There are a lot of websites with guides on how to start your family tree, but let’s be honest. Most people do not start researching by reading guides – we choose a name of a relative and we Google it. Or we type our surname into the search box of a genealogy website. If we are lucky, we may get a piece of information that is clearly our family but usually we get a massive amount of information that makes little sense and we do not know what to do with it. The internet has made outstanding contributions to genealogical research but it has also had the downside of increasing our expectations of instant results and increasing the usage of inaccurate information.
So, if you are just starting out, can I suggest a little preparation before you jump on the internet? Grab an A4 piece of paper and use this image to draw a basic family tree.
Next, add in siblings – yours, your parents and your grandparents’ siblings. Then, between each couple, write the date of their marriage. Finally, add the location for each date (e.g. born 22/3/1985 Dubbo Australia).
If you do not know any of these facts, add a ? If there is any doubt about the information, add a ? next to it. For example, if you haven’t seen your birth certificate then there is doubt about your birthdate. Do not be surprised or worried if you have a ? next to every bit of information.
Before you start trying to trace your line back to the distant past, you must have a solid foundation. Your first goal is to fill in any gaps and collect evidence to remove any doubts about the information. Start by talking to members of your family. As you find evidence to support the information, you can remove the ? from the diagram.