5 Things to Tell New Genealogists

Have you ever helped a friend start a family tree? Starting out with a blank tree, and beginning to fill it, is always a joy. I have done this a few times and have come up with some hints to tell people who are completely new to all of it.



1) Start with yourself and work backwards.

When you work backward, you are sure to construct a solid trail to a family that you can be sure is yours.


2) No, really, start with yourself.

Collect and scan all the documents that prove you and your relationships. Think about what you would like to find for your ancestors, and collect that information for yourself. You could even include a brief autobiography.


3) Spelling, schmelling.

Do not get hung up on spelling. People in the past were not as hung up as we are on correctly spelling their names. The people who copied down the records often did so phonetically. So, don’t expect the spelling of your ancestor’s names to be the same in each record you find.


4) Keep track of your sources.

You will want to know the source of the information. Documenting your facts in your family tree software program is a great idea. It will be helpful when you come across conflicting evidence. It will also remind you where you have already looked, and keep you from ordering the same record multiple times.


5) Start a timeline.

When you make a timeline of an ancestor’s life, it makes you focus your search on the correct times and places. The timeline can make you think in terms of the events that were happening concurrently, to give context to your ancestor’s life.