Discover your Family Tree Today

Introduction to Family Tree Research

Genealogy is a lot of fun, but at times, it can feel like the lottery. People that play the lottery know they are taking chances and don’t always win, the same is true for genealogy. You may end up looking for a very long time and may never find that missing data. But the idea of winning is exciting, and when you do win, you are filled with excitement. The same excitement happens when you find a piece of data that you have been looking for.

Research Begins with what you Know

All research starts with some known information about an ancestor. Interviewing your living relatives is a good place to start. Ask questions that include the basics such as names of relatives, hometowns, and trades or occupations. Also ask open-ended questions that help reveal stories about your family heritage. This can help you to not only answer questions that might come up as you are following the trail of your ancestry, but it may provide additional insight into your heritage. Comb for clues about military involvement or how a period in history may have contributed to your ancestor’s lifestyle. You might also gain interesting leads by following up on research that another relative has conducted – be sure to inquire about any existing family trees. Use facts that have already been discovered to help verify your own findings or guide you in your efforts.

Find Sources to Build a Family Tree

Once you begin, assemble the details you have into the form of a family tree by using a pen and paper or a genealogy program to record your relative’s information. When you start to record your data, it can become overwhelming on what should be recorded, how it should be recorded, and how to uncover missing facts.

Don’t settle for just recording the facts of events (the dates and locations) of your ancestors. Beware of data that is copied from another person who did not have first hand or second hand knowledge of the facts, it does not constitute the information as being accurate and true. It is the historical documents, oral and written that can recount the events that are needed to prove the information is accurate.

Documents Need to be Analyzed

All records are subject to interpretation and can contain errors. Your analysis should take into account the clues that further substantiate or contradict information known about the ancestor and their family.Keep in mind the following when doing your analysis and before adding a document to your ancestor:
  • Conducting research for your family tree and finding sources does not mean your data is accurate. An index entry accompanied by an associated image does not necessarily relate to an ancestor, even if the person’s name, age, and origin are matching the information you have
  • When you find a document, you need to analyze it for its accuracy and verify that it is for your ancestor. Remember names, dates, and places are common. Even if a person does have sources for an ancestor, it does not mean it is providing the correct evidence for a person to belong in the tree. Just because we can "see an image" does not mean we should stop looking for corroborating evidence or for alternatives. If we don't we will create genealogies (based on original images) that should not be trusted.
  • Even primary sources in their original form or copies of them (not extracted or indexed versions) such as marriage, and military enlistment forms can contain errors, either on purpose so a person would appear old enough to get married or enlist in the military. Because people can make mistakes during the recording of information, errors also occurred on accident.
  • Indexed and transcribed documents rarely contain enough evidence to verify kinship and they often contain errors during the transcription process.

Family Tree Research

Extract the Important Data

Because it is not the source alone that proves the person belongs in the tree, genealogists need to collect several documents that provide the date and location of birth, marriage, death, and burial information; and provide parents, siblings, spouse, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and other important relationships that solve family history related questions. The information from the documents you researched should be added to your family tree. By adding a copy of the source and attaching it to the people and events that it relates to gives a historical reference to your family tree research and is a reminder of how the facts and relationships are verified.

Rate Your Sources

Part of the family tree research process is to rate your sources. The rating is to help you understand the reliability, quality, and information the source offers. This helps genealogists to distinguish good sources from sources that are not so reliable. The most common method used is the Genealogical Proof Standard.