When you look in the mirror, generations of your family are staring back. Through genealogy, the study of ancestry, you can discover the history of your family. Exploring lineage, and tracking its history with a family tree, can be a gift for generations to come. A family tree is a chart, or map, of your lineage that traces family members as far back as records exist.
Your ancestors’ experiences have undoubtedly influenced who you are today. Although you never met your great-great grandparents, they helped shape your life; as will your life’s story impact future generations. Your story and family tree might not have intrinsic value; but understanding your ancestors’ lives, and the journey that led to you, can give your family a sense of belonging and roots.
Creating a Family Tree
Knowing where to start and how to design a family tree can be tricky. We’ve outlined a few steps to help you get started.
1. Outline your immediate family
Start with yourself. Write down your birth location and date, followed by details of your spouse or partner, if applicable, and names and information about your children. Next, document details of your parents, such as their birth dates, marriage and death. Following this pattern, work backwards through each generation.
2. Collect family records
Ask family members for copies of photos, birth certificates, and other historical records that can help you build the family tree. These items can provide clues and a roadmap to ancestral discovery. If possible, an audio interview with parents and grandparents is a marvelous and more relaxed process. A recorded interview can lead to previously undocumented family “secrets” that will be treasured for years to come.
Once you’ve exhausted living family members’ resources, use the internet to search for ancestors in national archive catalogs and local directories. Local newspapers are also reliable sources for key family historical events. The exploration of your ancestors’ births, marriages, and deaths can help you unlock more details on your family’s past. A birth certificate can provide the names and occupation of parents; while marriage certificates list the age and occupations of the bride and groom. As a public covenant, churches and governments often keep marriage records on file too. Lastly, a death certificate will list an individual’s age and cause of death.
Another source of valuable information is your local library. There you can review original documents, or perhaps attend a family tree help session or workshop. In addition to a library, consider joining the Family History Federation. Fellow members discuss search strategies and resources, but also provide support as you explore and build your family tree.
Prior to adding new discoveries to your tree, always do a thorough investigation to ensure the facts. Not everyone is going to be related to King Henry or Joan of Arc, or have lineage with someone that arrived on the Mayflower.
3. Log your ancestry search
Carefully document your findings. As you discover more information about your ancestors, start a search log. It’s too easy to lose track of your sources and findings, so diligently record which ancestors you’ve searched for and where you looked.
4. Connecting the dots – Crafting the family tree
You can easily create a family tree using any number of graphing tools, but a couple of platforms stand out the most. These tools can be used to easily format and populate your family’s tree. HereToday has not been compensated for these recommendations.
Kiwitrees provides family history software, and web hosting that is maintained for you, risk free. With this service, you can invite family members to help contribute to the build of the family tree.
Canva has beautiful templates to help you create a family tree. We feel that Canva has an easy to use platform for uploading and editing images, as well as an array of editable illustrations and templates. When you’re done, simply save and download the file as a PDF. Of course, the next step is to upload the PDF to your HereToday Legacy Vault.
Genealogy is about what makes us who we are. It’s about historical family members with whom we form deep connections; but it’s also about your family’s future. Through a family tree, you can clearly outline your family’s lineage; including your life’s experiences, which will directly impact generations to come.
Disclaimer. HereToday is not a legal service. This content should not be taken as legal advice. Before drafting any legal document, please consult an attorney.