Why Build A Family Tree and How Long Does It Take?

Genealogy research is a fascinating and rewarding hobby for many people all over the world. But why should you discover your ancestry and build a family tree. And also just how long does it really take to do all this?

Build A Family Tree

Well, within this post I will answer those questions, and hopefully inspire and motivate you to learn as much about your ancestors as possible.

It really isn’t that hard. You just need to look, so please do not worry as I will show you how.

Discussed in this post:

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Why Research Your Tree

There maybe a number of different reasons why you want to explore your family tree to discover your ancestors.

Family History Story

I have discussed before within my Why Research My Family History – The Reasons post the 6 main reasons why I believe people are interested in their ancestry.

Let me just give you a recap of those reasons.

1. Confirm family tales and stories

If you are like me then you want to put evidence behind the stories that have been passed down to you. Is there any truth in them? Are they even true at all or just fantasy and made up?

2. Trace ancestors journey

You maybe interested to learn why your family live where they do now. Did your ancestors come from the other side of the country, or even from a different country?

3. Preserve the family’s history

Family heirlooms may be dotted all around your home. Which ancestor did they belong to and what is the story behind each one of them?

4. Family history research passed down

You maybe interested to carry on the research that a relative of yours has already started. Just who have they uncovered so far and what have they discovered about them?

5. Finding living cousins

Cousins are out there, you just have to find them. What can they tell you about your family tree? And what stories about your ancestors do they know?

6. Related to anyone famous?

I must admit that there is a fascination within genealogy to discover someone famous in your family tree. So, is there a celebrity or even someone of significance within your tree?

Further reading!

Did one or more of the reasons that I outlined above strike a chord with you?

You can visit the A Place For Mom website where you will find an interesting post entitled 25 Reasons to Learn About Your Family History.

There you can see other reasons that motivate people to trace their ancestry.


Just How Long Does It Take?

If you have watched genealogy shows like Who Do You Think You Are? then you probably think that researching your family tree is easy. After all you just follow the celebrity’s journey and discover everything about their ancestors.

How Long Does It Take?

All of this takes place within a 60-minute program. And within the comfort of your favorite lay back chair.

Do you have the time and money?

However, it’s not as easy as you think. Research for these shows has already been conducted beforehand by professional genealogists and archivists.

It’s then up to the celebrity, (or rather production team), to get to these destinations where they are shown all sorts of interesting facts about their ancestors.

Be prepared, YOU WILL have to do the work yourself if you want to build your family tree, unless of course you hire a professional.

And this hobby doesn’t come cheap. The charge for such a service will depend on how far back you want to go with your tree and the level of information that you want to find out.

Can you build it in a weekend?

You may think that it is really easy to create one of these tress. You know who your parents are and you probably know who your grandparents are/were. And if not then you can always ask mom and dad for help.

It’s pretty easy to create a tree this small that can include details such as where and when they were born, married and died.

That is what genealogy is all about. It’s about collecting names, dates and places.

If you’re creating a family tree for a school project then you can quite easily knock something up like this within 30 minutes.

But it’s hardly impressive is it?

You can see that there isn’t much to your family history within just a couple of generations, is there?

You want to go further back to your great-grandparents, and beyond.

What is your family story and how did you get to where you are now?

Genealogy does take time

Speaking from experience genealogy research will take time to do. All too often I have sat at my computer at night thinking I will just spend an hour or so investigating a particular branch of my family tree.

Open Hours

Like many family historians will know, 1 hour turns into 2, then 3 and then 4 hours has gone by.

Before you know it it is 2am and you should really be getting to bed. You do have to go to work in the morning and you don’t want to be tired, do you?

Genealogy can be an obsession and it can be addictive. Discovering who your ancestors were and all sorts of information about them is really interesting.

From tracing my family tree I have learned that tracking down information CAN take you longer than expected. But some records on the other hand you may be able to get within a couple of minutes online.

Do your genealogy research justice

Part of genealogy research is backing up the information that you have plugged into your tree. If you want to do your research justice then you must be able to verify those names, dates and places that you have found are indeed correct.

As an example all too often I have seen family trees on Ancestry.com created by members which have some pretty glaring mistakes.

These people are too eager to put what information that they find. They discover someone who shares the same name as their ancestor and assume that they have found the right person.

Yes, the name maybe the same, but the people living with that person (the family), and even the place of residence is different.

I have seen this many times on this genealogy site. If you do use trees found on Ancestry then please use this source wisely before adding what you find to your own tree.

The Bottom Line!

It will take you as long as you want it to take. Hence, the picture of the piece of string. Just how long is it?

I have been tracing my family tree for about 8 years or so, while some people have been doing it for 20 years or more.


Where Are Those Genealogy Records?

Some records will be easier to find than others. It can depend on how old they are and whether they have put online yet. As a note census records are a great tool that you can use to quickly build your family tree.

Find Your Family History

But as I mentioned just before please make sure you cross-check the details before you add them to your tree.

Many resources available to you

There are many websites online where you can find and use census records. They are an essential tool for any genealogist or family historian.

With these records I was able to trace my ancestry to the early 1800s. I was even able to trace the descendants of my ancestors siblings.

Yeah, I know I got a bit infatuated with genealogy.

For me I was interested to discover distant cousins out there. Conducting this research helped me prove how these relatives were connected to me, i.e. 3rd cousin, 4th cousin, and thus finding out our common ancestor.

And making these connections we were able to share our research and therefore further our genealogy research more quickly.

There are other records that you can of course which can be found on genealogy sites such as Ancestry as I have mentioned.

But to go further back to before the 1800s you will probably have to visit archives, if of course they haven’t been put them online yet.

Some records may not even exist at all

You will inevitably come to a dead-end (no pun intended) during your research. It happens to everyone who has tried to trace their family tree. Even me.

This maybe because records were lost in a fire, water damage, or destroyed by some other means.

Or it could be that the records that you want do not even exist anyway.

Case in point my 3rd great-grandmother’s birth date that I haven’t discovered yet.

I believe it is because declaring births was not compulsory when she was born and so there was no record made of the event.

There may though be other documentation that I can use to find this out. But as yet I am still finding it.


How Many People Are In My Tree?

My Make My Own Family Tree Now post will show you a helpful table illustrating just how many people that you need to discover for each generation in order to create your family tree.

Family Tree Size

So, if you want to go back to your grandparents (Generation 3) then there will be 7 people in your tree. Take it back to your great-grandparents (Generation 4) and that number jumps up to 15.

If you want to go back to your 7th great-grandparents then you will have to discover a whopping 1023 people to complete your tree.

Of course you want be able to discover them all, (or you may be lucky and you can).

I have holes in my tree that I am still working on, and I may not even be able to discover them all.

This as I have mentioned before can be put down to lack of records. It is not down to be lazy with my research as I AM passionate to learn as much about them as possible.


How Can I Build My Family Tree?

There are six options available to you which I discussed within the Make My Family Tree Now post that I mentioned earlier.

Make My Own Family Tree

I will briefly discuss them here below.

1. Hand drawn

Definitely not the best option available to use as there will be many mistakes and corrections to be made. It can become quite messy as you will learn more and more about your ancestors.

2. Microsoft Word or Excel

These programs can help you to create and build your family tree fairly easily, (if you have experience with these programs). And there are many video tutorials that you can find on YouTube that will help you.

3. Forms, charts and templates

There are blank genealogy forms, charts and templates that you can download and print out. You then just fill in the gaps.

4. Genealogy software programs

There are many genealogy programs that you can choose from. This is how I started to create and build my family tree.

5. Online Family Tree Builder

You may not want to spend any money on a program. And that’s fine as there are several free online family tree builders that you can find.

But be warned these free builders do have limitations, i.e. they are just builders, you may not be able to connect with genealogy sites in order to find records and back up your research.

6. Paid Genealogy Sites

The best option available is subscribing to a paid genealogy search website. These sites will include a family tree builder where you can also view genealogical records of your ancestors, and connect with members of the site, (possibly cousins).


Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed reading this post explaining why you should build a family tree and the resources that are available to you. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.

4 Comments

  1. Helen August 10, 2018
    • Owain August 10, 2018
  2. Pablo August 10, 2018
    • Owain August 10, 2018

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