Making a family tree is a fascinating project. Many generations of family members can be traced using free or inexpensive methods. Here are 7 steps you can take to discover your family tree without spending a lot of money.
1. Family Interviews
The best way to start with a genealogy project is by talking with an older relative. Sit down with your relative and start taking notes. Don’t stop at names and dates: ask for personal stories about the relatives they remember. Go through old photos and documents as you talk – that will jog their memory and give you invaluable primary sources for your research.
You may find that another relative has already done quite a lot of research into your family tree. Ask around and see whether an aunt or a cousin has done this work for you ahead of time. That may enable you to cross one side of the family off your list.
2. Create a Chart
Create a family tree chart using printable forms available online. This will help you keep your thoughts organized. It’s important to write down exact dates of birth if you have them, and make sure to have middle names or middle initials to help you determine the authenticity of records.
As you go along, you may find that there are connections you didn’t expect. Try to take these with a grain of salt. It can be upsetting to find certain kinds of genealogical information. Carefully consider what kind of information you have found before sharing it.
3. Verify Details
If you don’t have an older relative to give you information, start with an Internet search. FamilySearch.org is a good free website to start with. Online, you may wish to join paid web sites such as Ancestry.com or Geni.com. These websites compile many users’ research and enable family members to share information.
Be sure to check your local library to see if they subscribe to these paid web sites, so that you can use their services free of charge.
4. Primary Sources
When you have exhausted all the resources you can find online, it is fascinating to search for primary sources. Birth and death records, census records, obituaries, and cemetery records can be found online. You should also visit your local public library and your state library for assistance. Some information can only be found in print.
5. Special Organizations
If you’ve found that you have a famous ancestor, such as someone who came to the United States on the Mayflower, you will be able to use their vast genealogical resources to complete your family tree. Contact the organization to apply for membership and to help you navigate their resources.
6. Technological Advances
You may be interested in using a home DNA testing kit to explore your ancestry. This is a nice supplement to a family tree and may help clear up some family controversies. This should be done with some caution, as it may match you with people you did not know you were connected to.
7. Share What You’ve Learned
As you go along, put your research into a readable format that your family members can share and enjoy. You might be able to get more information as relatives look over your research. Finally, you might want to upload your family history to a web site so that other users can find their family connections.
Exploring family history is an educational activity for children. Helping a child trace his or her family tree can make them feel more connected to the past, fostering their interest in history.
When you understand where you came from, you will feel more connected to your family. It is possible to use free or low-cost resources to search for information about your ancestry. Go about your genealogical search in an organized fashion, and you might be able to find invaluable connections with the past.