There’s nothing quite as rewarding as exploring your family tree—and it’s lots of fun! Who doesn’t enjoy finding out all about their “begats” and imagining what kind of people they were? Today’s Internet options make it easy to delve into your heritage, and here we have three great tips for making your very own family tree.
1. Download a form to list the details you discover.
Visit a website like…
to download a free family tree builder. Once you’ve finished the download, you have the option to upgrade to a version that costs money—you can decline that. The tree builder will take you through the process of building your family tree person by person, step by step. You will begin by entering the names for yourself, your spouse (if any), and your children. Then you will notice options to click above those blocks in order to add your parents.
This website also allows you to publish your family tree on the Internet and even invites known family members to add to it. That way your siblings or cousins can input their information.
If you don’t want to download a product from a genealogy website, you might want to visit…
This is a company that offers both free and low-cost PDF family tree charts that you can click on and print. The free versions can record about a half dozen generations. Even if you want something that will go back as far as fifteen generations, it only costs five bucks. If you are accessing a free version, you simply click “Download Now” and you will have the free chart, ready to print and fill in.
2. Take advantage of the holidays and family reunions.
Oh, those old folks are so full of boring ancient stories, aren’t they? Well, when it comes time to do your family tree, there is no better tip than jotting down details from those tales. When your Aunt Jane talks about the year she wore a pink pleated dress to Aunt Hymie’s birthday party—which was the same year that Great Uncle Horace died from diphtheria—write down those details!
Better yet, grab a cheap tape recorder or even a video camera and record those stories. You want to get all the details, and if you keep stopping your elderly relative so that you can write down what she’s saying, there’s a good chance the two of you will be interrupted or she will just lose her train of thought.
- Who was Aunt Hymie married to?
- What street did Uncle Horace live on?
- Were there any musicians (writers, steel mill workers, nurses) in the family?
- How did she meet her husband?
Remember, all this information is free and near to you right now for the asking. If you wait until after Aunt Jane has passed away, all those stories will be lost.
3. Take advantage of free resources from your government.
You may not be able to find everything you want on the Internet. Births, deaths, marriages, and divorces—plus more—are a matter of public record in most countries. You just need to know how to access those records. If you write to a city or county clerk of courts, be certain to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your request.
You may have seen a television commercial in which a woman talks about finding out on a certain website that she discovered she lived only four blocks away from her grandmother’s childhood home. The U.S. Census website itself does not provide detailed census records. It depends on volunteers to digitize records for easy searching.
Ancestry.com & Heritagequest.com are two commercial sites that have accessed and digitized many government records. They may charge you for accessing detailed records but most likely will offer you free access to general census data. Once you locate your ancestors in a census listing, you will be able to see the names of other people who lived in the household and add them to your family tree.
Once you get your search underway, you are limited only by your patience and enthusiasm. Many countries or counties maintain electoral rolls and military records. Search your local newspapers’ archives for ancestral names. Visit the county auditor’s property search tool and enter ancestors’ names. You never know how far back you can trace your roots until you try.