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Trace My Family Tree 'Trace My Family Tree' is a blog dedicated to helping beginning family historians get started on their journey with resources, tips and tricks. Genealogy is a fascinating hobby and some people have no idea how to get started. That's where we come in. We're here to help!

03 September 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Filling Out Pedigree Charts

Download Pedigree Chart

Now that you’ve collected everything you can about your family and interviewed family members, it’s time to make some sense of all the information you have. That means you’re going to start filling out genealogical forms. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

Most people start with what’s called a pedigree chart. This form gives you a quick overview of your family and makes it easy to track your research progress. You will usually start with yourself and then go back in time filling up the branches as you go and eventually you’ll have a family tree showing your direct ancestors. By clicking the image on the left you will be able to download a five-generation pedigree chart.
Pedigree charts will normally have room for four-six generations, and will include have room to enter names (first middle last) as well as important dates and places of birth, marriage and death for each person.

So start with yourself in the number 1 spot (or whoever the person is that you are researching). This should be a snap since you probably know most of this information, right? From there, the male lines follow the upper track and the females follow the lower track. The idea is to enter biological parents and while there are all sort of discussions about same-sex partnerships, adoptions and other relationships, I won’t get into that here.

So your dad goes in box number 2 and your mom in box number 3. Other than the first person, all the males will have odd numbers and women will have even numbers. Makes it easy to remember, right?

After filling out the chart with 4 or 5 generations, you’ll need to create additional charts for each of the individuals included in the last generation on your first chart. Each person will become the first ancestor on a brand new chart and you’ll reference their number on the original chart so it will be easy to go back and figure out where everyone fits and follow the family through all generations. Don’t forget to give the new charts new numbers and this way when you want to reference the other charts fill out the bottom where it says “Person 1 appears on page __”.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the information or even all the people who are supposed to be on the chart. That’s what you’re going to be doing later when you try to find your elusive ancestors. When I started to trace my family tree I had huge holes in my charts which I am still slowly filling out today. Each new find makes you do a little genealogy happy dance!

23 August 2010 ~ 6 Comments

Trace My Family Tree – How to Interview a Relative

So what do you need to keep in mind when interviewing a relative? Let’s go through a quick checklist that I used when I started to trace my family tree. Obviously this is  just a recommendation and interviews show flow and not stick to a specific format. Every person is different and you should try to read your subject and see what they are more comfortable talking about.

1. Don’t surprise your relatives. Plan the interview in advance.
2. It’s always a good idea to prepare a list of questions and let your relative know what you’re going to ask ahead of time.
3. I don’t like to take notes because I always miss something and it slows down the interview. Get a small digital voice recorder and make sure it is charged and ready to go. Don’t let technology mess you up!
4. Don’t forget to make note of the time and place where the interview took place.
5. Start with an easy question, but try to stay away from yes/no questions. Strive for details.
6. Be a good listener and try to stay engaged in the conversation without taking over the interview.
7. Use family photos to jog the memory.
8. Don’t force an issue. Sometimes you might hit a nerve and that can cause someone to shut down. Move on.
9. Be creative and let the conversation flow. Don’t stick to your prepared questions if the interview heads down a different path.
10. Don’t correct your relative’s answers and always thank them for sharing their stories with you.

See that wasn’t too hard. The interview can be a great way to gather a lot of information. Just be natural and prepare in advance and you should be fine. Don’t drag the interview on for hours. If you need to come back several times – do it. Sometimes your relatives will want to see what you are going to write after the interview so assure them that you will not publish or share anything before they approve it.

OK, what are you waiting for? Get to it!

19 August 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Trace My Family Tree – Up Next: Interviews

Probably the most important step is interviewing your relatives. Start with your parents and then move on from there. If you still have grandparents or even great-grandparents don’t waste time! It’s not pleasant to think about these sorts of things but while your oldest relatives are going to be the ones who can link you further to the past, they are also the ones who are the most likely to forget. My own grandmother has given me three different variations to the mother’s surname when I started to trace my family tree.

You can do these interviews while your in the collection phase. Don’t wait until you have everything to get started. It’s always a great idea to interview your relatives while gathering documents and photos because you will likely be able to relate better to their stories. You should try to collect stories and not just random facts and try to ask open-ended questions. Here are a few questions to ask during your interview:

How did you meet your spouse? How did your parents meet?

What do you remember from your childhood?

What do you know about the origins of your surname?

Do you know any family stories that have been passed down?

Are there any heirlooms that have special stories associated with them?

What are you most proud of and would like people to remember about you?

Here’s a great list of 50 questions to ask during an interview. And don’t worry too much about being nervous. These are your family members! You’ve probably known them all your life and they will be happy to share their stories. People love talking about themselves!

In the next post we’ll go through some steps for the actual  interview.

18 August 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Trace My Family Tree – First Step: Collect

So you’ve decided to figure out who everyone is in your family tree. “How do I trace my family tree?” you may ask yourself. “What is the first step?”

Well, start out by collecting anything and everything you have about the family. Here’s a quick list:

Photos & Postcards
Family Bibles
Other Family Heirlooms

Everything you gather may hold valuable clues to the identity and lives of your ancestors. Get into that basement or attic and look for old boxes that may have been left there when a relatives passed away. Check the closets and filing cabinets. You might have a lot of stuff or very little, but don’t be discouraged. You can get started with just your memory!

Don’t worry too much about identifying or sorting through everything right away. Just make sure you know where everything came from because you’re going to want to keep that in mind when you cite your sources later on.

Since these are supposed to be quick tips, that’s it for right now. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the next step!

27 July 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Welcome to ‘Trace My Family Tree’

Hi there! I’m glad you made your way to my little site and I hope you find the information here useful.

A few years ago, while showing my daughter some old photos of the family, I felt an urge to trace my family tree. There were many reasons involved in this decision but probably topping the list was a need to reconnect with my roots and document our family history. As far as I knew, outside of some school projects, nobody in the family was doing any genealogy research and since I felt the urge to do it I became the family history nut who bugs people with endless questions and asks for old document and photographs. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first question to myself was “What do I need to know in order to trace my family tree and what resources are out there for me to use?” I quickly found out that there were A LOT of websites, databases, tools, etc. out there, both free and expensive. Since there is so much to learn I obviously made a lot of beginner’s mistakes. I decided to put this website together to help other people who wish to trace their roots. I will focus mostly on simple steps that will help you get started. Because once you get going, there is no turning back…

Let’s get started?

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