Learning how to do a family tree and tracing genealogy can be a rewarding experience of self-discovery. Genealogy as a hobby is the research and study of one’s ancestry and family history. A family tree is a graphical representation of this family ancestry. The family tree shows the relationship and lineage of different branches within the family’s history.
There is an innate human curiosity to understand your ancestry and the interesting stories and anecdotes that travel along the branches of your family tree. Learning how to do a family tree is a fascinating hobby that not only helps you satisfy your own ancestral curiosity but also provides a living family legacy that can be used a reference for other and future members of your family.
The importance of family heritage is complimented by the growth in available resources for information. It requires no special training, only a healthy dose of curiosity to get started.
Genealogy has well documented roots in biblical times yet there is proof in the form of cave drawings that humans began to document their family (or tribe) lineage far before the birth of Christ. Family history has played not only an important role in satisfying curiosity, but in some early cultures, proving your lineage was required to claim status, tribal, marital and religious claims.
Although gathering genealogy history can be tedious and quite difficult for certain family branches, the availability and consistency of vital genealogy records has vastly improved over time. Additionally, tools to help you in tracing genealogy and learning how to do a family tree are widely available online. Whereas your ancestors relied on family stories and local birth, death, and marriage records, your research will rely more on the Internet and its vast depth of genealogy tools and services.
Did You Know?
- Genealogy is derived from Greek terms meaning “generation” and “knowledge”.
- The Mormon Church maintains the largest genealogical library in the world.
- Genealogy was first recognized as a professional field of study in 1964.
- In early history most people in Europe had only one name. To help differentiate, a second name was added based often on one’s profession or home location; hence John Cook, John Shoemaker, John Brook.
- The first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island was Annie Moore from Ireland in 1892. The last person was a Norwegian named Arne Peterssen in 1954.
Getting Started With Tracing Genealogy
A family tree is not a tree without roots. It branches below the ground representing each past generation. Marriage is the union of two separate families, each with a separate history. Immediate and future family generations make up the branches located above the ground. Tracing genealogy requires research into the history of family unions and keeping up with the new generations. Some often find other distant relatives with similar genealogy interests who have posted family tree information online.
It is also helpful to learn basic family relationships. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are simple definitions. Aunts and uncles are the brothers and sisters of parents. It becomes more complicated with cousins. A first cousin relationship is established with the children of aunts and uncles. Second cousins are the children of first cousins. What about cousins once removed? This is the relationship established between a second cousin and the parent of a second cousin.
In addition to understanding basic genealogy terminology, it’s also a great idea to chat with family members to find out what information, if any, they’ve already gathered about your family history. In addition to relationships, you’ll also often hear entertaining stories about your family that will help add depth and context to your family tree efforts.
Tracing genealogy is a fairly inexpensive hobby to start. In fact, all you really need is a notebook and access to the Internet and/or library to get started. If you purchase a genealogy research subscription and family tree software, you can expect to pay around $50 to get up and running.
How To Do A Family Tree – Enjoying Your Genealogy Hobby
The first step to finding genealogy is some method for organizing names, dates and history in an ever-growing tree. A tree could be assembled on paper. However, this can become difficult as the family data continues to grow. There are a number of programs that organize family genealogy into a manageable tree and are simple to use.
Once you have your basic genealogy and family tree tools organized, start documenting your family tree information with your immediate family. This will give you a chance to refine your documentation process before you get too bogged down in trying to locate historical records and references.
As you fill out the branches of your family tree, it’s a good idea to send versions to interested family members for them to help validate and contribute. Oftentimes this will be the first chance they have seen the family genealogy in a visual format and this can often help trigger additional thoughts of family lineage and stories.
Make sure to store versions of your family tree iterations. As you do your research, you’ll often have to make educated guesses about certain family relationships and branches. If you fill out a branch and realize your assumption is wrong, you can always revert to a previous version of your tree and start again.
Tips And Tricks
The following tips and tricks can help you get the most out of your genealogy hobby…
- Get started early! Your best family tree information will come from those still living. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge your living relatives can provide. Not only will you get a wealth of family information, genealogy discussions can often bring you closer to family.
- You’ll find a ton of readily available, free information to help you with tracing genealogy. However, spending a few dollars for premium genealogy research services can help you more quickly patch broken branches in your tree.
- Ask for help. If you’re traveling, don’t be afraid to open a phone book and make some “cold calls” to people with your same last name. Genealogy is an easy ice-breaker and can forge new friendships with family whom you’ve never met.
- Take your time and don’t get frustrated! Certain branches of your tree will be easier to complete than others. Don’t try and finish your tree in one sitting. In fact, your tree will probably never be complete. Enjoy the investigative and spiritual process that comes with researching your lineage. This process is the true beauty of this hobby.
- Take road trips (or more)! It’s fun to visit new locations that have a place in your family tree. Not only does this give you an excuse to get out of the house, but you’ll find that you have a greater appreciation for your family history when you’ve visited places they’re from. Many family tree hobbyists travel all over the world to visit and gather information about their geographic family history.
Growing Your Hobby
If you find your true life passion in tracing genealogy, you may be curious how to expand your interests. If you’re interested in taking this hobby to the next level, the following ideas can help…
- Teach a class at a local community center on tracing genealogy and how to do a family tree. You can teach the process and share your personal experiences, favorite tools and resources, and interesting tips and tricks.
- Provide a paid service to others and help them document their own family tree.
- Research the symbolism of your family’s Coat of Arms. Create unique gifts for family such as coasters, plaques or other novelties that incorporate your Coat of Arms.
- Attend genealogy seminars. In these seminars you will not only learn more about the genealogy research process but you’ll also meet great people who are as passionate about this hobby as you are.
- Create a family genealogy website and online family forum. As you become the prominent expert in your family history, you can create a website to share your research and solicit input from other family members. Tools make it pretty easy to create a website and host a forum and you’ll be surprised at the connections you make and keep with interested relatives – both near and far.
The following resources can help you get the most out of your genealogy hobby.
FamilySearch.org – FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world and is provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources and services to learn more about their family history.
EllisIsland.org – The Ellis Island Foundation provides a great tool to search for passenger records for ancestors who immigrated into the United States through Ellis Island.
Ancestry.com – The world’s largest online resource for family history documents and family trees. Ancestry.com is a fee-based online resource that helps you research centuries of family history records across a wide variety of lists.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.