How to Start a Family Tree Research


I remember the day my grandmother told me about our family roots as it was yesterday. How could I forget? 18th century romance, a Russian shipowner falls in love with the daughter of a great Polish archbishop. That’s how her great-great-great father was born. By no means did it cross my mind until then to start building my family tree. But I got really curious of all the great stories that stand behind our family name. And you know what they say, curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. Happy to share the steps I took:

Step 1 – Take notes of everything you know
I asked grandma to rewind a bit so I can write everything down. When and where people were born, who their siblings were, who married who and where. Naturally, I couldn’t help doing some phony drawings with all sort of connecting lines.

Step 2 – See if anyone has done your family tree
I talked with all of our older family members to see if anyone started such a sisific work. Nobody did but I got some pretty interesting information on our distant families back in Russia and Poland, and when they settled in the western part of Europe.

Step 3 – Look for validation
Once I got all the data from my family, I needed to look for records that confirm and complete the information I had. I found this amazing genealogy site that offered me great insights and lots of family tree chart templates to choose from.

Step 4 – More concrete evidence
I spent months in all sorts of archives, local studies libraries, family history centres in search for birth, death and marriage certificates, and ancestors’ wills among other things.

Step 5 – Put everything into place
At first I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I had. On notes, in my phone recordings, on paper charts, on articles I xeroxed. I decided to organize it and a family tree software came to the rescue. I also turned my unreadable drawings into concept maps and attached them as resources.

In the end, I was amazed by this back-in-time travel and the people I got to meet as my ancestors. Proud, hard-working people that left a trace in their communities. One that I could find and write about. Now it’s your turn to bring your family history back to life.


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