If you are interested in genealogy then you have probably already created a family tree which goes back at least 3 or 4 generations. It probably looks something like the picture above.
If you‘ve traced your family back even further then maybe you’ve discovered that you’re related to a famous historical figure, or an infamous one! If you’ve already done your research then skip to the end of this article where we have some great ideas for bringing your family tree to life.
On the other hand if you are still at the beginning of your personal genealogy research, you may ask: How do I start? How do I create my family tree? How do I get the required documents?
I actually always recommend starting with the following 5 steps. If you take them all in, you will quickly be able to gather the data that you will need to start building your personal family tree. So let’s get started:
Be sure to get started with you first. Take a sheet of white paper and write down everything you have in your mind. Who are your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents? How many siblings did your parents have and what are their names? When and where were they born?
By doing so, you will probably end up with details of at least three generations of your family on paper and can quickly get an overview of who you can interview for your further research.
And take my advice: do it as quickly as possible. Sadly, I cannot ask my grandparents about their story anymore, although today more than ever, I wish I could.
Even if someone thinks that he cannot contribute anything of interest ("I don’t have anything interesting to tell"), it often results in one or more exciting anecdotes, when the person starts to recollect events. Of course, if you feel that someone does not want to reflect on the past, you should respect that.
Perhaps there are also still old family books or other documents available. Also, photos will be invaluable for your further research. You will be the best judge of which documents your relatives might let you read and use.
Believe me, not consulting your relatives is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in genealogy. Do better than me and contact me directly.
By now I would guess that you traced back at least to the generation of your grandparents (or even great-grandparents?). In my experience, this is the generation in which, due to the events of World War II, it often branches out into the most diverse regions.
As it becomes very confusing at the beginning (because the number of ancestors doubles every generation), you should first decide which of the four branches of the family (paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather) you would like to continue working on.
Maybe you just want to continue working on an ancestral line, because you want to know more about the origin of the family name? You should first think about all these things before proceeding to point 4.
Births, marriages and deaths in most developed countries after 1850 to today are documented by the registry offices, always at the scene of the event. Marriages often took place at the end of the 19th century at the place of residence of the bride.
Once you have located the responsible office where you need information, it’s often worth telephoning first before visiting. By doing this, you can check that they have the information that you need and also enquire if there are fees. The direct descendants of the person usually have no trouble getting copies of a civil status document. At the same time, you will learn through a telephone call whether the registry office has the relevant documents at all.
From the civil documents you can learn a lot about a person: when and where s/he was born, who were the parents and so on. Sometimes a certificate even contains a marginal note, a small reference to other events in the life of that person (birth of other children, place of death and date ...). This will be of great help to you in the course of your further research.
For all family history events before 1874, the parish registers are the most important sources. Depending on which place and which denomination it is, they are kept in the diocese, civil status or parish archives. This is where the fun begins. Because once you have found the first handwritten entry to one of your ancestors, you will very quickly want to know more about his family.
When did he get married? How many children did he have? When and where did he die? So one thing comes to the next, and before you know it, the Archivist is standing next to you and kindly informs you that the archive closes in 10 minutes ....
If you take these five steps in the order mentioned, you will achieve the first results very quickly. But please never forget:
Record all information
Document all important information right from the start. If you ask relatives, use the voice note feature on your phone (of course, after you have obtained the consent of all parties involved).
When you go to archives, make copies or photographs of the documents, if allowed.
In church books, write down the entire contents of the respective entry, including information on godparents or witnesses.
The information will one day be very important, I can promise you that.
And, has it grabbed you now? Do you want to get started recording and preserving the unique and valuable stories in your own family?
You can keep and share those memories on Tributize.com
You can capture much more than an outline of your family tree. With Tributize you can make a permanent page for every member of your family and really bring your history to life. Whenever you get new stories you can edit the page to update it.
Look at this great example - Mary Ann Holser
It’s also easy to include a picture gallery and even video clips and once you’ve made the page you can share it with your family members with one click.
Get started now. It’s fun to bring your own history to life.
p.s. if you need help then just ask – we’re here for you.