Beginning to Trace Your Family History
But where do you begin?
What do you already know? Well, there’s you and maybe some brothers and
sisters and your parents, and probably grandparents. You may already have three generations of your family right there!
Jot them down on the biggest piece of
paper you have to hand.
That’s you at the bottom, your parents
immediately above you, and their parents (your grandparents) above them.
If you know them, add the dates and
places of birth, marriage and death that you know. If you don’t know the exact dates, then the
year or the closest idea of the year or decade in which they were born would be
Next fill out your family tree by adding any uncles and aunts on both
sides of the family, plus their children, who (as you probably know) are your
will now have three types of kin. You will have:
Ascendants – these are your direct ancestors
going up the tree – in other words, your parents and grandparents.
you will also have…
Descendants – for example, you are, of course, a
descendant both of your grandparents and of your parents.
Collateral kin – any siblings (sisters and/or
brothers) and any uncles and aunts that you have plotted on your draft tree.
Your draft tree probably has some gaps
are the gaps in your knowledge of the family.
What you want to do now is talk
Talk to anyone and everyone who is on
your tree, still alive and prepared to talk with you. They may not all agree
with one another. You have a problem, or a mystery, to solve. You are already
becoming the family’s detective.
speaking with any family member…make a list of questions you wish to ask them.
Record the conversation or make notes as you go along.
people in advance to have a rummage through their belongings to see if they can
find any family documents – both official papers (any birth, marriage and death
certificates, copies of wills and so on) and old family photographs.
to your tapes, or read through your notes, and add the more immediately useful
information to your tree. It is important to record the source (who said what,
when and where).
a nice handwritten “Thank You” to each relative who granted you an
You have started your family tree…give
yourself a pat on the back.
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