Keep in mind when creating your family tree, it is more than just dates and places.
Finding family documents, photos, wills, probates, deeds, marriage certificates,
military, birth, death and census records are important. They validate history and
bring a family tree to life.
Searching your ancestry can be a fun family event. Getting everyone involved with
gathering photos, archives, and stories can help bring your relatives together by
spending time discussing and sharing all the findings. You can also find other researchers
through genealogy boards and forums that are willing to give helpful hints and tips
and even do look-ups for you.
Genealogy Research Planning
Before you get buried with information; decide what type of information and records
you want to look for. This can help keep a focused goal and what should be explored,
by devising a fact-finding plan. Being organized and knowing as much as possible
about the area your ancestor lived in and what documents are available for the time
period that you are trying to discover/uncover will help you immensely in tracing your family tree.
How to Start Tracing your Heritage
With the internet, tracing our ancestors has become easier. Sources, photos, newspapers,
and online family trees have all become more accessible. All data, especially transcribed
information should be used with caution and should be verified before adding anything
to your genealogy tree. False information and trees with errors can lead you down
the wrong path. People referencing early territories that were not formed until
later, or who claim they have family history facts from a birth, death, or marriage
certificate before they were available are just a few examples.
Both beginner and veteran genealogists should always strive to learn something
new about their hobby. Learning how to research and refine techniques to narrow
down missing family information is a goal that we try to emphasis. Genealogy seminars,
blogs, videos, tradeshows, historical societies, and state or national archives
are a few places that you can learn about researching your genealogy.
Documenting Your Family History Research and Genealogy
If you can only find one document, include a narrative of why this one record
is proof for your family. If no sources can be found a written narrative should
be added for the ancestor explaining why they belong in your tree. Click on this
link to see a helpful list
While doing genealogy research everyone will get stuck looking for a document
to substantiate a fact. This is known as hitting a brick wall. When this happens,
go onto a different relative and eventually return to the task that once was started
(possibly years ago). If you do not document your work, you will end up starting
from scratch and redoing the same investigation over (maybe even several times),
creating a cycle of brick walls.
What Documents Should you Use for your Research?
There are lots of documents that can help with your research. Choosing the right
type of document can help you to build your family tree. Deciding which one to find
can help you prove a relationship or fact about a person. It is important to use
many sources that help you to build a solid family tree that verifies relationships
and important facts about each ancestor.
You may be tempted to copy information found on the internet and add it to your
data. Be cautious and only add data that is supported by facts. Even then, you need
to analyze and verify the data so you are not sent in the wrong direction and building
a tree based on information that seems correct. To help you discover your family
tree, include lots of genealogy research to find the important documents that back
up the facts. Below are some important source types that can help you link family
members, as well as, find important genealogy facts for the people in your trees.
Finding Family Relationships through Documents
Try using the following documents for discovering relationships: Military pension
applications, census records, naturalization documents, marriage license, passenger
lists, last will and testaments, probate records, guardianship, court records, cemeteries,
family letters, photographs, SS-5 Forms, or engagement, birth, and obituary announcements.
Finding Vital Facts for an Ancestor
You can discover indirect and direct vital information for a person through: census
records, headstones, military records, obituaries, birth and death certificates,
church records, obituaries, original social security application, passports, draft
registrations, and naturalization records.
Organizing Your Genealogy Research
Set up a filing system to organize all your findings before getting consumed with
lots of information and papers. There are several options to setting up a filing
system to organize what has been accumulated. Some options to file your collection
is by year, alphabetically, or by setting up folders for direct family members then
alphabetically for each ancestor within the 4 main files. Research will produce
many different articles and will require some type of organization. Putting all
similar documentation in color coded folders filed by year alphabetically is another
Whatever organization method is used: folders, notebooks, boxes, large envelopes,
etc., be consistent with a filing system. Scanning all documents and adding them
to a tree will help keep your genealogy legwork organized. Another safety measure
is to have a back-up of all your information. You can lose your data if your computer
crashes, as well as if a natural disaster hits your home. Having an external recovery
plan is always a good idea.