Researching your Family Tree

How to research your own family tree

Getting Started

When starting your family tree, first decide which branch of your family you would like to begin researching. Next, draw a rough family tree on plain paper. Include as many names and dates as possible, plus any other information you think will be useful or interesting. Looking through old diaries can be helpful in finding dates of more recent family events. Also, make notes of any family legends, for example "Great Uncle Jim drove the Flying Scotsman". These family legends may not be true but they are still worth investigating.

Once your basic family tree is finished, try sending copies to your near relations, this will enable them to add information and correct any errors.

If possible, visit the oldest members of your family and discuss your family history with them. With their permission, use a voice recording app on your smartphone to record family anecdotes and other information of interest. Older relatives may also have photographs, or a family bible. Traditional family bibles often contain dates of birth and weddings of family members. Also, ask if they have any birth, marriage or death certificates.

Your relatives may allow you to take digital copies of family photographs and papers so remember to take your camera. If you own any old family photos containing unknown relations, take these along too. Carefully note down the names of anyone they recognise as this information could be useful later.


You may discover that some of your older family photos have badly deteriorated and are in need of restoration. There are some wonderful computer programs that enable you to restore photos to their former glory with a minimum of effort, thus enabling you to email photos to relatives, and to print fresh copies. These programs are also handy for use with digital photos enabling you to improve them. There are also many useful books to help beginners with their family trees. It might be worth investing in one of these books as they can be very helpful to a novice researcher.

Medical Family Tree

A medical family tree is a special type of family tree, researched for the sole purpose of discovering any genetic problems in your family history.

You may have noticed that some branches of your tree seem to live longer than others. With some families this difference can be dramatic. In cases like these, researching a medical family tree can literally save your life! If a problem is found then medical tests can be performed by your doctor, potentially saving lives.

When undertaking this type of family tree research you will need to buy copies of many death certificates. This can make your family tree research project more expensive, but without a doubt worthwhile!

I can research your medical family tree for you if you wish, please click the link to contact me.

Sources of family history information

There are many sources of information to help build your family tree. I am building up collection of useful free family tree information which you can access from the menu to the left of this page.

What to do when you have finished researching your family tree

It's no good having your family tree stored on rough scraps of paper; you need to produce a nicely laid out family tree diagram which you can share with your family and friends. Unfortunately, many family tree programs produce printed reports which are inflexible and often cannot include multiple marriages or cope with the complexities of modern families. Why not contact me for a quotation if you would like the results professionally displayed?

Another option to consider is creating a website to show off what you have accomplished. It is not as difficult or expensive as you might think.

It is important to remember not to publish any information about living relatives without their permission. Creating a website could help you discover lost branches of your family in other parts of the world or even closer to home, allowing you to exchange information and maybe have a sentimental family reunion.

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  • Quick Start Guide and Companion Guide to Family Tree Maker 2012 (Electronic Versions)
  • Interactive Training Tutorials give you step-by-step instructions and hints & tips to help build your tree