Here are eight easy steps to help even the newest armchair genealogist kickstart their family tree. For the purposes of this article I have focused on free and online resources.
Start with Yourself
1. Always, always, start with yourself and work backwards- record all your family history knowledge, root through all your photos documents and start scanning and organizing them.
Interview the Living
2. Ask your relatives for information – the most valuable and free resource you can have is the knowledge and information your living relatives have about their ancestors. Don’t under estimate this step. Take the time to interview your living relatives and record this knowledge in your family tree.
Choose a Software Program and Online Site
3. Choose a free online site to help you organize your information, my recommendation is My Heritage.com. This site provides a free download of family tree software to organize your information, they also offer search capabilities, message boards, and the ability to create your own family history website. It is a great all inclusive site to start your family history for free.
Choose Your Focus Person
4. Choose a relative you wish to learn more about- after organizing your information and setting up a family tree, choose an ancestor you wish to learn more about. Focus on what information you have on that individual and identify what information you are missing before heading out to the internet to find your answers.
Post on Message Boards and Forums
5. Visit websites that offer message boards and forums and begin posting on in specific terms what you are looking for, this is a great way to pull cousins out of the woodwork. A great message board to start with is Rootsweb World Connect Project or GenForum Message Boards.
Create Your Tree Online
6. Post your tree online at numerous locations. The more sites that you post your tree to the better chance you have of uncovering a family tree that may cross branches with your tree. Sites like Tribal Pages and My Heritage, are great places to start and both are free. However, tread cautiously when viewing other trees, if there is no citation offered than be weary of copying any information. Other trees can offer leads into expanding your search but are not consider a primary source. The more websites you post your tree to, the more you increase your chances of meeting a distant cousin.
Search for Published Family History Books
7. Look for published family histories, you just may get lucky and find others who have gone before you and have all ready published a family history book. Check online digital libraries such as Google Books or Our Roots. You just might strike gold.
Visit a Variety of Free Databases
8. Begin your search with free databases, continue to focus on your individual, websites such as familysearch.org and ancestry.com (the free trial option) can quickly uncover some new information. However, don’t discount more specific types of databases such as immigration databases, like Ellis Island or Ship’s List, cemetery online databases such as Dead Fred or Find a Grave and newspaper databases such as newpaperarchive.com or Google News Archive Search.
With these eight easy steps you no longer need to be intimidated or can procrastinate when it comes to starting your family tree.
Creating a Family Tree Online
5 Tips for Choosing an Online Database