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Tips On Tracing Your Ancestry

Updated on May 2, 2017
Source: Bing Free to use and share
Source: Bing Free to use and share

The best place to start your family's genealogy, start with you.

Article By Sharon Stajda

Have you ever thought of tracing into your ancestry? Maybe it's time you got started. Perhaps your family ancestry search might lead you to a relative that could be considered as famous or a perhaps a person that left their mark on history? Stories such as these can provide your family with some wonderful stories to tell , and pass down for many years to come.

Good documentation through the use of public records is a good place to start tracing your ancestry. Remember when you are creating family stories, it's smart to have documents to back up your family tales. Keep in mind stories can grow from generation to generation, it's always nice to actually be able to back up a family stories with facts. Not to say all family stories aren't wonderful, and endearing, but the truth is just that "the truth".


Tip That May Make It Easier To Trace Your Ancestors

When tracing your family tree never skip a generation. Skipping research on even your own generation will leave you with an incomplete family tree. You may be thinking I know everything about my generation,why include it? Well, fifty years from perhaps there will be relatives that will want to know about you, and your family.So never be tempted to skip your generation, and go right to your grandparents. Skipping generations is as I stated tempting, wanting to get right to perhaps a relative you might consider to be famous. Keep in mind a family tree, is made up of many branches, and you don't want a sparse tree, with few relatives. Plus, by building a solid trail of documentation, you will have good proof that this "famous relative", truly deserves a place on your family tree.

Keep in a straight path, methodically working your way back one generation at a time. This will lessen your chances at placing a wrong ancestor on to your family tree.Keep the proper records, and you'll have the supporting documents to support your work. Records such as, birth records, marriage certificates, census records, etc. Records will be the supporting documentation that will stand to link each generation of your family together.

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Family Relationships Are Not Always A They Might Seem

It's not wise to make assumptions about family relationships.

Family terms such as "Junior" "Senior, the III, as well as "aunt" and "cousin" were often used very loosely by relatives of old, and actually this remains true of today. "Your aunt Belle, may have actually been a friend of Uncle Bill, but never actually wed the fellow?" A designation of Jr., for example, may have been used to address a son of a man with the same name, but actually the Jr. may not have been added to his birth certificate. You also shouldn't assume relationships between people living in a household unless it is specifically stated. For example, an adult-aged female listed in your great grandfather's household, may have been his wife - but could have also been a sister-in-law or just a female "friend ".

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Keep Good Documentation

Always have a pen and paper to write down every little bit of information.

I can't stress it enough how important it is in genealogy to write down how, and where you find each bit of your information. If it was found on a Web site, write down, documenting the site, and its URL. Always print a hard copy from your computer, and date the information. If the data came from a book or microfilm, write down the title, author, publisher, publication date and the repository. If your family information came from an interview with a relative, document the date, the name of the relative, and even where the interview took place.There will be times when you'll run across conflicting data or stories, and you'll need to know where your information came from. Family stories can change, and get larger than life as years pass. However, family stories should always be taken seriously, and researched carefully to find documentation to solidify the story.

In Regards To Dates, Name, Etc.

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Make Sure All The Information Make Sense?

Keep a watchful eye on your information reviewing all new information as you add it to your family tree. This will insure that all the new information fits, and is documented. accordingly. For example: If the date of your ancestor's birth does not jive with the date of a census report or marriage licence by many years, stop and question, do I have the right marriage certificate or is this census report not of my relative or perhaps the years are off slightly, but all else matches.

Documents that are filled out by let say a recorder of census can be wrong, it's called simply "human error". If all the other information fits, it is more than likely the right census report, but the recorder was in error filling it out. Furthermore, take into account, many times the person giving the information, may not be well informed. Such as the case of a wife, giving information on a husband's family. Keep in mind, names can be spelled wrong, dates may be slightly off, as well as place of birth. Think "human error", and use your good judgement, and ask yourself.

"Does this make sense?"

So Important To Keep Good Files

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Keep Organized Records

The more organized you are with your genealogy research notes and records the better. By keeping all in order you will be less likely to mix up information or make simple mistakes. Choose a good and easy filing system, that works for you. Making sure that you include both your papers and certificates, and your digital documents and other computer files, keep it organized.

Rule Out the Other Possibilities - You know that your grandfather lived in Michigan around the turn-of-the-century, so you looked him up in the 1900 U.S. census to make an attempt to locate him, where you know he actually lived, and there he was! However, it was not your grandfather - just someone else with the same name, living in the same area at the same time period. This scenario actually isn't all that uncommon, even with names you might think are unique, to your family? When researching your family, it's always a good idea to check the surrounding area to see if there is someone else who could fit the bill, and then make sure other factors fit. For example, an address, a wife's name or children's name, Make sure you have the right "grandpa".

Gathering all Your Information - And Organizing All You Have Gathered

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Time To Gather Any And All Records And Papers

A good place to start - You will want to gather papers, photos, documents and family heirlooms. This task may take you up into an attic or down to your basement? Perhaps you are an organized person , and keep a well organized filing cabinet, if so you have it made. The key with this task is just collecting all you can that might help you "grow" that family tree. Another effective way to collect information is from relatives. It's smart to touch base with your relatives, to see if they have any family documents that will help you with your researching your family lineage. Most relatives are happy to help, and may even look forward to collaborating on the project? Clues to your family history might be found on the backs of old photographs, in an old family bible, or even on an old postcard. If your relative seems hesitant at parting with an original document, offer to have copies made. It's always smart to keep original documents in a safe place, a place that will ensure they will be safe from becoming denatured or stolen.

Interview Any And All Relatives - Really Pick Their Brain

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Pick Your Relatives Memories

After you have collected all the documentation, and or memorabilia, and family records, take time to talk with your relatives. A good place to start is with your Mother and father, and then move on from there, down to your grandparents, aunts and uncles and so on. Make sure to document each interview on paper.

While speaking with family member's ask open ended questions, this method of interviewing as a rule is a good way to break the ice. Interviewing family may make you nervous? However, keep in mind, this step should not be skipped, family interviews is probably the most important step in researching your family history. You will be surprised on all the information you will collect from relatives, that will help in tracing your family tree.

Take Down Good Notes - Start To Construct Your "Family Tree Form"

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Family Tree - Enter Any Names Of Family Members You Have Knowledge Of

After you have interviewed a family member, it's very important to make sure you have written down everything you have learned from a given relative. As you learn names and dates on family members, begin to enter the information in a pedigree or family tree chart.

If you're unfamiliar with a traditional family tree form, there are several websites where you can view a traditional family tree chart form. These sites will also provide you with step by step instructions in filling out a genealogical form. It's a good idea to fill out a traditional family tree chart early on in your research. y doing this it will provide you with an overview of your family, and makes it easy to keep track of your research progress.

How To Get Started Adding Names To My Family Tree

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Whose Name Should Go First On My Family Tree? Your Name

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Where To Start - Start With Your Name


Then - Start by selecting a single surname, an individual, or family with which you have solid information on. It's smart to start with relatives that are alive, for instance, your Mom and Dad. It's easy to start with your immediate family.

Focusing first on your family history will provide good solid roots for your Family Tree. By starting with your family you will reduce the chance of missing important facts, building block so to say. As much as you might want to find that great - great - great grandfather, the trick to building a family tree is , starting with today, not yesteryear.

How To Research A Surname?

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A Surname, ones last name. As a rule a surname can be traced back many generations, ultimately leading to distant ancestors that lived long ago. A long line of ancestors can tell a story or a family history. Perhaps giving insight in regard to an ancestors occupation, family, and ultimately their death, and who they left behind.

Where to start gathering data on any surname.

What documents will a surname appear on?

1. Birth Certificate

2. Drivers Licence (before marriage Female)

3. Social security Number

4.Church records (baptism record)

5. School records

6.Marriage Licence

7. Your children Birth certificate's

8. Death certificate

What information can be obtained from Documents, for instance ?

Birth Certificate, Besides surname, mother's maiden name

and age. Father surname and age, City of birth, city where parents reside.

Physician name, place of birth,

Marriage Licence Date and place of Marriage, name of groom, along with his parents names, Bride's name along with her parents. Clergy, location where marriage took place, witnesses names.

The Internet Can Be A Valuable Tool

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Census OnLine - Census Are Taken Every 10 Years

Census records are a valuable tool, and cannot only trace your family's lineage, they will provide you with valuable information. Such as your relatives occupation, address, head of household, others that are present in the home. Census can also trace a family's movement from one state or town to another, change in occupation, etcetera.

How to find Census Data?" The U.S. Census Bureau collects data on the population and economy of the United States. Well known are the decennial Census of Population and Housing, and the economic censuses the Bureau conducts every five years.

It's Wise To Take Advantage of Your Local Library

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Your Local Library May Help With Family History

A Visit to your local Family History Centers, and your city Library is a great place to gather information. You will be surprised on just how much information you will find locally. Such as church records, city directories, old phone books, census records.

Visit Your City County Building

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Your Cities County Building May Hold Records Such As Birth, Death, And Divorce Records

A Visit to your "City County Building" is a must, Your City County Building will houses records of your ancestors, which might include wills; birth, marriage and death records; land deeds; immigration records. All of which will help you trace your family, and add more relative's to your growing family tree. Documents such as mentioned above will give you the proof you need to feel secure in adding a family member to your Family Tree. Remember you will want to be able to back up your lineage with proper documentation.

A Reminder - Organization Is Key

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A Reminder

Again, are you keeping all of your data organized? Are you incorporating new information as you find it? Are you continuing to take good notes, and make photocopies of all of your new found documents? Make sure you save every single bit of data, and date everything, and make sure all is kept in a safe place.

Road Trips May Be Necessary?

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You May Have To Take A Road Trip Or Two

If at all possible, take a few road trips to collect further information. Places where you might consider visiting would be places where your relatives may have lived at one time or another. Visit cemeteries where relatives are buried, also go to courthouses, churches, clubs your relative may have belonged to, etc. Think of anywhere you might visit that you may find any records or documents on your relatives.

When You Think You Have Gone As Far As You Could Go - Time To Go Back To Square One ...

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Back To Square One

When you have gone as far as you can go gathering information on the first surname you selected, it's time to take a small break. Collect your thoughts, and look over all the information on the first surname you chose.

It's time to then go to "Where To Start" Yes, It's time to start all over by picking a new ancestor to research. However, you have a bit of experience now, and you most likely have become an organized researcher? It will get easier with each new ancestor you trace.

I am Curious...

Have you ever considered tracing your familys lineage?

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If All Fails You Can Turn To DNA.

Blood doesn't lie, so if you really want to be sure of your bloodline, think DNA. DNA tests can't currently tell you who your specific ancestors are, but they can help narrow things down quite a bit.

When all the apples are riding on one horse. So, you actually believe you're related to a famous person, and really want to have the facts? It's time to put your money up, and considered a DNA test to confirm your belief. However, you will need a donor the bloodline you have the suspicion you are related to, moreover, are you going to be accepting if your hunch is wrong?

I Hope You Enjoyed Your Visit - Have Any Helpful Tips On Tracing A Family Tree, Hope You'll Share

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      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      I traced my lineage back in the 80s way before internet resources. It was a fantastic experience! Met some distant relatives in the Isle of Man. I'm giving your lens a FAV.

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      jaye3000 8 years ago

      Awesome lens, had to bookmark it :) Thanks for the hard work!

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