Making a family tree can be a terrific learning experience, and is always a good way to find out more about your ancestry and family history. Family trees can be simple or very involved, depending on how much time you want to spend on it and how readily available the information is. Digging around for missing links in your family will uncover all kinds of neat and interesting facts about your ancestors.
While there are quite a few online tools that will allow you to create a family tree, creating one by hand is by far the most fun and satisfying method. Here are some tips to get started.
- Start your family tree with a large piece of paper or cardboard. Draw a line for the "trunk" of the tree at the bottom and write your name vertically above the line. This is where you'll begin. You can also create it from left to right if that makes things easier for you to plot out.
- Draw two parallel lines branching out from yours; label these with the names of your parents. Add your siblings if you have them, below or beside your own name, illustrating that your parents are also the parents of your brothers and sisters.
- Continue adding branches to your tree by drawing parallel lines for each set of parents and adding their parents' names. Keep going until you can't go back any further. Remember to add siblings along the way in the same manner as you added your own.
- Wherever you can, add the dates of births and deaths for each name on your tree. This adds a sense of real history to your family tree, and allows you to get a feel for just how far back you're able to go.
- When you run out of names that you know offhand, you'll have to start researching to fill in the blanks. Start by asking your parents, grandparents, and older family members what names they can remember. It's most important to know surnames and, if possible, where these people lived.
- If you have an idea of where your ancestors called home, you can go online and research to get some more names. Try birth and death registries, searchable library databases, local newspapers, and social security banks.
- If you hit a dead end in your search, there are a number of services online and at local historical organizations that can help you out. Many of these services charge a fee for their assistance, so do some research to find out which one will best suit your needs and budget.
- Once you have your tree sketched out as far back as you want to go, you can draw it out on good quality paper and frame it to display as a proud reminder of your family history.
Making a family tree together with your kids can be a rewarding experience and it's a great way to teach your kids about their family ancestry. Get them involved as much as you can, especially when talking to older relatives. Children love to learn about how life was in the 'olden days', and talking about long lost relatives will be satisfying for everyone involved. Now that you know how to make a family tree, start tracing your family roots and get started!