Genealogy Guide - Family Tree

Our beginner's guide to starting your research to trace your roots.


Since the 1970s the study of family origins - or genealogy - has become a very popular hobby. It's only natural to want to learn about where your family comes from, as it can give you a better understanding of who you are. So, how do you go about tracing your family tree? On the surface the task ahead of you may seem quite daunting and it can be quite difficult knowing where to begin. Well, we're on hand to help you, with this step-by-step guide to making your own family tree!

Step 1. Decide the point at which you're going to start researching

Before rushing headlong into this and deciding to research forty generations of your family, it makes sense to begin your research with a more realistic aim, tracing backwards three or four generations from yourself to your great grandparents.

So, first off, make a list of all the people that make up these generations, so as not to feel too daunted by the task ahead of you. Plus, you are more likely to gain a sense of satisfaction from accomplishing these achievable goals.

Step 2. Collect the information that is easiest to find

Create some simple record sheets for each family member and fill in all the details you can about each family member on your list. Once you have done this, you then will have a clearer picture of what information about your family that you already know.

Step 3. Organise and store the information you have collected in a manageable way

It may seem obvious, but it's important to stress that organization is the key here. Buy some folders or document wallets and other office supplies specifically for your research.

Step 4. Make a detailed research questionnaire

Ok, what we mean by this is that you should really draw up a questionnaire for your living family members, which will enable you to request specific information from them and also to confirm the information you already have.

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Step 5. Create a simple handwritten family tree

This diagram should follow the bloodline of each of the main family members who came before you, as far back as your great grandparents. This will start to give you a sense of what your family looks like when put into a detailed family tree.

Step 6. Begin collecting supporting information

Basically this means that, once you have drawn up your tree diagram, you should now collect supporting documentation, such as photos and images. This can also mean recordings of conversations with your family members. Once collected, begin adding them to your files.

Step 7. Use the Internet

The invention of the Web has affected genealogy like no other. Not only can you use the internet to find missing documents and information, but you can also apply for copies of documents from official halls of records, such as The 1901 Census of England and Wales, which will back up the information you have already collected.

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Step 8. Enter all your information into a genealogy computer programme

There are currently several multimedia software packages specifically designed for creating a detailed family tree.

These programmes are easily available to buy online (see links below), and you can start to input all the information you have collected, together with copies of documents, images and even sounds.

So there you have it - by following this guide you should be able to successfully build your first family tree. Good luck, and above all, enjoy it!