Researching Your Family Tree
By Kay Cromwell
All kinds of people want to research and create their family tree.  It used to
be thought of as an obscure thing often done by retired folks because it
required so much time and travel, but all that has changed.
Both young and old can now complete their family tree easier than ever
before.  Whether you are a child in school completing an assignment or a busy
working mom it all begins with a simple step, easy (and free) step.

You start with yourself.  Write down everything you can about yourself.  Don’
t skip over things that you take for granted – get it all down.  Remember,
what you record will become part of a record for generations and they will
want to know as much about you as they can.  The essentials include things
like: full name, nicknames, date of birth, marriages, divorces, and children
(with their dates of birth).  Be sure to add education, hobbies, work, military
service, or any kind of accomplishments.  It’s a nice touch to really make it
personal – let them really get to know you.  What’s your taste in art,
literature, music?  Do you like to cook or camp?  Are you really into fashion
or gardening?

Next, you will expand your research into your relatives.  It’s best to start with
the oldest first because with each passing year, their memories fade and health
declines.  You don’t want to miss learning as much as you can from them.  
They are a fantastic source of family history.  It’s a good idea to make sure
you are well prepared for these kinds of interviews so you don’t miss a thing.

It may be that your relatives provide you with conflicting dates, but don’t
worry too much about this.  As you progress in your research, you will be
seeking other documents that will confirm or refute their information.  A good
genealogist always confirms their facts, because researching your family tree
must be accurate.  After all, you are creating a record that will be handed
down through the generations so it is important to get it right.  Good research
skills – which you will develop – go hand in hand with accurate records.

Developing good research skills will come so don’t feel intimidated by the
idea of it.  Take it slowly.  If you don’t you may become overwhelmed by the
sheer number of different sources that you will eventually use to research your
family tree.  Too much information when you are just started out and aren’t
yet confident of yourself sometimes just causes people to quit and we don’t
want that!

One key thing for successful research on your family tree is organization.  Set
yourself up with a desk or table that is well stocked with supplies and space
for all your records.  Develop the habit of filing things as you go, rather than
letting them pile up.  Keep logs of the interviews that you have completed, the
date completed along with all the others that need to be interviewed.  Family
data sheets will help you keep each family’s information straight.  Developing
these habits early on will save you from a lot of headaches later.  This is
because the information that you gather will start to grow quite quickly and
things can become confusing if you are disorganized.

Just by following the few guidelines I’ve covered here, will get you off to a
great start on your family tree.   I truly hope you enjoy this fascinating hobby
as much as I do!

Kay has been researching her family tree for over a decade now.  To learn
more about fun ways to present your family tree please visit:  
Family Tree

She offers a free mini-course on genealogy at:  My Genealogy Secrets
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