A Genealogy Research Beginners Guide to finding your Family Tree

Part One – What you need to start your Ancestry Search 

What is a Family Tree?  

A family tree is a chart representing family relationships in a conventional tree structure. It is a graphical representation of your ancestors.  A family tree is a description of the descendants of a particular person or of the ancestors of a particular person.  It is usually in a chart that maps lineage, of a particular person, as far back as records allow. It is often, but not always provided in a graphical, branching form that somewhat resembles the trunk of a tee and its branches. Its function is to layout, more clearly than paragraphs of text can, the relationships of various relatives to each other and the person at the root of the root the tree. A family tree can begin with the most current generation and work its way backwards, or with the oldest known generation and wor  its way forward  

In many countries, particularly in the US, finding out what your family tree is represents pride in knowing where and who you came from. Family trees are useful for information purposes, for documenting inherited medical and genetic conditions, for helping resolve lawsuits over inheritances, and for preserving family stores and history, which can be helpful for younger generations to get to know their ancestors on a personal level.  

 The history of family trees probably goes back almost as far as the history of mankind. Family trees were probably originally used to prove ones relationship to certain persons for reasons of status, royalty or even just identification. Surnames such as Johnson were used to identity someone as john’s son. The Greeks used family history to prove to be descent from a god or goddess. Hebrew males had to prove descent from Aaron in order to become a member of the Levitical priesthood. In some societies, your life was vastly different if you could prove your were descent from royalty.  You may want to read  learning the history of  surnames. 

The meaning of Genealogy in the Merrian-Webster Dictionary: 
Genealogy noun ge·ne·al·o·gy \ˌjē-nē-ˈä-lə-jē also -ˈa-lə- also ˌje-nē-\  

  1. 1 :  an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms 
  1. 2 :  regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor (see progenitor 1) or older form :  pedigree 
  1. 3 :  the study of family ancestral lines 
  1. 4 :  an account of the origin and historical development of something 

So you will be creating an account of the descent of your family  

This is the first part of a 3 part series on Genealogy Research for the Beginner. In this article  I will share with you tips on what you need to  have for tools when you begin your family tree search, what information you will be looking  to collect  and where you can find information to assist you in preserving your family tree.    

Seeking and collecting your information about your family tree can be exciting, fun and very rewarding. As you begin to piece things together you will see how they tell a story about your family.  But collecting all this information can be a bit overwhelming, because there is so many different types of data that can come from so many different sources. That is why it is so important to keep your information well organized.  In this first part we will be discussing what tools that you need to help keep your information organized.  

Some of these tools you may already have on hand. Depending on how elaborate you want to get and how far you plan on going with your search for your family tree you may need to purchase memberships, subscriptions to websites, genealogy software. There may also be traveling expenses depending on where you live and if you want to go to a source, like traveling to an out of state relative, library, city clerk office, or cemetery etc.  

This article is assuming that you have a computer or laptop and have access to the internet. 

A dedicated notebook will be useful for times when you can’t use your computer. In fact, you will probably fill up several notebooks.  A 3 ring binder can come in handy for keeping printed articles or printed PDF forms.  
You do not need to  have genealogy software, but it can make your work  a lot easier and more organized.  You may want to read my review  article on the top 3 genealogy software programs.   To make collecting data easier and as an extra tool, I have 3 PDF forms that you can use. These help you to be sure that you have collected all the information needed.    

I have  included a PDF checklist at the end of this article that you can print out, so that you will be able to keep yourself on track.   

Besides keeping your information on your computer, you will need a place to keep physical documents, such as certificates, photos, dvds, cds or letters. This is where a pocket folder or storage box will come in  handy.  You may end up collecting birth or death certificates or military records etc.  So whatever you use will need to be large enough and durable and you will want to make sure that you keep this in a dry safe place.   
The information that you store on your computer should also be backed up after each time you add to it. If you are using a genealogy software program you should make a backup according to their instructions. If you are using a word processing program, then you should make a copy of the files to a usb stick or upload them to a cloud server.  This way if anything happens to your computer you will not lose your work.   
You can use the above PDF forms as a way to collect your information. You can print them out to fill them in. The printed forms will be helpful to use if you are on your computer using a genealogy website as research or if you are interviewing a relative or traveling to a research location.  Once you are  home and on  the internet you can easily transfer the information into your genealogy software or keep the printed forms  in a 3 ring binder.  
Another tool that can very helpful, but is not a necessity is a digital camera. This doesn’t have to be anything special, your smartphone can work just fine. This will come in handy when you go to relatives and they have documents or photos that they aren’t willing to let you.  

One of the most important things to remember is that you need to keep your information organized and in a safe location.  

Here is the checklist for what you need to start your Ancestry Search: 
___ Notebook  
___ 3 ring binder 
___ Storage container 
___ PDF Forms 
___ Computer 
___ Printer  
___USB drive 
___Genealogy Software (optional) 
___Cloud storage (optional) 
___ Digital camera (optional)