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How To Build Your Family Tree
How To Build Your Family Tree
Building a family tree is the ultimate scavenger hunt. It's a great project to undertake with your fellow family members in order to uncover your lineage, geneology and interesting factoids about your ancestors. Each new find will add a new chapter to the narrative of your heritage. The quest can go on for as long as you wish - whether it's a several decades into the past or centuries of history from far away lands. Furthermore, once you complete your family tree, you can pass it on to the succeeding generations as they form their own branches.
Information, right at your fingertips
As you begin to assemble the beginning levels of your family tree, you can start by talking to relatives and scouring through family heirlooms, photo albums and journals. The older members of your family might enjoy divulging their past and will most likely have some sort of list of ancestors that you were unaware of. Some families even have a "Bible," which lists members from preceding generations. AARP also suggests trying to find old military records, newspaper clippings, birth and death certificates. Doing so might help you stumble upon some unfamiliar names may lead to something revealing.
Turn to public records
The U.S. Census, which can be viewed online, is a great place to search for names, education, financial info and marriage records. Of course, you don't have to stop at the 20th century - the census dates back to 1790, which will likely provide you with key clues dating back to when your forefathers first immigrated to America.
AARP also suggests visiting courthouse, libraries and churches so you can find deeds, bankruptcy files and other public records. If your family is settled in another part of the country, you'll have a good excuse to travel.
Libraries may also have archives that you'll find useful for hints or generating leads. Some librarians are well-versed in conducting research of this ilk, so you may want to ask them for a helping hand.
Rely on the internet
There are a slew of websites that grant you access to various databases and give you invaluable information and other leads. Ancestry.com is one of the major sites that has gained popularity due to its success in uncovering many families' pasts. Other sites include Archives.gov, which allows you to root through the US National Archives, as well as ProGenealogists.com, where you can hire a genealogist to navigate the vast records on Ancestry.com so you can get results.
Presenting it all
There are various ways to organize all of your findings. If you have a flair for scrapbooking, you could make a laminated book containing all your results in chronological order. This will give you a chance to include those timeless photos, clippings and records that you discovered throughout your quest.
If you're looking to present your tree to your family, you may want to use a large piece of paper on which you can draw or paint the lines of lineage. Next to each member you can include an old photograph or a piece of their history that has distinguishes them. If your findings are extensive, consider dividing the tree up into different sections.
You can also go digital and purchase software like Family Tree Maker, which was created by Ancestry.com. Having your family tree on your computer will not only allow you to distribute multiple copies and ensure that your precious information never gets lost, but the infinite space will help you stay organized.