Monday, November 21, 2011

Growing Your Family Tree, Getting started

     Building a family tree can be a lot of fun and a very rewarding experience. If you like solving puzzles, this is the ultimate. It is also a lot of work. I'm going to take you through some of the things I've encountered building the trees that are here in the "Kitchen". I'm still a newbie, not even a year of research under my belt. I've made a ton of mistakes. Hopefully, I can help you avoid making some of the same.

     The first thing to decide, how serious are you? What do you intend to do with your tree? I knew I wanted to post it online. I didn't originally take it very seriously. In my defense, I had no idea anyone would ever see it beyond my immediate family. I didn't realise what I was getting into when I started my research.

     My original intent was not really motivated by tracing an extensive tree for any of my families. I wanted to identify people in photos. I didn't want them to be nameless faces, staring out from forgotten family albums. I called the project, putting leaves on the family tree. The rest grew from that. An un tapped photo album still makes my heart beat faster.

     The family histories are by far the most viewed posts I have done, thousands of page views, hundreds of emails, a couple of comments, responses from all over the globe. People take this very seriously. So do I, now.

    If you are going to publish what you find, be as accurate as possible. Outline your sources, identify if something is just anecdotal. Whether you intend it or not, publishing things you can't back up can waste  a lot of research time and money. In doing my outlines, I have run across two very extensive trees that are ultimately wishful thinking. One is complete fiction, cobbled together bits of several different trees. The other is the result of a lot of research, unfortunately there are unsupported connections as well. Both have been widely shared and incorporated into other people's work. I don't think either represent any malicious intent, just an abundance of enthusiasm.

     Be accurate, keep records, be able to support your findings. People will ask. Where to start?

     The best place to start is with your living relatives. I have badgered harrassed annoyed talked with many of mine. They can provide a surprising amount of help. My job was made much easier by two things. Several relatives already had started research. I had a huge head start. I had pictures. Getting relatives to identify people or places in photos is a great memory aid. The fact that I have quite literally hundreds of living relatives to pump for information didn't hurt either, 90 years of living history to draw from.

     A word of caution, memory is a tricky thing. We get things wrong. As an example, I have always thought one of my uncles was a surviving twin. I have repeated this story numerous times, it's fiction. I only found out this year. For forty some odd years, I believed it to be true. Obviously I heard or was told something as a kid and got the details wrong. It happens.

     Go ask your questions. You'll end up with lots of information if your family is anything like mine. Next post will be about filtering information, what to look for and how to use it.

     Have you ever tried to find out more about your family?


  1. One of my relatives has worked long and hard on our family tree. It really is a neat thing to have!

  2. I have several relatives who have done lots of research. It's interesting to see how the family grew. Thanks for the visit Ester.


Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed your time in the "Kitchen".