Build your family tree
What is a Family Tree and why is it important?
Family Tree is a genealogy, ancestry, and family tree research website. We offer reviews, articles, surname research, and genealogy advice. Genealogy tips for the beginner to the advanced researcher. Find site reviews, technology tips, DIY family tree ideas, information on cultural and local heritage, and an active social community.
It tells you who your family is, how it has grown, and where you originally came from. That's the top-line answer. But family trees can be so much more, and they can shape who we are, how we interact with a community, and the things we value day to day. Establishing a family tree can be a lot of work, and you'll need to sign up to one of the best genealogy sites to really get started with your research. However, completing one can be extremely rewarding.
How family tree work
There are a number of ways to construct a family tree. Using a service like Ancestry.com you can trace a male line - or a surname - from now to as far back as possible, or you can create a family history that fans out like a great tree that begins with your parents and include cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents as far back as you can trace. These days, there are some wonderful family tree software programs that can help you make any kind of family tree electronically, which makes the whole process much easier. You can even print them out to show relatives, or to create unique decorations in your home, if you value where you've come from. In many cases, you won't be able to go back more than a few generations (or you might find it too difficult to press on) but for those who are really interested in getting into the history or lineage of a family, there are a few more dedicated options. One of the most effective ways to get deeper into this is via a DNA testing kit, which will give you the data you need to really trace your bloodline back for many generations. It can take some real detective work to accurately pull your family tree back as far as you can go. Knowing who your grandmother and great-grandmother were is one thing; finding out who their great-grandparents were requires a lot of note-taking, fact-checking and a willingness to fail. Sometimes you so want the answer to be there, but there's just not enough evidence to back it up, and the temptation to make assumptions and take half-truths as fact is very real.
More contemporary uses of family tree
Family tree also help medical professionals answer questions. As genetics get more sophisticated, researchers, epidemiologists and scientists of all kinds may find valuable clues to curing disease embedded in family trees. You might also need to establish a family tree if you have a genetic disease, or to see how likely you are to pass on a disease to your children. If your family and your spouse's family carry a gene for cystic fibrosis, for example, you will have a high likelihood of passing that disease on to your children. Knowing what medical problems are in your family tree can help you make important decisions, and could potentially save your life if you know to get treatment early. You might be looking for a lost cousin, or trying to prove that you're the rightful heir to a small island off the west coast of Ireland, or you may want to win a bet with your buddy that you really are the great-great-great grandson of Johnny Appleseed. Whatever you're looking for in your history, the family tree format can help you discover or disprove it. With so many tools, tutorials and how-to articles available, you can create an accurate family tree that will pass muster with any genealogist.
How to Build a Family Tree
1. Identify What You Know and Use Home Sources
2. Record and Document Your Information
3. Prepare Yourself to Build a Strong Tree
4. Decide What You Want to Learn
5. Step One: Vital Records Will Be Most Helpful
6. Census Records from 1940 back to 1790
7. State Census Records
8. City Directories
9. The Courthouse
10. Library and Archives Research
11. NGS Book Loan Collection
12. Online Newspapers
13. Family Tree History Centers
14. Genealogical Societies