Did you know that scientists were able to create a family tree that spans 13 million people?
For all that we feel like the world is full of strangers, it’s quite stunning to realize the family bonds that cross cultures, countries, races, and time. If you’re interested in figuring out how to build a family tree of your own, you’ve come to the right place.
Keep on reading for our eight tips on researching your family tree, and what sorts of documents and sources of information you should hunt down to start documenting your family history.
1. Creating Your Family Tree 101: Write Everything Down
We mean everything you could possibly have on hand or know about at this point in time. One of the trickiest things about hunting down family information is the lack of documentation, especially the deeper into the past you go.
That’s why your first step should be writing down all the information that’s closest to you. This way, you’ll be able to instantly identify what’s lacking, and where the gaps in your knowledge lie.
You can start by creating a fun family tree by purchasing a long roll of paper, then set it up on a visual board of some sort. If you’re unfamiliar with genealogy, and the process of making a family tree, you can check out how to make a family tree here.
2. Quantify Your Information
Whatever information you currently have on hand, you’ll want to start adding numbers and establishing a timeline for the qualitative stories.
For instance, you can add numerical information like dates of births, deaths, and numbers of siblings and children. Furthermore, you can add geographical information.
Start listing places of marriage, births, and burials. You can also start writing down all the full names you can get, especially the women’s maiden names, which can be a bit harder to nail down.
3. Gather Family Stories
This can be one of the most fun steps of creating your family tree. You get to speak to everyone in your family, both close and distant and collect every story and anecdote they remember.
At this stage, you can informally ask your family members and join them in reminiscing about the past. You’ll be surprised at the sheer volume of relevant, interesting, and sometimes bizarre, family stories that you can document.
In addition, make sure to start with the oldest family members like your great-grandparents, and grandparents. The elders of the family are usually a treasure trove of stories about the past generations that you wouldn’t have had the chance to meet.
Moreover, after collecting these stories, you can ask to see some photographs, if they’re available. Visual representations in photographs can give you essential links between gaps in your knowledge regarding the social status of past family generations, as well as some information that could be lost in time, as our elders’ memories fade.
4. Ask for Help and Guidance
Don’t forget that you’re not alone on your genealogy journey. There are tons of solid blogs, websites, and networking groups that can help you research your family history.
You can check out genealogy-based groups on social media, and you might even find a local genealogical society or family history events in your area. Just make sure you have all the information that you gathered on hand for reference.
5. Conduct DNA Testing
If you haven’t already done some DNA testings, you should definitely give it a go. DNA research, and the human genome, has become a concrete part of genealogist research tools.
The benefits of doing a DNA test is the ability to access biological information that you can’t get by any other means. A DNA test will seamlessly put you in contact with relatives that you didn’t even know existed, and through them, you’ll be able to collect additional qualitative information, and maybe even take a copy or two of old photographs.
Currently, you’ll be delighted to see that DNA tests are now becoming more affordable for everyone as well.
6. Check Out Family Wills
Another great avenue of information can be found in family wills. Of course, taking a look at the wills of direct relatives and ancestors is a no-brainer. However, have you done the same for distant relatives, like second aunts, cousins, and even neighbors?
All of these can be rather useful resources for you to check out. Admittedly, you might not necessarily find killer information in the wills and last testaments of your neighbors, yet, you’ll be surprised at the critical clues some of them can add to your research.
The least that these documents can offer is little hints of where to look next.
7. Examine Land Records
Money makes the world go round. And, when it comes to the U.S., we can add owning land to that sentiment. By taking a look at sales history for land ownership, you might be able to get more clues about the geographical movements of your ancestors.
In addition, these records can give you names and information on the people who sold or bought the property from your relatives, and they can add more history to your records.
8. Go Through Military Pension Records
Yes, you read that correctly. Not military service records, military pension records.
The great thing about military pension records is that it can be an ancestor that applies for the pension, their widow, or even their elderly parents.
The application has some unique features, like requiring descriptions of the person’s service, their marriages, their family relations, and even more people to vouch for their character and truthfulness in the form of affidavits.
Ready to Start Your Family Research Journey?
Once people embark on the genealogical journey of family history, they tend to discover life-changing information and meet new relatives that add so much value to their lives.
We hope that our eight critical tips were able to help you establish where you should start with building your family tree. Yet, you’ll want to add more tips to your knowledge of how to use social media in your research.
For that, check out our social media section for all the tips you could possibly need.