06 September 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Start with a Single Surname

So now that you’re busy filling out pedigree charts, you might come across a problem. You have too many ancestors! Don’t worry we all have the same issue. Since every person has two parents and not taking into consideration that there are several ancestors with the same surname, this means that in a 9 generation family tree (as you can see on the image on the left) you will have 256 surnames and 511 people, including yourself. And this doesn’t take into account spelling variations or people who’ve had name changes. Yikes!

So the tip for today is to stay focused and start with a single surname. When I began to trace my family tree I was pretty much all over the map (or tree). That caused a lot of holes and missed information, lots of to-do lists and so on. Avoid that headache and stay focused. Don’t  work on too many parts of your family tree at once. Resist the urge to wander down (or up) other branches. Everyone will get a turn. I promise.

The easiest surnames to start with are the ones on your paternal side. In the fan chart they are the one shaded in blue. “Why?” I hear you asking. Because those surnames tend to stay in the family and don’t change due to marriage like the maternal side.

So there you have it. Let’s set this plan in motion.

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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.

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