The study of genealogy is often called building your own family tree. Years ago it was reserved for old people who were retired and had a lot of free time on their hands. Now with the internet there is a multitude of reference websites for genealogy and family history.
Much time is wasted by those that believe they can connect up to some famous person in history because that is what they were always told. It may turn out to be true or it may not, but if you do not go through the standard research steps, one by one, you will just be spinning your wheels and wasting time.
So here is a free set of 21 ways to help you grow your own family tree.
1 - Start with what you know about your immediate family and work backwards. This is the most important point and you must do it this way. You will thank me for this because each younger generation has the clues to finding the older generation. You must work from modern day backwards.
2 – Interview your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all known relatives, especially the older ones. Most of them will have some clues that you will be able to use in your search.
3 – Start now to get in the habit of using spiral notebooks for recording your data. They will be very handy in keeping your research in some form of chronological order. You will have plenty of loose sheets of photocopies and miscellaneous notes to file but if you use the spiral notebooks now they will be a big help as the years go by to be able to go back and refer to.
4 – Make a Pedigree Chart of your direct ancestors only, and then make Family Group Sheets (FGS) for all of the married couples. The FGS is probably the most important document to create because this is one place that you can see each family unit with all of their detailed vital statistics and dates. There is a place for the husband and wife, each of their parent’s names, and all of their children and who the children married.
5 – Use all of the Federal Census and State Census data that you can get on each person. Here you will get names and dates and immigration facts and you will be able to see the neighbors within their communities.
6 – Visit the cemeteries where you know ancestors are buried and record the stones of known people of interest and also note the names and dates of the people that are buried immediately adjacent to them. Chances are you will later find that they are related. The cemetery office or sexton might also have more detailed information than what is on the stone or a stone might be lacking but they would have the burial information.
7 – After you discover the death dates then find the newspaper obituaries because they will give additional information on other family member’s names.
8 – After you have recorded a few weeks of data, go back and interview the relatives that you had visited with previously. They will no doubt have remembered more details to tell you and when you arrive and show them what you have accomplished to date it will no doubt jog their memory and you will come up with some brand new clues. Always ask if they might have any old family bibles, diaries, family records, old letters, family photographs, etc., that you might be able to copy. These will lead you to many more details that will help to confirm relationships.
9 – There are many thousands of free websites that you will be able to get information from on the Internet. If you get serious about this endeavor you might also want to subscribe to some of the pay sites where you can get actual census details online. See: footnote.
10 – Some of the often used sites that I refer to are: ancestry.com, genealogy.com, familysearch.org (the Mormon site,) cyndislist.com, google.com, mapquest.com, rootsweb.com, USGenWeb.org (going down to the basic county Genweb pages will be most helpful,) and many more very useful free sites that you can find with a quick Google search.
11 – Join a Genealogical Society. There will usually be one near the area that you live or at least join one at a regional or statewide level. The information and education that you will get from them will be invaluable. They usually sponsor seminars and training classes that will also be most helpful.
12 – Get a Genealogical Software Program for your computer and document your sources to all of the data as you enter the information into your database. There are many free or shareware programs that you can download off the net. I like Legacy Family tree but there are many others available.
13 – Once your data is computerized you will be able to look at it in standard chart formats and print out nice reports, and share data with others through the mail or email. Most of these programs also have ways of adding scanned or downloaded images into your database which will make for a very professional looking report. There is also room to add biographical text which will keep the data from becoming dry to the casual reader and you can put meat on the bones of your long gone family members.
14 – Sharing with others will always bring nice results in return. You will find that most everyone in this hobby is willing to share their data and you will be able to keep building with the use of work done by others.
15 – Some other places that you will want to become acquainted with are the records that are available in various courthouses, such as land records, estate records, guardianships, and various civil records. These places will give you specific details that you will be able to receive no where else.
16 – Your state records for Births, Deaths and marriages will be located usually at your state capital, some states have them published on line and you should do a Google search to find them.
17 – The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is online and free. It can be searched at Ancestry.com. You can also download many free forms such as census extraction forms from Ancestry.com.
18 - There are some very good sites that you will be able to look at old maps, current and old topographical maps, aerial and satellite photos and many other very useful free sites of interest. It is best to Google these terms also because the sites keep changing.
19 – This is a hobby that will consume you if you get hooked, but set some goals and go out and record that data.
20 – Buy books, take courses, have fun.
21 - Take advantage of the FREE TRIAL at Newspaper Archive from this website. You may cancel at any time and there is no better place to find as much information all in one location.
(The Free Trial period has ended.)
Additional note, if you have been a reader of this website for some time now, you will notice that there is a new product being offered called the “Step by Step Genealogy Guide” over on the right hand side. It is filled with a ton of great ideas for you to use to help grow your family tree. This book is available to you instantly by just clicking on it.