When starting out on your genealogy journey you will need some way of keeping track of your ancestors and their details. This post will show you a number of options to choose from so that your dream is a reality – “Make My Own Family Tree!”
As I will point out at the start of this post you will need to make a few considerations before you decide on the best approach to creating your own family tree.
I do hope that you do read my thoughts first before you decide on what option is best for you.
Discussed in this post:
- Family Tree Size
- Scope of Family Tree
- Ask Your Relatives
- More Work Is Required
- Family Tree Chart Maker Options
Family Tree Size
Before I even show you how to make your own family tree it’s first important to think about how far back that you would like to go.
You need to realize that the further back that you do go that the more people you will need to find and put in your tree.
|Generation||People in Generation||People in Tree|
As you can see from the table above the number of people in your tree grows really fast the more generations that you want to explore.
Most people should be able to create a tree that includes their grandparents. A tree this small will contain only 7 people.
If you go back one more generation to your great-grandparents this number will grow to 15. And going back to your 2nd great-grandparents it will be 31 people.
You can learn more about the number of ancestors that you have by checking out this informative post – How Many Ancestors Do We Have?
Some ancestors you won’t find
You will encounter brick walls in your research. Sorry to say but it is inevitable. It’s all part of genealogy research that you will need to learn to accept.
There will therefore be gaps in your tree which you may not be able to fill.
You may go back 7 or more generations along certain branches of your tree. But with others you may not be able to go further than 5 levels deep, or even further.
This is definitely the case with my tree, but I am still working on it and hopefully I will be able to find those elusive ancestors.
The important thing is not to despair. Some branches WILL be easier to research than others.
Just have fun with it.
Scope of Family Tree
When I talk about the scope of your family tree I am not necessarily talking about the size as I discussed in the previous section.
What I mean by scope is how much information do you want to collect about your ancestors.
And also whether you want to consider siblings and cousins.
My own research!
My initial steps when starting on my own family history journey was to create a tree with names and dates.
The dates that I was after were the usual vital pieces of information such as birth, marriage and death.
You may want to include in your tree where these events took place, like I have done.
It will be impressive as you look over your own tree where your ancestors came from, where they married and where they died.
Your ancestors will come from an array of different places, and even different countries.
Extending your family tree!
One thing that I was interested when researching my family tree was the possibility of connecting with distant cousins.
And I have been able to do that. Which is great as I have been able to share my research with them and learn about my ancestry from them as well.
That is a great benefit as it will help you to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.
I probably did get carried away by exploring the descendants of my ancestors siblings. And thus working through census records to go further down the branches to as recent times as possible.
Carrying out this research helped me to prove how these new-found connections were related to me.
You may not be as obsessed with discovering your ancestry as I was when I first began my journey. But genealogy can be addictive as you will discover.
Ask Your Relatives
Your relatives, particularly the older members of your family can assist you greatly with your research. The great benefit of asking your relatives for help is that it is free!
They can give you details such as your ancestors names as well as places and dates that I discussed above.
And they can provide you with evidence to back up this information, such as certificates, records, letters and even old family photographs as well.
You may though need to take photocopies of anything that they can supply you with on your quest for knowledge. That’s if they don’t mind you taking the originals with you.
Or, you may want to take a picture with your phone when you interview your relatives. Aren’t smartphones handy?
Friends of the family can also assist you with your research. So, it’s worth considering asking them for help.
Your relatives should be able to point you in the right direction.
Any previous genealogy work?
It is also worth asking whether there has been any genealogy research that you can check over and use.
My interest in genealogy was inspired by the family stories that my father recited to me. I was fortunate that he had already started to research our family tree and had quite a lot of information that I could work with.
It’s important to note here that whatever information that you do receive to check them over to see whether the details are in fact correct.
It’s very easy to take this information at face value, and if it is indeed incorrect then it can lead you on a wild goose chase.
Trust me I know because there were a few corrections that I had to make with my father’s work.
He had the best intentions but sometimes it is too easy to make the wrong conclusions based on what we know.
More Work Is Required
You will find that the further back that you do go that the trickier it will be to find your ancestors. That is because records will be more scarce and that handwriting on documents will be much more difficult to decipher.
As I touched upon earlier I used census records to build my family tree. This is an essential resource that any genealogist or family historian will use for their research.
And if you can find your ancestors in these records they can help you to build your family tree really fast.
Just remember not to jump to conclusions when you go further back with census records, OK?
Learning from my own mistake!
You want to check all the facts such as your ancestor’s name, age, birthplace, occupation and even siblings when checking back to an earlier census record.
For example, going from the 1900 back to the 1890 census it is important that you do indeed find the right person and family living with that person, (i.e. your ancestor and family).
I must admit that I did make this mistake once and I did not check all the facts. The person’s name and place of residence were correct but the family members were different.
I did not spot that at the time, I was so convinced that I had the right person. I unfortunately did go back a few generations with this line of research.
Luckily for me I did not add this misinformation to my tree. I quickly realized my mistake and found the correct person, i.e. my ancestor.
Check resources thoroughly!
These trees can help you immensely with your research if you do get a bit stuck but you should not treat them as gospel.
I have used them myself.
There have been many mistakes that I have uncovered. I believe these members were too excited that they found a person that shared the same name as their ancestor.
And therefore concluded that they had indeed found their ancestor. Unfortunately for them this was not the case as I checked their sources.
Plenty of resources and tools for you to use!
As you will see from the Genealogy Resources & Tools section of this site there is plenty of help and material available to you.
Genealogy search sites that I touched upon just above can greatly help you. There are also DNA testing kits that can help you to break down brick walls in your research.
Please use whatever is available and what you need to build your family tree.
I passionately began to research my family tree and used whatever I could to uncover as much as I could about my ancestors.
So, if you feel the same like me then you will want to do the same as well.
Family Tree Chart Maker Options
Finally, I have come to what you want to know. How can you create your family tree.
Below I will discuss six methods that you could choose from. It’s up to you what you decide what to use.
Option 1 – Hand Drawn
The first option is very basic and is not very desirable for genealogy research. However, it may appeal to some so I have included it here even though I do not personally recommend it.
My father drew various family tree charts by this method. The problem though with this approach is that it can get messy if you need to correct your tree.
Option 2 – Microsoft Word or Excel
I haven’t used this option but while researching for this post I discovered that some people do use this approach. And there are a number of helpful YouTube videos showing you how to use these programs.
How to Make a Family Tree in Microsoft 2007
Automatic Family Tree Maker – Excel Template
Credit: Someka – Excel Solutions
Option 3 – Forms, Charts and Templates
There are plenty of forms, charts and templates online that you can download and print out. With these pre-designed tools you just need to fill in the blanks in the tree, usually just the names of your ancestors.
Please check out my guide to Blank Genealogy Forms and Charts that you can use for your research.
You will decide at this point whether you want a 3, 4 or 5 generation tree when searching for these templates. There are higher number trees if you want to look for these.
Option 4 – Genealogy Software Program
This is the approach that I took when I began to chart my ancestors. I knew very early on that if I wanted to do this properly that I would need a computer program.
For one reason they are ideal if you do indeed need to make a correction. And can be an ideal option to tackle complicated relationships, i.e. cousins marrying cousins.
Option 5 – Online Family Tree Builder
If you do not want to install software on your computer for whatever reason then you may choose to create your tree online.
There are plenty of websites that you can visit that will help you to build your tree. And there are a number of benefits with this option.
- Easy to start – Put in your details, your parents, grandparents and so on.
- Upload a GEDCOM – Conveniently continue previous research by uploading a GEDCOM file.
- Helpful hints – May link you to genealogical records containing your ancestors.
- No running costs – You don’t need to pay anything if there are upgrades to the program.
- Easy access – Convenient access to your tree using any device, i.e computer, tablet, or smartphone.
- Automatic backups – Backs up your tree automatically, so no need to worry about your tree getting lost.
- Set privacy – You can select whether you want people to see your tree or not.
- Easy collaboration – And you can share with your family who will help you to fill in the blanks.
And there are free sites out there that you can use to create your family tree. Although there are limitations if you do want to use a free site.
Option 6 – Paid Genealogy Site
The last option available is for you to check out paid genealogy websites. Yes, you will need to pay a subscription to join and build your tree but there are advantages to this approach that is not possible with the other options.
For instance, you can gain access to millions, if not billions of genealogical records. As you enter more information you will get more hints to records that can help you with your research.
This is definitely the case if you decide to join Ancestry, FindMyPast or MyHeritage.
Another benefit is that you may connect with distant cousins who have already joined the same site as yourself.
And the advantage therefore is that you can share your research with them and vice versa.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed reading how to make my own family tree now. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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