Genealogy is a very rewarding hobby, and with the help of library resources, you can find and add ancestors to your tree. But, how do you begin? These 4 tips will get you off to a quick start on your family tree:
Keep it simple
Begin with a basic paper pedigree/tree form and fill in basic information. You can always enter this information later into an online tree or computer genealogy program. An ancestral chart allows you to see your family tree at a glance: https://www.archives.gov/files/research/genealogy/charts-forms/ancestral-chart.pdf The standard is to use maiden names for women; use UNKNOWN for those names you cannot find documentation for. You might use a question mark (?) for information believed to be correct but not yet verified.
Start and stay organized
Details for parents and their children are easily grouped together on a family group sheet: https://www.archives.gov/files/research/genealogy/charts-forms/family-group-sheet.pdf Keep these and ancestral charts in a binder, grouped by family lines. Add copies of record images as you find them, and file them according to their subject person. A child from one family gets moved to their own family group sheet when they marry.
Always begin with the facts you already know about your family. Fill in family group sheets for your parents, and then for their parents. Verify and document dates and locations of births, marriages and deaths wherever possible. Research and fill in one generation at a time. If you get stuck on a date or location, make a note and get research help at the library to find the documentation that you are missing.
Do not assume someone else’s research on your family is correct. Many well-meaning hobby genealogists post their family trees without any supporting records. Inaccuracies are easily passed on, and multiple online family trees may share the same incorrect information. You can get great research clues by using someone’s existing tree, but ALWAYS verify suggested information by finding records that document it. When you are stumped at proving some information for an ancestor (known as a “brick wall”), keep a research log to note what documentation you are missing, and use this to guide your next steps.
Want to learn the basics of building a family tree? Register (beginning July 15th) for our Genealogy Basics class being held August 31, 2022, from 10AM to 11AM.