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Building a family tree can seem overwhelming and I have heard countless people ask how to make one, so let’s dive into the basics of building a tree. I promise this is going to be a lot less painless then you think.
Why Build A Tree?
If you have read my post on DNA then you know I encourage everyone to attach their DNA to a family tree they have built. This will help you to sort out your matches and confirm paper trails that lead to ancestors. Your tree will also help others who may be looking to solve their own genealogical brick walls.
Now, let’s say you haven’t taken a DNA test but you are interested in learning about your family and where they come from. Then you would build a family tree as a place to document the ancestors you have found. Building a tree will also help you store documents and photos related to the ancestors within your tree.
Where To Build A Tree?
When it comes to building a family tree, there are a few options on where this can be accomplished and it really depends on your preference and budget.
This is where I house my main family tree. Ancestry.com is free to sign up and free to build a family tree. However, in order to search most of their record collections and attach those records to an ancestor in your family tree, you do need to have a paid subscription. You can have more than one family tree with the option of making it public or private.
Family search is a free site that is a nonprofit family history organization run by The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Family search, you can build your family tree, but the goal of the website is to have one major tree. As you build your tree, there a good chance you will eventually connect to the world tree through an ancestor that has already been added.
Like ancestry, some features on My Heritage are free and some need a subscription. You can build a tree for free, however, it is limited to 250 people.
Wiki Tree, like Family Search, has a goal of making one single family tree. Wiki Tree is free to use but again, there is a chance the more your tree grows, it will connect with the single family tree.
What Goes In A Family Tree?
One thing people wonder is what exactly goes into a family tree. Basically, my definition of what a family tree is that it is a place to store all the information and documentation we find about an individual ancestor. To start we will add just the basics. When you begin your tree, you begin with yourself. Enter your first name, middle name, and last name. If you are married, then enter your maiden name. Next enter in the place you were born, city and state and/or country.
Now, follow this pattern with your parents, grandparents and go back as far as you can. Use the general knowledge you have through family stories and documents. If you can’t go past your parents or only know one grandparent, that is OK too. By exploring your ancestors, you will be able to unlock some of the mysteries.
Now that you have a basic tree created, you can start digging a bit deeper into each person you have put into your tree and add new ancestors you find along the way. Don’t worry, we will show you how to dig deeper using records and research. In our next post, we will talk about what vital records and what we can learn from them.