Trace Your Lineage With Five Key Genealogy Factors

Genealogy is also known as family lineage. It means you collect the names of relatives, both living and deceased, and establish the relations they have amongst each other. If you do your work well you also document important and ‘incidental’ facts. Anyone who researches his family history is a genealogist, be it a hobbyist or a professional.

Genealogy Graveyard

Genealogy Research – Image by jfholloway on Flickr

If you want to make an in deep study of your family and your forefathers you need to collect specific information. These are some basic facts you will need to find out during your research efforts.

Family Names

The family surname (last name) is critical in genealogical research. You start with it and it might help you to find family branches that used variations on that name.

The surname commonly comes from a male head of the family, the village the family lived or the occupation of the family. For instance, The MacDonald surname is for people who descended from a man called Donald. The surname Sawrey is the name of a village in England where the family lived. The surname Taylor hints to the way the family made a living.

You will find totally different names in your family lineage, indicating the marriage of daughters who were important to the history of your family. These names could be similar if they were neighbors in the same village. They could be totally different nationalities or ethnic groups, representing the mix of different cultures through intermarriage and migration. Most US immigrants took new surnames after their arrival at Ellis Island, either because their surname was just too difficult to pronounce or the official of the immigration office misspelled their name!

During the years surnames changed into different forms and names, while families migrated to a different location, took another dialect or language or had a private reason for changing their name (maybe escaping from the law enforcement?).

For example, the clan MacDonald also has the McDonalds, MacDonnells and McConnell.

To discover the surname of your ancestors you might want to try the public records on birth, marriage and death. Trying to trade directories or census results might also help.


A vital part of finding out about your lineage is knowing where your forefathers lived. It is very common that families migrate, or split, and build empires. To find out the whereabouts of your family you need to research important records like census documents, records on estate, probate, land purchases and sales, and court proceedings.

When you list a name of a place for a member of your family or family branch, always start small. So the village first, then the county, then the province or the state and finally the country. This way you avoid confusion.

Given Names

Given names or first names are essential in genealogy. Our earliest forefathers were very often only known by a single name; therefore the Clan MacDonald descends from Donald. Later on it became useful to tell people in a family apart by a separate and unique name.

First names may help you to establish relationships within the family and give away something about the history of the family. First names often are surnames or another member of the family. So they are worthwhile hints for your lineage research.

A son’s given name could be linked to a grandfather from either father’s or mother’s side. A daughter may have inherited her first name from one of her grandmothers. The mother’s maiden name may also have served as a given name at some point in history.


It is important to know when certain events happened in the family when you are building a family tree. Like the dates of birth, marriage and deaths of your ancestors. Other important events like a baptism, transfer of a property, medical assistance or a trial can spice up the history of your family, give important information about the age they lived in and give you more clues to follow in your research.

Essential government records, church records, the family’s bible, diaries and letters are all sources for dates that have been important to your family.

Occupation and Employment

An important piece of information is what your forefathers did for a living. It will help your digging and give you sufficient context to better understand the history of your family. In history trades were passed on from father to son. A lot of families took a surname that depicts their trade or occupation. Think of surnames like Tailor, Shepherd, Fisher, Baker, Clark (clerk), Chandler (candle maker), Bowman, and Seaman, to just name a few. The very common name smith comes from the occupation blacksmith.

City directories, lists of trade membership, military service records and obituaries are great sources of information in regard of occupations.

When you start digging in the history of your family and your forefathers, it’s best you start with the five key factors of genealogy, the five basic sources of information. Now, get started and do some fantastic genealogical digging!

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