Starting your family tree is exciting, but you may be faced with a question that is common to everyone starting family history research: where do I start? This question is very natural, because when we think of genealogy, we already visualize grandparents and great-grandparents and older generations. In this case, you need to get back to the present. Here at Traveling to Calabria you make the trip of your dreams!!! Are you staying in Calabria? LOOKING FOR A HOTEL IN CALABRIA? Check our suggestions! Click here!
Genealogical research must be based on already known information in order to make discoveries. It must start in the present and then move towards the past. You are the starting point of this journey through the generations. When trying to locate a great-grandfather, for example, without first finding out more about his children and grandchildren, it would be similar to building the second floor of a building without building the first. Impossible! Bringing this analogy to our subject, it would be equivalent to getting fruit without planting the tree. In this case, you are the trunk that supports the branches, which are your ancestors. See the steps to start your family tree…
1) Start your family tree for yourself
You are the focal point of your genealogy, so start with your name and information. You can start your family tree by making your own drawing with pencil and paper, or pick up models online. After writing down your information, do the same for your parents and grandparents. Include the name (maiden name for women), dates and places of birth, marriage and death (when applicable). Don’t worry if you don’t have all the information or don’t know it exactly. Write down everything you know, even if it is incomplete data (for example, for date and place of birth, you can just record the year and state). These gaps you’ll fill in by putting the next tip into practice.
2) Talk to your parents, uncles and grandparents
We do not always know the exact names, dates and places of our parents and grandparents. Especially when it comes to great-grandparents. So it’s time to ask the wiser for help. Your initial source of research is your parents, uncles and grandparents. If you have a bright and lucid great-grandmother or great-grandfather, consider this a privilege. They will be able to give you a lot of information.
The best way is to make this conversation natural and spontaneous. Never start the conversation with “I’m doing the family tree” or with questions like “what’s your birth date?”, “what city were you born in?” and other such questions. Start by talking about your discoveries, about your desire to learn more about the person’s history and that of their parents and grandparents, which is important for you to retrieve old memories… create a warm and emotional environment. Not everyone knows terms like “genealogy” and “family tree”. The ideal would be a face-to-face conversation, but as this is not always possible (especially in the situation we are), a phone or video call will do the trick. Write everything down. If possible, record the audio. In these opportunities, take action with the next tip as well.
3) Gather and review documents and other important items
Collect, organize and analyze family documents. Do this with the certificates you already have and, whenever you have contact with a family member, ask them for items such as:
- Birth, marriage and death certificates;
- Certificates of baptism, confirmation or any other ecclesiastical document;
- Photos (check if there is something written on the back and always ask when they were taken and the names of the people in the photo);
- Old letters;
- Property purchase and sale contracts;
- Old bibles (our grandparents and great-grandparents took notes on them);
- Old books and diaries.
- Make photocopies, take pictures, record videos and then analyze everything.
4) Search genealogical sites
One of the “mandatory” steps to start your family tree is online research. There are websites with databases of digitized documents, and most of them are even indexed. They are very useful for researching in distant cities, as it saves you from having to travel and spend on requesting certificates. Some of these sites are:
- National Archives
- São Paulo State Immigration Museum
5) Search on Google
Use and abuse Google to start your family tree. Searches for your surname accompanied by the words “family”, “genealogy”, “surname” and “history” yield many results. For example: “Coelho family”, “Ferrari surname”, “Xavier genealogy”, “Lopes surname genealogy”, “Albuquerque family history”, …
In these searches you can find websites, both institutional and personal, with content referring to your family. In addition, you can find books and other publications where your ancestors are mentioned. Even if you don’t find links between the results you found and the individuals in your family tree, bookmark the sites for future reference.
6) Search in books
It is possible that some distant and unknown relative has already written a book about your family. It’s already happened to me. In addition to the results you can find in searches you’ve done on Google, it’s worth searching online second-hand bookstores for books referring to your family history. In addition, don’t just look specifically for the last name, also research the history of the city or region where your ancestors were born and lived. Maybe they participated in the historical facts of the place.
7) Record your findings
Whenever you discover information, record everything! In detail! This means that for every bit of information you discover you must write down how, where and when you got it. For example, if you discovered your great-grandfather’s date of birth, along with the date, put it in some way where or how you got this information (whether it was on a website, book, with a family member, etc). Also add the date when you got this data. Record everything in such a way that if you or someone else needs to review this information, the research trajectory can be taken again.
8) Go back and do it all over again
From time to time, or when you’ve gotten a good deal of information about a person or family, go back to the beginning and do it all over again:
- Present this information to your parents, grandparents and uncles for them to validate and perhaps remember something else;
- Review the documents you had and compare them with the ones you got through the research, this may lead you to more clues;
- Search genealogical websites, Google, books and other publications (physical or electronic) again for new names and information you gained through the discoveries.
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Eight Steps to Start Your Family Tree – Starting your family tree is the beginning of an activity that could become a hobby and even a passion. It may seem difficult at first, but over time you will learn and refine your look. Tati Marin is a genealogist and content producer for Genealogizando. To learn more, visit the website, the Instagram profile, Facebook Fanpage or Youtube channel.
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