Discovering where you came from by building your family tree can be an exciting endeavor and one that has been made easier than ever thanks to the internet. Whether you are looking into your family’s origins or are in search of a long-lost relative, the countless genealogical records online will prove invaluable. A family history search is easier than you think with the multitude of online genealogical resources.
Below we will look at what a family tree is, how you can build your own family tree, and what tools and resources you need in order to find your ancestors or lost relatives.
A family tree is an easy way of charting and visualizing your family history. Like its name suggests, with a family tree you can see how the different branches of your family relate to one another and you can trace your lineage back in time to find distant ancestors.
Building a family tree can be done online or with good old-fashioned paper and pencil. Doing a family tree on the computer is easier, since you won’t have to worry about running out of room on the page. A number of genealogy sites and apps have family tree tools that make it very easy to fill in new family branches and to find genealogical records
The best place to start building your family history is with your very own family. Simply talking to your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can help reveal relatives that you may have never heard of. By starting with the relatives you know, you’ll have the beginnings of your family tree. When asking your relatives about your ancestors, try to get more information than simply their names. You will also want to ask for birth dates, dates of death, marriage or divorce dates (if any), whether they served in the military, children they may have had, and names at birth (if these are different from their married names).
Once you’ve interviewed your family members, you can then get to work on really digging into your family history. This process will encompass many different methods, such as visiting libraries, spending lots of time on online genealogy databases, and even visiting cemeteries, churches, and other interesting places.
There are many different types of genealogy records, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce records, immigration records, property records, court records, census data, tax data, and much more. Basically, any official record that has been archived can prove an invaluable resource in your quest to build a family tree. But where do you actually find these records?
The internet will be your greatest help when it comes to uncovering genealogical records. Tons of such records have now been digitized, especially by sites like Ancestry.com, which compiles many different archives into one easy-to-use resource. However, you will need a paid membership in order to get full access to all of these databases. Other online databases, like SearchQuarry.com, offer a great alternative to Ancestry.com’s paid membership model
While doing your online sleuthing, make sure you check state archives. You can find a list of state archives here. State archives contain records that you may not be able to find at the National Archives, such as pioneer records, Native American records, and state census data. Of course, you should also check the National Archives, which has excellent resources like military service records dating back to the Revolutionary War, federal census data, and ship passenger arrivals.
Also, be sure to check out the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation’s website, which includes a very convenient family search history tool. This can be an especially useful tool if one of your relatives was among the millions of immigrants who entered the United States through Ellis Island.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs also has a gravesite locator tool to help you find the graves of veterans buried in the United States while the American Battle Monuments Commission has records on U.S. veterans who are buried overseas.
Online genealogy records are an incredible resource for building your family tree, but occasionally you will have to do some more old-fashioned investigating involving sifting through dusty archives. That’s because not all archival material has been digitized yet, especially those held by municipalities and local governments.
Visiting your library is a great way to find local records that could help you in your search, especially local newspaper and obituary records. Your librarian can help you find these resources.
Even state records often only go back so far and very few predate the mid 19th century. Checking with churches and old cemeteries can reveal astonishingly old archival material. If you really want to dig deep into your past, then you may want to take an adventure overseas, such as to Europe where many marriage and baptismal records are still held by churches that are centuries older than the United States themselves.
Remember that when you uncover your family history, your approach will have to be multi-pronged. Luckily, with such a wealth of archival material at your fingertips, unlocking your ancestry is today easier than it has ever been in the past.