Building a Family Tree: Where do I start?

I have over 6,000 names on my tree and that has taken over 20 years worth of research to build, but I still remember when I first started out. Even though I thought I came from the smallest family in existence, I was still dumbfounded as to where to start. And, really, where to start is the easiest question you have to face in genealogy.

You start with yourself!

Who knows more about you than…well, you? Maybe your parents, but generally speaking you know everything you need to know to get started.

But let’s back up a bit before you start jotting down information. At the beginning, drawing up little charts can be fun and exciting, but you’ll soon realise that those charts are not good enough. You’ll soon be looking for a better way to document the information you gather and I recommend you start out the way you will want to carry on – by using excellent genealogy software.

I use and recommend Legacy. I’ve used it for years and find it not only easy to use, but easy to carry around on a flash card so that it can be used on any computer, which I find handy. In the past, I have created a family tree website with it too and it also allows me to search resource websites from within the program. Everything you’ll need to accomplish with it, can be done.

Once you’ve settled on the software you are going to use, open it to a fresh, blank tree and enter the first person – you! From there, enter the details of your husband/wife/partner (if you have one) and then the details of your children and grand children (if any). See how quickly your tree is growing? I’m sure you’ll feel inspired by that alone. When you’ve finished with your descendants, it’s time to look at your ancestors. Add your parents and then your grandparents. From there you’ll be able to add your parent’s siblings and their children. And you’ll also be able to add your parents aunts and uncles.

In a couple of hours you could go from a blank family tree to one with a couple of dozen people on it, if not more.

It is that easy.

Of course, getting started is the simple part. You’ll soon realise that you don’t know all the details you need for your aunts and uncles, let alone your great aunts and uncles and all your cousins. But how to get around that is something to discuss in another post. *grin*

1 thought on “Building a Family Tree: Where do I start?”

  1. Karen kudos for getting people started. This genealogy thing gets a little addictive and it is nice to see people becoming interested in family history research.
    One point I like to tell everyone is to use spiral notebooks to gather their day to day notes in. Be sure to date every page like a journal. There will be plenty of loose papers to organize and file, but the spiral notebooks have a way of putting your research in a chronological time line. It is great help for when you have to look back six months or ten years to find something you were working on. Now we can reinforce our genealogy research with DNA testing and that opens up a lot of new possibilities.

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