. – be consistent with your filing system. Scanning all your documents and adding them to your genealogy tree will help keep your genealogy research organized. Make sure you have a back-up of all your data. You can lose your data if your computer crashes, or in the unfortunate event that a natural disaster hits your home. Having an external recovery plan is always a good idea.

Interview your Relatives to Discover your Heritage

After writing down everything you remember, start reaching out to your family. Parents and grandparents are often good sources of genealogy information, but they should not be the only people who you should interview. Branch out and discover your roots. Talk with your aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends. They can give you stories other than the ones you have been hearing your entire life from your parents and grandparents. Not only will you learn about your ancestors, but you may learn something new about your relatives who are still around.

When you speak with each person, it is important to ask questions that don’t just focus on when births and deaths occurred. A good tree is more than just dates and places. You will want to learn about the personalities of your ancestors, and what their lives were like. It is important to relax and take your time when interviewing your relatives. You may discover unexpected family history.

Search the Internet with Caution

Although scouring the Internet can be a fast way to find genealogy data you need, the information you turn up may not always be the most reliable. Some genealogical websites enable people to help each other locate sources and share knowledge. While communicating over the Internet, remember people have different backgrounds, different degrees of knowledge and capabilities. Make sure you verify any shared data; otherwise your genealogy tree can become a tree of misinformation.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced genealogist, don’t rely solely on the Internet for building your tree. Historical Societies, the National Archives, LDS Family History Centers, newspaper archives, and local libraries are just a few other great sources that can help you research your heritage. Learn how to get better online genealogy.

Record your Genealogy and Share your Discoveries

Be sure to organize your genealogy data as you go along. Record everything you gather and remember to keep adding to the files that you have created. Also, be sure to keep your search log and task list up-to-date.

If you can only unearth one document you should include a narrative of why you think this one document is proof for your ancestor. If you can’t locate any documents, you should still write a narrative as to why you think someone belongs in your tree.

Try doing various ancestry searches to find alternative sources. While doing genealogy research you will get stuck looking for a document to substantiate a fact. This is known as hitting a brick wall. When this happens, you will most likely move on to a different relative and eventually return to the task you started years ago. If you do not document your research, you may end up starting from scratch and redoing the same search over and over again, creating a cycle of brick walls.

You should also remember to keep your family up to date on all of your discoveries. If you’ve created an online genealogy tree, you can easily share your research with relatives and friends. As you add new genealogy information to your tree, it may help jog the memories of your relatives and reveal more of your heritage. Remember that your family has many stories to tell. Treasure the heirlooms you find and keep it alive by sharing your roots with future generations.