Many of us have thought about our ancestors and our family tree. However, taking the time to build a family tree is another thing entirely. Even with the advances in DNA and companies like ancestry.com and 23andme.com, there is still a bit of work required to build your tree.
Why Build a Tree
Other than knowing your family tree for the sake of knowledge, why would you want to build a family tree? One reason would be to track down family and heritage to try and prove heirship or Indian lineage that could result in financial gain. Others may want to build a family tree to determine who their birth parents are if they have been adopted. Still others may want to build a tree to determine genetic health information. It is also a way to get intimate with ancestors and find out where you came from and why you may have certain beliefs and traditions.
During the beginning of your search, you will need to reach out to close relatives and see what they remember about individuals in your family line. Speaking with immediate family can jump start your search and usually provides fruitful results. As the search continues, the information might be sparse.
If you are looking for family memorabilia, focus on photos, documents and any personal correspondence, especially those with dates. Looking through your grandparent’s belongings may lead to a bountiful treasure hunt indeed.
Talk to Elders
Speak to your family members and learn who the family historians are. Talk about memories and stories they have and compare notes with other family members. Try and get information on parents, grandparents and great-grandparents including full names and birthdates and if possible, determine where they are buried to get exact dates.
Now is the time to become an armchair detective and get to researching. Start with sites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, and Archives.com. These sites compile collections of records from all around the world. Also, utilize the Findagrave.com website to pinpoint deceased relatives in certain cemeteries to get birth and death dates.
Get a DNA test
Consider purchasing a DNA test from Ancestry.com or 23andme.com to determine your ancestry and linkage with family members. This will give you information on individuals that you may have not known about. Remember that some individuals may not want you to find the genetic truths that you search for and you may find some family members that may have preferred to stay hidden.
Don’t forget to use social media to search for individuals with your ancestral surnames. Look at local organizations, public libraries, and genealogy services in your ancestor’s hometown.
At times, your family tree might not be branching as fast as you would like. You will hit roadblocks and possibly go down incorrect paths, but eventually you will get some great information and you should celebrate and keep looking forward in those moments. There is always another ancestor to chase and another story to learn about.