Branching out: How to start building a family tree

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Your great-grandfather never knew his biological parents, and because of it, your grandfather never knew where his family originated. How can information on his family be found? Through creating a family tree.

It is not uncommon for people to wonder where they came from. A sense of your past can bring perspective to your identity, both in your family’s legacy and God’s involvement in your life. Follow these tips to get started in discovering your family’s past:

Find inspiration
In order to begin researching a family’s history, you need to be curious about what there is to find. An entertaining way to bring out your inner family researcher is to watch “Who Do You Think You Are?,” a genealogy documentary series. In each episode, the show follows a celebrity in his or her quest to explore the family’s past and uncover mysteries.

Celebrities who participated include Paula Deen, Lisa Kudrow and Martin Sheen. Although the show was canceled by NBC earlier this year, episodes from its third season are still available on NBC.com and Hulu Plus.

Sign up for a service
Once you are ready to research and document what you find, the next step in creating a family tree is signing up for a free family tree service.

A great option is Ancestry.com, one of the most popular family history websites. You receive a two week free trial for signing up, but a paid membership is not necessary to build a family tree or search for ancestor records. Additionally, you can use Ancestry.com’s services through its app for the iPhone and iPad, which gives users access to records not available through its website.

Start building a tree
Building a tree is simple. To get started, you will be asked for information about yourself, like your birth date and where you were born and information for your parents.

A birth date or birthplace is not always needed. If you are not sure of a family member’s exact birth date or birthplace, you can approximate the state he or she was born into and his or her birth date.

There will be times when you receive green leaves on relatives. This indicates the information you provided is linked to a record. These records can only be viewed by paying members or those who have the smartphone application. These records can be census records, residence confirmations or links to public family trees.

For registered guests who do not pay for Ancestry.com’s services, public family trees are valuable when you go farther into your family line and available information is inadequate. If enough people have a common ancestor with you, those public trees may give you the information you were missing.

Consult family members
In researching family trees, family members can be great sources of information. Stories, photographs and documents are valuable resources when piecing together the past. These objects can also be valuable to others who share a common ancestor. Ancestry.com also gives users the opportunity to talk with other website users through its message function.

Use other websites
Not all searches will produce usable information for a family tree. When you get stuck on a certain relative, other websites can hold clues or answers. Findagrave.com offers pictures of tombstones in the United States, which can provide missing information.

Wikipedia can also aid your search when you research your last name. Not only will you find background information on the name itself, it gives a list of famous and infamous people with the same name, with whom you may or may not be related.

Familysearch.org, USGenWeb, GenForum and RootsWeb are also great sources for free genealogical information.

Family histories are filled with stories, mysteries and interesting character just waiting to be found.

About Jon Beam

I am a Journalism & Media at CBU and I will be your Food/Culture/CBU Review editor for the year. This is my third year working for The Banner and I couldn't be more excited about covering the various trends and cultural phenomenon that occur on our beautiful campus. Have a blessed day!

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