Getting Started on a Family Tree

Getting Started on a Family Tree

Use these simple tips to create a family tree for yourself or to give as a gift.


From decades-old photo albums to brand-new genealogy websites, there are great tools at your fingertips to help you trace your heritage or track down relatives with whom you may have lost touch. Embrace your curiosity and learn how to make a family tree for your own reference or to give as a uniquely personal gift. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Start Offline
Before you begin your Internet research, ask family members to provide names, gender, birth or death dates, and birth or death locations of ancestors. Take notes on descendents and on which side of the family they fall. Gather your information and make a rough draft, working your way from your nuclear family (parents/siblings) to cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents.

Scan Photo Albums
If your elders aren’t around to provide information beyond the basics, get more clues by looking at old photo albums. Search for images of your grandparents when they were children and seek out info on faces you don’t recognize. Look on the backside for any markings that might reveal names, dates or locations. Then try to fill in the blanks by their possible relation to ancestors you know.

Visit Genealogy Websites
Some websites have the ability to trace government documents including military records, immigration files, census and voter lists, and birth and death certificates. Just enter basic information on yourself and follow prompts to fill in other names you know to start connecting the dots. While the sites are not free, many offer a seven-day trial at no cost.

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Do Detective Work
Social networking can be a great way to find relatives you didn’t know existed. If you have an unusual last name, you can attempt to locate those who share it. But you’ll need some info to determine if you are, in fact, related. Do some investigating and then reach out with a nice note to see if you’re connected or merely share the same last name. (You may even wind up meeting in person and helping fill in one another’s family tree.)

Get Crafty
It’s time to gather the facts you’ve found and create a family tree. You might round up photos and create a collage “tree” with “branches” that extend for different sides of the family. Or choose a simple tree stencil and write family names on leaves. Or design a digital pedigree that can live on your personal blog or family website for all to access. You can download templates that allow room for details like where your parents met and wed. Fun facts make a nice addition to your keepsake.

Tracing back bloodlines are interesting — some may lead you back hundreds of years into the past.

Have you made a family tree? Let us know how you did it!

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