How to Trace Your Family Tree: Getting Started with Genealogy

Genealogy, by definition, is studying or tracing the roots of people. Remember our ‘family trees’? Well, that is genealogy in its simplest form. One must begin by establishing our closest living relatives.

Our family tree chart

A basic family tree should look like the following:

You > Your Father > Your Father’s Father & Your Father’s Mother Your Mother > Your Mother’s Father & Your Mother’s Mother.

Before one should delve into the long process of tracing generations that are way back, a person should begin by asking his living relatives. After which, documents or journals (also known as diaries) should be gathered as they are a necessary part of proving their kinship.

As people begin to gather information about past generations, they do not only unearth the names of their ancestors but also such information as the way they have lived their lives and what motivated them. In the process, other relevant information such as political setting, conditions in the society, and how their ancestors have immigrated could also be established.

There are 5 types of genealogical information:

Name of the ancestor’s place – this tops the list because the search begins in an ancestor’s place. But one should be knowledgeable in different spellings for certain places. An example of which is the place called Brocton. This village name can be found in both Staffordshire and Shropshire borders, both English counties. Documents pertaining to a person’s place of origin are tax and census records, also civil registration.

Occupation – this could be relevant in cases where two people have the exact names. One way to distinguish one from the other is through their jobs. This could also give a hint on their status on the society. One needs to understand the Old English language before he can conclude what his ancestor’s occupation really is.

A common example is the words ostler and hostler. Ostlers tend to horses while a hostler is keeper of an inn. Another example is a shoemaker who can also be called a ‘cordwainer’. Occupational documents include directories, census records, and again, civil registration.

Last Names or Surnames – extra care should be practiced when dealing with this piece of information. There are several ways a surname could be presented. Cultures all over the globe (well, at least most of them) put the surname after the first names. That is why it is sometimes called the last name. But this is not true for the Chinese culture. They, on the other hand, place their last names first and their first names last (get that?).

There are several ways of getting a surname. The last names of women could be altered when they undergo marriage. The so-called patronymics, on the other hand, allow people to be identified through their paternal parent’s surname. Still some undergo modifications such as what happened to the surname Mordecai that was modified into Mort.

First names – together with the last names, these are vital information, too. However, the downside is when nicknames are also being used by our ancestors. In this case, middle names could be of help. There are also some conventions in naming children. Parents from Scotland could follow the ‘formula’ of naming their children: the first son could be named after the child’s father’s father, while the next son could be name after the mother’s father, and so forth.

Dates – is also vital to establish such occasions as marriages, births and deaths. Connections of parents to their children could be established by such simple information as dates of birth. However, dates have the most errors in transcription so extra care should be practiced when dealing with them.

Now that all the necessary information needed to start a family history were discussed, one needs to know the other sources aside from living relatives and public documents. There are several websites that could help anyone who would want to start with his own genealogical search.

The leader of which are the LDS-compiled genealogy that resulted into the International Genealogical Index, which happens to be the largest compilation of genealogical data through microfilm.

Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are modern ways to research one’s ancestry nowadays and what he just needs to do is to sit down and start with the most basic. Then from there, the web is there to help. So, is your interest now piqued? Go get a pen and start searching!

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