Have you always wondered how to do your genealogy? You’ve come to the right place. This step-by-step guide will help you find, organize, and share all of your family’s history.
The “how to find your family tree for free” is a guide that will teach you how to do your genealogy. It includes information on the most popular websites and apps used by genealogists today.
Last week, we examined why every man should investigate his ancestors, saying that doing so is not just intriguing, but also a moral imperative. Filling up your family tree gives you a stronger feeling of self while also honoring your forefathers and mothers who gave you life.
Today, we’re presenting the how of genealogy — a step-by-step approach to getting started with family history research and preserving the memories of your forefathers and mothers.
Getting a Head Start on Your Genealogical Research
It takes time and effort to do family research. And, as with any travel, you’ll want to prepare ahead of time. Before you go down the genealogical rabbit hole, there are a few things you should do.
Take a look at what’s already been done.
Check to discover what genealogy research has previously been done in your family before you start searching for names in census data. There’s a good chance you have that one aunt or cousin who is really into family history and has already collected and documented a lot of it. Make contact with them and ask whether they’d be willing to share the information they’ve gathered thus far.
If you join a family history site like Ancestry or FamilySearch, you could discover that your ancestors, both near and distant, have already filled up a lot of your family tree.
When I first began studying my own genealogy, I knew a lot of my family history had been done on my mother’s side, but I assumed it was almost non-existent on my father’s. However, when I checked into FamilySearch a few months ago, I found that my sister had been discreetly recording history for my father’s part of our family tree, and connecting it to other people’s research on the site.
So, before you start your genealogy research, have a look at what’s already been done and relish the pleasure of discovering more about your family’s past. Then start searching for ways to contribute to the plot.
Perhaps a family line has come to a halt due to a critical piece of information being lacking. Perhaps your family history geek relative knows knowledge on your great-great-great-grandparents’ dates of birth and marriage, but not much biographical information about them, such as what they did for a livelihood. That’s something you may want to investigate.
In other words, utilize the results of previous genealogy research to steer the course of your own.
Collect and digitize perishable information
Genealogy is more than merely tracing your ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors’ It’s your and your family’s tale. Remember, we’re attempting to avoid our forefathers and mothers from dying a “second death” by preserving and remembering their experiences. So, when you initially start out, focus on obtaining material that can help you piece together your family’s story, especially perishable information.
What are perishable genealogical information sources?
For starters, there are humans. Living individuals die, but the most relevant and significant family history information is typically tucked away in the treasury of their still-alive craniums. Before they pass away, get that family information from them. Interview elder relatives and write down their own experiences and memories of your forefathers and mothers. Your grandfather will most likely tell you tales about his grandfather. Request that he tell you those stories as you record them on a digital recorder. In your genealogy research, make interviewing elderly relatives a high priority; it’s something you constantly say you’ll get to…until it’s too late.
Photographs, diaries, letters, and other documents are also good sources of perishable family history information. That material will degrade over time and may be lost. It’s gone for good once it’s gone. Collecting and scanning such documents for digital storage is a good idea. When it comes to images, be sure you can recognize everyone in them. This may include enlisting the assistance of an elder relative.
You can digitize perishable information yourself, but it’s a time-consuming procedure. If you’re short on time, consider hiring a company that specializes in digitizing family history images and documents to perform the work for you. Memories Renewed and DigMyPics are two websites that might help you with this.
Set Genealogy Objectives
Genealogy might be scary when you first start out. There are several paths you may go with your study. It’s easy to give up before you even start since it’s so intimidating.
Establish some very clear and extremely small objectives for yourself to overcome this hereditary inertia.
Your objectives will be determined by the amount of information you have and the amount of genealogical research you have previously completed. Filling out the family group sheets (more on these in a minute) for your family, going back to all eight of your great-grandparents, is a decent objective for someone who is beginning from scratch. This aim will supply you with a wealth of data that will serve as the foundation for the remainder of your genealogy study.
Concentrate on one family unit at a time as you fulfill this (and other) goals. It’s tempting to go from one family line to the next, but in order to keep your work structured and moving forward, wait until you’ve finished researching and documenting the one you began.
If you discover through your pre-game study that a lot of your family tree has been completed for one side of the family but not the other, concentrate your efforts on the side that hasn’t been completed as much, remembering to work on one family unit at a time.
Start digging further into your genealogy research if your family already has a well-documented family tree on both sides. If the low-hanging fruit has been plucked, go back farther than anybody else. Alternatively, to construct a more complete family tale, focus on fleshing out the biographical details of the ancestors who have already been captured: Interview distant relatives and record their recollections; search archives for original source papers about an ancestor; study history books about the period and area where an ancestor lived to have a better grasp of their lifestyle.
The more you learn about your ancestors, the richer your family tale will become.
Blank Family Group Sheets may be printed.
While you can keep track of your genealogy research online or using a computer, I’ve discovered that there is one form that is worth filling out by hand with family history research: family group sheets/records.
Your family history investigation will be guided by your family documents. The names of the mother, father, and children in one family unit are included in a family group record. Dates of birth, marriage, and death are also included, as well as the names of the parents’ parents, additional spouses of the parents, and the names of the children’s spouses.
Some family group records allow you to add additional information such as employment, religion, military service, and property acquisition. Great for fleshing out your family’s tale!
The information you save in your family group record might help you figure out where to go next with your study or where in your family line you need to double-check or better document.
Filling up your digital family tree is a snap after you’ve completed a family group sheet by hand. When I originally began filling in the gaps in my family tree, I tried doing it all online and going from tab to tab with the information I’d done. I rapidly became disoriented and lost sight of what I was looking for. The uncertainty was addressed by keeping a paper copy of the family group information next to my computer. Furthermore, since a family group record focuses on one family unit at a time, you are forced to remain focused on that unit. The impulse to leap from one sentence to the next isn’t there.
How to Begin Your Genealogical Search
You’ve done your homework; now it’s time to research your ancestors. Here’s how to do it.
Create a FamilySearch and/or Ancestry.com account.
Genealogical research has never been simpler because to the miracles of the internet. Thirty years ago, finding forebears required trips to family history libraries and hours upon hours of reading through microfiches. Thanks to internet family history services, you may now search billions of documents in a matter of minutes.
Ancestry and FamilySearch are two behemoths in the realm of internet genealogy. Both let you search through billions of entries and generate and organize family trees.
There are, however, distinctions between the two.
First and foremost, FamilySearch is a completely free service. It is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who have made it free to both Mormons and non-Mormons.
Ancestry.com’s entry-level service will set you back about $20 each month.
Both have substantial genealogy record libraries. All of the U.S. Census records from 1790 to 1930 have been indexed and digitized by Ancestry. All of those records aren’t in FamilySearch’s database. However, FamilySearch provides free access to foreign and immigration data, whereas Ancestry charges a premium fee ($150).
Furthermore, FamilySearch has started indexing Freedmen’s Bureau Records, which were founded after the Emancipation and include records of liberated African-American slaves. If you’re looking for genealogy in the United States, you’ll probably get more results on Ancestry. FamilySearch may be more useful if your study is more international in nature or if you have African-American relatives.
In terms of finding genealogy data, online discussion among family historians shows that FamilySearch offers a more helpful search algorithm, enabling users to discover the information they need faster.
Finally, the methods used by FamilySearch and Ancestry to create family trees vary, and each has advantages and disadvantages. Ancestry offers a helpful function that will suggest more lines to look into for potential links. A little leaf will emerge on the corner of an ancestor if the algorithm identifies a plausible relationship. Simply click on it to get a list of their prospective relatives. Based on these Ancestry tips, I was able to create an accurate family tree in a couple of minutes.
Anyone may alter family lines thanks to FamilySearch (including FamilySearch librarians who verify information). Based on the efforts of others who have used the site, you may rapidly put together a family tree.
Overall, I found Ancestry’s family tree to be lot simpler to use than FamilySearch’s. Though I did like the unique way in which the latter might present your tree (see image below).
Another useful element of both Ancestry and FamilySearch is the presence of forums where users may ask questions and share information. In both boards, I’ve found interesting talks regarding ancestors that I’ve been researching.
So, what’s the gist of it? If you’re just getting started and don’t want to pay any money, FamilySearch is a good place to start. With their crowd-sourced data, you’ll probably identify links in your family tree quite soon. If you’re having trouble finding records on FamilySearch, create an account with Ancestry.com to acquire access to documents you won’t be able to discover on FamilySearch.
Where else can you go for information about your ancestors?
While FamilySearch and Ancestry are the industry’s strong hitters, you shouldn’t restrict your genealogical research to them. You may also find and preserve your family history using other web services. They are as follows:
- Locate My Past
- Bank of Genealogy
It doesn’t hurt to look into these additional services if you’re having trouble with your family history research. While their databases aren’t as extensive as those of Ancestry or FamilySearch, they often feature documents that aren’t available elsewhere. On Ancestry and FamilySearch, I came to a halt with a great-great-great-grandfather (I didn’t know his spouse’s name), but got the information I needed on MyHeritage.com.
Another fantastic source of potential family information is Newspapers.com. It’s a digitized newspaper archive that dates back to the 1700s. Thousands of documents and millions of pages have been scanned. While it is not free to use (there is no free account), there is a 7-day trial period during which you may binge-research to see whether it is worth the money.
Also, don’t restrict your searches to the main interfaces of websites; go through their communities as well (as well as sites that only exist as forums). RootsWeb and GenForum, in addition to Ancestry and FamilySearch forums, feature active conversations. Look for ancestors you’re searching for in them.
Check out the following software options if you want to keep track of your family history research. While most of these applications are designed to help you gather and organize your genealogy, many of them also link to databases, allowing you to conduct some basic searching:
- Family Tree of the Legacy
- Ancestral Search
- Magic of the Roots
Individually-created websites where people share their own genealogical research are another area to look online. There are several websites devoted to certain surnames or family lineages.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, phone or go to the archives, libraries, parishes, churches, and cemeteries where your ancestor lived or died to gather the information you need. In certain situations, you may hire research assistants in such areas for a minimal price to assist you. Jeremy, our Managing Editor, had some family letters in a California research library that could only be examined in person. Rather of traveling to the shore, he was able to call the library, which provided him with a list of people who were prepared to undertake the research and even produce photocopies for a fee.
Being a Family History Detective and Having to Make Informed Guesses
With genealogy, you’re guaranteed to hit a brick wall. You could know the name of a great-great-great-grandfather, but that’s all. You don’t know his spouse’s name, his date of birth, where he was born, when he died, or where he died. If you don’t obtain those bits of information, you won’t be able to move any farther with your investigation.
What should I do?
So, put on your detective hat and start following up on different clues. If you know your great-great-great-birth grandfather’s son’s date and place of birth, it’s a good bet that he died there or nearby, so look up your great-great-great-name grandfather’s and narrow your search so that his place of death corresponds to the town where your great-great-grandfather was born.
This is precisely the situation I had to utilize to locate some missing information regarding a great-great-great-grandfather on my father’s side, and I was able to accomplish so by following the steps outlined above.
If you’re having trouble finding anything, try modifying the spelling of the last name. This is something that many European immigrants to the United States do to make their surname seem more “American.” When numerous Scots from the MacKay clan came to Canada and the United States, they changed their last name to “McKay.”
When you get into a dead end, the secret is to utilize the knowledge you already have and see where it leads you.
Genetic Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century
Consider having your DNA tested to locate distant relatives if you want to learn more about your family. For $100, companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com provide genetic testing. Simply spit into a vial and mail it to the pre-paid address. They’ll put probable live genetic relations on your web “dashboard” in a week. These people may have access to genealogical information that you don’t have. Make contact with them and exchange information.
Keep in mind that DNA testing may reveal some unpleasant family secrets, such as a half brother or sister from your father’s youth while he was spreading his wild oats (or from an affair). Be ready for anything like that. It has taken place.
What Should I Do If I’m Adopted?
You have a few options for exploring your family history if you were adopted.
While you may not have received their DNA, you have acquired their family culture and tradition. As a result, your adopted ancestors are also your ancestors. You should have no reservations about researching your adopted family’s lineage. Just include a note in your family tree indicating you were adopted.
You may complete a family history for your biological family if you know who your birth parents are. Keeping track of two family trees — one for your adopted family and one for your biological family — would be necessary.
Establishing Information Credibility
It’s easy to accept bits and pieces of information at face value while undertaking genealogy research. I made the error of adding a line of ancestors to my digital family tree who I believed were related to my great-great-great-grandfather. I didn’t conduct a lot of research. I discovered facts a few days later that absolutely blew up that effort, and I had to start again. That’s why, when it comes to genealogy, it’s critical to check and establish credibility.
While you won’t be able to establish a relationship beyond a reasonable doubt (this is particularly true as you travel deeper down your family line), you should be quite certain that your information is accurate.
Use the five criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard to assess the credibility of a piece of genealogical information:
- A rather thorough search has been carried out.
- Each information is backed up with a thorough and exact source reference.
- The data is trustworthy and has been expertly connected and evaluated.
- Any inconsistencies in the evidence have been rectified.
- The conclusion has been well-thought-out.
If you can state that you’ve satisfied these criteria, you may be certain that the information is accurate. Of course, if new information becomes available, you should be willing to change your mind on established familial ties.
What Should You Do With Your Family’s Past?
So you’ve been researching your ancestors and are making terrific progress. What are your plans for it?
It all depends on how far you want to dig.
Stick to filling out your family tree if you’re solely interested in viewing your family ties. For most people, it will be the extent of their genealogical research.
Consider creating a full family history, replete with background information about your ancestors’ vocations and even the time period they lived in, if you want to put together a more extensive account of your family.
Another alternative is to make a scrapbook including family trees, photographs, and copies of pertinent documents. It would be lovely to have a large binder lying about the home that you could open to reflect on your ancestors and pass along to your descendants.
You may utilize your study to organize a journey to your ancestors’ country or a large family reunion (like Esquire editor A.J. Jacobs did a few years ago).
Most crucial, tell people about your ancestors. There’s almost certainly someone out there seeking for the information you have. Put it on one of the numerous online genealogy services, or make a website for it so that other family members may see it.
So, that’s how you get started with genealogy. I hope you found this introduction helpful, and that it has encouraged you to save your ancestors from the second death, as well as to discover a more complete personal identity for yourself.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to looking for the parents of a man named John MacKay, who was born in Scotland about 1770 and married Mary Campbell. Send me a Tweet or a letter if you have any information about him. Thank you, sir!
The “trace your family tree for free online uk” is a great resource to use if you are trying to trace your family tree. This site will allow you to search the database and find out who your ancestors were. It also has many other features that can help you with finding information on your family’s past.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I start doing genealogy?
A: In order to get started doing genealogy, you need to know a lot about your family history. Ask relatives who they are descended from and learn what records might exist that could help answer some of the questions that you have. This will probably just be one person in the beginning but youll grow as time goes on and hopefully meet more people with similar interests along the way!
How much does it cost to have someone do your genealogy?
A: Its difficult to give a specific price for this type of work. For most people, it will be in the range of $100-$200 per hour for basic genealogy (mostly just looking up names), but some research can cost quite a bit more.
What is the best free genealogy site?
A: The best free genealogy site is Family Finder.
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