Getting Started Researching Your Family Tree

How To Research Your Family Tree

When searching online for “how-to-search-genealogy,” also called one’s family tree or history, genealogy is the study of family lineages and characterized by the Society of Genealogists as the”…establishment of a pedigree by revealing evidence, from legitimate sources, of how one generation is linked to another.” Besides assisting individuals in figuring out their origins, genealogy may also offer you a more detailed view of the family’s role in the grand scheme of history, and provide medical information.

While many individuals are motivated by the chance of discovering that their relatives might have been famous or wealthy, it may be interesting to find out about one’s own heritage and rewarding to pass down that knowledge to future generations.

Genealogical information can bring families closer together, provide a fresh perspective, and direct future decisions. On top of that, it allows one to really know thyself.

The Practical Importance of Genealogy

Genealogy provides a wealth of information, and its findings have a significant effect on people’s lives. Throughout kinship, history, and descent often illustrated legitimate claims to wealth and power. However, not many people nowadays have a formal request for an iron throne. There are, however, numerous reasons why sketching a family tree may result in significant life changes.

Medical History

It’s no secret that many health conditions and disorders are hereditary, meaning that they have been sent at birth by one’s parents. For people who have been or might have been passed a genetic medical status, preventative measures may result in much-improved health. This is where genealogy may be a literal lifesaver. Studying family health history may determine the necessary actions to prevent harm.

By way of instance, someone with a family history of skin cancer can practice preventative measures like staying out of sunlight and loading up on the sunblock. Furthermore, physicians use family medical history to ascertain the type and frequency of screening tests, make recommendations for lifestyle changes, evaluate risk identify other associated ailments. To create and monitor a family health history, people can utilize My Family Health Portrait, a US Surgeon General tool.

Legal Reasons

Being able to prove that you are related to someone may also have significant consequences regarding taxation, land ownership, estate management, and inheritance types. Additionally, when conducting family history research, many genealogy-related conditions will pop up on legal documents. By way of instance, a”dower” is the share of a husband’s property to which the widow is entitled upon his passing, and a “relict” is the widow of a deceased person.

Assessing the legal landscape can be difficult without a professional’s support, but there are tools out there that may assist the amateur genealogist. The FamilySearch Genealogical Dictionary of Legal Terms and yet another is the paperback publication Genealogy and the Law.

Proof of Lineage

There are different reasons family ties are severed over time, but luckily, there are various resources available to individuals seeking to retrace family relations. This may apply to the adoptees who want to find their birth mothers or parents seeking to locate their children given up for adoption. Alternately, genealogical resources may be utilized to ascertain the biological father of a child.

History of Genealogy

As mentioned earlier, during most history, kinship and descent were frequently the impetus for keeping genealogical records. Their primary role was to demonstrate legitimate claims to wealth and power, while heraldry was also utilized to monitor the ancestry of royalty via armorial bearings.

In the US, many organizations developed in the 1800s that started to collect genealogical records, such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the Genealogical Society of Utah, which later became the Family History Department of the Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — they finally started FamilySearch. Particularly after the spread of the Internet, interest in genealogy has expanded mainly because of access to resources, which vary from sites to societies.

Getting Started With Your Search

While all this discussion of legal terms and genealogical societies might appear intimidating, among the most efficient ways to investigate family history is to just speak to relatives. Don’t be reluctant to put pen to paper and start sketching out a family tree because grandparents can provide a wealth of information. The secret is to begin at present and work backward. Relatives can provide invaluable leads that will fill in the blanks and help you save time.

To keep track of accumulated material, you can use a pedigree chart, like this free one provided by Progeny. Or you could print out a family group sheet. As soon as you’ve collected all of the information available and have your prospects, you can start the search for official records.

Types of Records

There are dozens of different kinds of records that may be got to shine a light on one’s ancestry, although the process can frequently be time-consuming. To properly organize a search, it is essential to determine which sort of information you’re looking for and where to get the related records. Relevant records may include–but are not limited to–the following:

  • Army
  • Birth and death
  • Census
  • Cemetery and tombstones
  • Criminal
  • Immigration
  • Obituaries
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Medical
  • Religious, such as Baptism or Bar/Bat Mitzvah
  • Reliability of Sources
  • Social safety
  • Tax
  • Voter registration
  • Wills

When dealing with decades-old paperwork and internet searches, it can be tricky to ascertain which resources are accurate. Luckily, some steps may be taken to help ensure information is authentic.

To begin, start research with your family (as mentioned previously ). Probabilities are much higher than your relatives have accumulated documents, photographs, and memorabilia that part pertain to your family tree.

Next, search for the original sources. These are described as the first recording of a record or event and may include fax microforms, unaltered digital reproductions, photographs, and such.

Ultimately, derivative sources may also offer information but don’t include original recordings. Derivative sources may consist of transcripts and indexes, in addition to compiled records like local histories, books, and sites –all of which are collected by a third party.

Tools for Your Search

There are many unique resources for obtaining genealogical records, and it is essential to cast a wide net to get the best results. Here are a few ways for you to begin your search.

Local Library

Some libraries have entire departments or buildings devoted to genealogical records. With the assistance of a brief list of titles or a family tree outline, reference cards can get you the leads you require. Reference cards are usually organized in a couple of distinct ways: by surname, geographical area, historical event, historical society, or local branches such as the police or governmental office.

Assuming your last name is not among the most typical, searching the surname will hopefully provide you with a couple of sound clues, possibly directing you to publications, papers on microfilm, etc. A simple obituary will help fill in the blanks by sharing birth date and place, where or when someone moved, who they married, marriage date and maiden name, and the names of kids and their locations.

Ships’ logs can also be available. Most ships back in the 1600s and 1700s kept boat logs with information about who had been on the boat, where they moved, and sometimes even what trade they had been in and who they had been traveling with. Local census records may help you to find prospective relatives but will probably not offer too much advice.

Some may provide townships or speeches, while others will just list first and last names. Furthermore, many libraries maintain yearbooks are tracing back to the 1970s and a few much farther back than that. Those who have a library with a comprehensive section could even find college school and photographs from the 1800s.

Family Tree Resources Online

The Olive Tree

The Olive Tree has many resources, including the aforementioned ships’ passenger lists and census records. If you know that a family came over from a particular country, you’ll get a book of emigrants that lists anybody who left a nation, and it’ll often tell you the date and where they moved. Some states also have logs of immigrants, which include when they came and where they came from.

National Archives and Records Administration

An excellent resource for US residents is your National Archives and Records Administration, a federally-funded public record collection. It’s simple to use, though most searches point you to external links that source from several places online.

Image: is among the most well-known names in genealogy. It’s a subscription-based service with a three-tiered excellent option. Additionally, it offers another DNA Analysis service for a fee. As soon as you’re a part of ancestry, you can join with other readers on your loved ones and share information with one another. The more you network, the more you may find. is very similar to, and it gives an intuitive design that allows you to build your own family tree when suggesting possible matches on the way. However, it’s also a paid service, and it doesn’t offer monthly payment plans. All plans are billed annually, and a free trial is unavailable, so be sure you’re prepared to make the commitment.

The site also analyzes the data on your family tree and can show states of origin on a map with clickable links to profiles. MyHeritage also provides DNA collection kits and crunches data to show you things like which months were the most popular to be born in your loved ones or the normal life expectancy. maintains a forum for people to connect, in addition to searchable read-only versions of older posts. The family-tree maker service appears to have a few bugs but has clickable links to help guide you through links others have made. Though it’s not at its prime, the site does offer a whole lot of information.


One of the best free resources available is, still maintained by the Church of Latter-day Saints. It’s a fully functional search that could quickly draw census records, ship logs, etc. By simply trying to find a known relative, an individual might have the ability to pull up their family relationships in addition to a photograph of the census they are listed on.

Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America is another terrific online resource. This site provides all kinds of wonderful materials that have been digitized and put online.

If you’re not finding the documents you’re hoping for on other sites, then you may want to think about World Vital Records. It’s a subscription-based aggregation of 4.2 billion names that is also a sub-company of MyHeritage.

Surname Index

Another possible source is the Surname Index, a resource for anybody who may wish to know the surname’s history. It’s totally free and a not-for-profit operation, but it’s not the most extensive resource. Because it started with its origins in Ireland, the majority of the records stem from Irish surnames.

Find A Grave

Though it may seem morbid, a cemetery may also be a terrific resource for information. Broadly, families are buried nearby each other, several of whom are listed on the same headstone. Pictures and listed details of gravesites throughout the nation are compiled in the Find A Grave index. Each entry includes a photo of the headstone together with any info on it.

Genealogical Societies

Local historical and genealogical communities bring people together to gather and rebuild their histories. Societies are usually formed from necessity by a group of individuals with a specific trait in common: a historical event or state of origin. Sometimes societies need an application and dues to join; other times, they’re somewhat informal, but most are not-for-profit or charity-based.

A well-known society is Daughters of the American Revolution, which has collected and pieced together an impressive number of historical information. Moreover, the National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, and American Society of Genealogists are just three significant players and could all be great places to start. The larger and more prominent societies tend to provide seminars, educational courses, books, and even special access to online genealogical databases.

Professional Genealogists

When you’ve exhausted your choices, or maybe just your patience, you may consider hiring an expert to assist you in continuing your search. It may sound expensive, but most services utilize individual agreements between the historian and the individual hiring them to agree on their search conditions and the cost. If you wish to see what you could buy for $500, there is an option. Otherwise, sparing no expense to discover about a particular lineage has an option also.

Generally talking, a genealogist will start by interviewing relatives and scouring historical documents. Because they have done this for several years, they know how circumstantial data for kinship is available and verified. They can easily turn to and cite resources so that they can easily return if needed. It would be impossible for any individual to be a specialist in the whole field of genealogy, so many professionals concentrate on a particular lineage or region.

If you know that your family has lived in one place for quite some time, it would be wise to employ somebody local to specialize in this area. However, keep in mind that there isn’t any standard of licensing or certification required for you to claim to be a genealogist. Check out these organizations for leads:

Heritage Consulting

Heritage Consulting specializes in genealogy story production. Rather than employing a genealogist specifically, they function as a team to precisely describe your past and give you a thorough report. The purchase price is per hour, and the amount of hours needed varies tremendously between households.

American Ancestors

American ancestors started as a project by the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They provide collaborative reports or make lineage mappings. But at $105 per hour, services are not affordable.

Association of Professional Genealogists

The Association of Professional Genealogists is just about the best place to start looking for a genealogist. It is, essentially, a detailed collection of genealogists with a biography on each, including the work they have done, professional certificates, as well as testimonials from customers.

DNA Testing

Most of the major subscription-based genealogy sites provide DNA testing that could help individuals decode their pasts, including mixed reviews. When testing DNA, a vial of your saliva is used to isolate your own DNA and map out over 700,000 genetic markers. There are a few different approaches to testing DNA; autosomal or X-DNA, Y-DNA, and mtDNA. Each monitors another part of the DNA and may result in different discoveries. Check out the following DNA-testing services:

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