Tracing Your Family Tree


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Genealogy and family history is the study of one’s ancestors. With many societies and organizations dedicated to the study of genealogy all over the world, there are many resources available to help the beginning genealogy enthusiast to jump start their search. Government records, such as census information, birth and death records, as well as marriage certificate databases are available to be searched. To begin, there are five basic steps to follow in order to have a successful genealogical search. Documenting, researching, cross referencing, recording, and compiling are all important parts of building your family tree.

Work with What You Already Know

Making a pedigree chart of what you already know about your family is a good starting point. You might know more than you think. For example, write down the birthdays, anniversary date, and other important information going as far back as possible. Even knowing a distant relative’s name can help you in your search. Talk to other family members who might be able to fill in the blanks. Going through old letters, journals, and newspaper clippings can be both nostalgic and informative. When you find a piece of information, add it to your pedigree chart.

Beginner’s Pedigree Chart

Printable Genealogy Forms

The Librarian and the Genealogist

Know Who You Are Looking For

There is lots of information out there, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. To better focus your search, narrow down the information you are looking for at any given time. Try focusing on one person, preferably a relative born before the 1900s. Take it a step at a time and work with a list of concrete questions, including where and when they were born or died, and to whom were they married. By concentrating on one person before moving on to the next, you will have a better chance of starting your next focus with more information and a better chance at successfully adding to your family tree.

CPE Genealogy Search

University of Virginia Genealogy Resources

Research Your Records

Compiled and original records can both help a budding genealogist in their hunt for information. Original records include newspaper clippings, obituaries, birth certificates, and any other documentation that took place near the time of the event being researched. Compiled records are a bit different, they include previously researched family history documents, existing genealogy records, and biographies of a relative; these documents do not have the period time stamp of original records. It is recommended that when searching for documents, that you look for compiled first, before original; compiled may produce more information that only what was being looked for.
U.S. Census Bureau

The National Archives

Medical Archives

Search and Seizure, Genealogy Style

Searching through records can be very time consuming, checking and double checking the spelling of family names, cross-checking references, and nailing down the correct information is part of the thrill of genealogy. To look through records, it is best to print or make copies of your findings, this will not only make it easier for you research, but you will be able to compile your research for others to use in the future. By printing and tracking your sources, you will save yourself the time of checking duplicate sources.

Family History & Genealogy

Knowledge is power – Use It

After all of your hard work and accumulated hours of searching, it would be a shame to let all of that research go to waste. Use the information you have found to add to your pedigree chart and your family tree. By adding, you have not only accomplished a goal that you set for yourself, but you have made added to the information that others can research in the future. Organize your research so that it easy to sort, chronologically would be the best way; that way, when you get the itch to research your family history again, you can pick up right where you left off, knowing what is already in your research. Sharing your family history information can be a bonding experience and spark interest in younger generations to continue researching and adding to the family tree.

James Madison Genealogy Resources

The National Genealogy Society

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