Many people have this uncommon yet interesting hobby of knowing more about their ancestors and their family tree. These kinds of people want to go back as far as possible and want to find even those ancestors who existed thousands of years ago.
This may seem impossible for many but it’s actually somewhat possible. There is a branch of science called Genealogy which is all about genes and stuff. It helps in determining your race, your actual origin, etc.
But where to begin? For a beginner, it might sound very tough to start their research. But don’t worry, this ultimate guide to genealogy will tell you everything about starting genealogy research from scratch. Let’s go.
What is Genealogy?
- The study of genealogy is about the ancestors of your family.
- It is not just names and dates that we are seeking; we also seek their stories and how they relate to history.
- Genealogy is similar to a puzzle where you have to put it together in the presence of a missing piece and without a picture on the box.
- Once everything is in place, it can be incredibly satisfying and rewarding to look back and see the end result.
Why You Start Genealogy?
- Are there members of your family who claim to be descended from an early Native American tribe? It is a common thing for families to say that one of their ancestors was a prince.
- Other rumors and legends might interest you as well, such as knowing someone famous or knowing a previous president.
- It can be helpful to know where your family comes from and to show others any unusual items you find when building your family tree.
- Some of the first freed slaves in this country may have descended from you or you may be related to someone who served as a president.
- Genealogical research can also be used to make your family tree more accurate. It can be incredibly helpful if you look into your family’s past to learn about relatives you never knew existed.
1. Start with Asking your Family First
- Your living relatives should be consulted before even opening an internet browser. The documents, photos, and letters they have kept preserved for so long may surprise you.
- It is easiest to create your family history if you start now and go backward. Get as much information from your family as you can and look for important documents.
- Take note of all the documents you find and make copies. When gathering details from family members, even if the dates aren’t exact, make a note of them so you will be able to find them later.
- You should also keep in mind that not all the things you get to know will be true, so you should check to see if the myths are supported with facts and documentation.
- Throughout your genealogy journey, make sure you secure and organize the information and copies you collect so you can access them easily.
- Depending on how much information you have about your ancestors, you may choose a digital or a paper copy.
- For keeping a paper record, you can keep everything together and neatly organized in a family history folder or notebook.
- It will take a lot of back-and-forth between different documents to confirm the information and make sure the details reflect your family’s past, which is why you need all the tools to keep track of the information you have so far gathered.
2. Creating a Family Tree
- In the process of creating your family tree, you should use the information that you have already collected about your living relatives.
- Begin the process with your information first, register all important information about yourself, such as your date of birth, occupation, marital status, etc, and where these events occurred.
- Next follow the same procedures with your parents, grandparents, etc. You may also want to include birth and death certificates in your family tree if you find them.
- You should record all the relevant facts about your ancestors, then look online for records and fill in any gaps, or learn more about them.
3. Researching for Your Family Tree
- Many sources of information about your family history can be found online for free or at a very low cost.
- Genealogy records often consist of several important items; each record provides certain details that can provide insights into not only the person being studied but also other family members and records linked to the individual.
- It is usually best to look at a record at a time, keeping in mind that it can be frustrating and overwhelming to look at so many names, dates at the same time.
4. Public Records
- Public records are usually the most reliable.
- Record keeping for county and city governments keeps track of people who lived and worked in the area in the past.
- Scientists rely on census records today as a primary resource.
1. US Census
- A full census is taken every ten years in the United States. The results can be found online. From 1790 to the present, you can see how things have changed from decade to decade.
- The U.S. census is a great place to start researching your family tree if you’re looking for some basic information.
- If any records from earlier census reports have been destroyed, it is still possible to view the census data taken every ten years for free.
- Using the name search, you can find all people with that name in that census.
- It is possible to view information about the individual’s residence, age, occupation, as well as the names and ages of other people who lived there with him or her.
- Because you’ll often come across multiple people who have the same name or similar names, you’ll need to know the age of the individual.
2. Immigration Census
- It is important to look at immigration records even if your family swears you lived here for many years.
- Any legal immigrant whose name appears on these records will also indicate their age.
- If your family changed its name later in life, this is a useful resource for finding out more information about them.
- The name of your great-great-grandfather may have been changed to make it American.
- You can expand your research to other countries once you have your original and full last name.
3. Birth/Date Record
- A birth record or death record for one of your ancestors would be an important thing to look into.
- Because birth certificates are typically filled out by parents at the hospital, they are a valuable source of information.
- There is information about the child’s name, the name of the birth parents, the doctor’s name, and the hospital where the child was born.
- The death certificate also provides quite a bit of information, including the deceased’s last address, the cause of death, and the occupation.
4. Criminal Record
- We don’t like to think that our relatives might be criminals.
- Consider a criminal record before avoiding it for fear that it will show only serious crimes. Any type of crime can be found in these records.
- Are you familiar with speeding tickets that you have received after being pulled over by a police officer?
- You can view your court case information by searching for your name.
- The criminal records of an individual allow you to find out if the individual has ever been arrested or convicted.
- You’ll often find dates of birth, full names, addresses, and even numbers.
5. Court Record
- A court record should also be reviewed in the same way as criminal records.
- Online records are available from most county courthouses and you can search for them by name.
- The records that you can view with a particular last name are those that are for either defendants or prosecutions.
- There are a number of civil records, including lawsuits filed against a person, foreclosures on homes owned by the individual, and also cases such as bankruptcy.
- Those records can be used to find personal information and the names of the individual’s spouse and close relatives.
6. City Directory Record
- Many cities used to have their own directories before the Yellow Book became prominent. Most directories come with commercial sections in front and residential sections in the back.
- A commercial section lists businesses, while a residential section lists individuals and their homes.
- The directory is usually published every year. Although this method of finding someone will require more work than you may imagine, many of these books list the person’s address first and their name second.
- The one from your family home may allow you to identify the people who lived there.
- Families can be found by viewing their occupations as well.
7. Military Records
- Free military records searches can be performed on a number of websites, letting you verify whether a person served in the military.
- Moreover, you’ll see when the person served, which branch he or she served under, and why the person was discharged.
- Alternatively, you can submit an information request to a national archive and receive copies of the records by mail.
8. Cemetery Record
- Cemeteries are one of the last places you might think to search for an ancestor.
- Though small and rural communities may find these databases useful, these service databases will be great resources for them.
- Cemetery databases contain a full listing of all the people interred in a particular cemetery.
- Listed are the name of the person, their birth date, and their death date. Photos of tombstones are even included in some databases.
5. Some Best Online Records
- Even a DNA test at home can offer a lot of information about your genetics and family background, you may want to look at the resources that provide insights into your past before you make a decision.
- You can start your search at the Family History Center. Located in Salt Lake City, this center has smaller branches in several states and some foreign countries as well as its headquarters.
- Find the location closest to you using the website of the center. You can access millions of historic documents and records on these centers for free.
- If assistance is needed, staff members can offer it. A special event is also worth attending. Workshops and classes are often offered by family history centers to anyone who is doing research.
- Any state should have a historical society, regardless of where you live. If you are looking for old family photos or photos of your relatives, the state historical society is an excellent place to look.
- There’s a good chance you can learn quite a bit about family members who lived through the disaster or were displaced due to it if you live in an area that has experienced several natural disasters over the years.
- Historical societies are located in most major cities in states. If you live in a smaller town or community, you should check the local historical societies, too.
- Perhaps you should also examine the church records if you belong to a religious family. A church’s detailed records often span multiple generations, especially those of older churches.
- Church records include detailed information about anyone who is married there. In addition to baptism records, most churches have records of all children baptized in their church.
- The records can provide you with information about your children’s birthdays and names. A baptism record can give you information about a child’s parents and grandparents. Depending on the record, siblings may also be noted.
- It is possible you will need to conduct research outside of your hometown at some point. You should definitely check your family’s once-hometown or county courthouse if you have a chance.
- A courthouse can be a valuable source of genealogical information. If a will or probate is registered at the courthouse, you can view these documents, which include the name and date of the deceased and the recipient of their property.
- A marriage record, divorce record, birth certificate, and adoption record can also be viewed. It is one of the best places to get information about an adopted family member if you have one.
DNA Testing For Genealogy
- It is possible to identify ancestors and relationships between families through the analysis of DNA variants.
- It’s often the case that people from a particular background are genetically similar in some ways.
- A closely related individual, family, or population usually shares more variation than a more distantly related ones.
Ancestry testing can be classified into three types:
1. Y Chromosome Testing
- It is possible to determine family history in direct male lines by analyzing variations on Y chromosomes. Females don’t have these.
- In some cases, however, women are sometimes helped to have the test done by their male relative.
- A Y chromosome test is frequently used to determine whether two families with the same last name are related since the Y chromosome is passed on in a similar manner to family names in many cultures.
2. Mitochondrial DNA Testing
- Testing mitochondrial DNA identifies genetic differences.
- A portion of DNA is also found within the mitochondria of cells, though most of it is found within chromosomes within the nucleus.
- A mitochondrial DNA test can be used by either sex, as mitochondrial DNA is inherited from their mothers.
- Direct female ancestry is described here. For genealogy, mitochondrial DNA analysis can be of value because it preserves the ancestry of the female generations through surnames.
3. SNP Testing
- A person’s entire genome is examined to determine how many variations there are. Test results are compared with those of other test takers to determine a person’s ethnicity.
- The purpose of this type of test is to discover the context of an individual’s ethnic background since Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing only represent single ancestral lines and they do not reveal the full story of an individual.
- Several limitations are associated with genetic ancestry testing. The results of individuals’ tests may not be consistent from provider to the provider because some compare them to multiple databases of previous tests.
- Furthermore, genetically determined ethnicity may differ from individual expectations because most human populations have migrated and interbred with nearby groups over time.
- Those who belong to smaller ethnic groups with less genetic variation due to their size and history tend to share many SNPs, and individuals with a common ancestor who are fourth cousins may be difficult to separate.
- Scientists can synthesize genetic data from many people to study the emergence, migration, and mixing of populations on a larger scale.
- A variety of organizations and companies provide genetic ancestry testing.
- Native American groups, however, are rarely identified by DNA tests. So, a Native American DNA kit is going to tell you whether you are part of one specific tribe or not.
- A lab will process your sample after you submit it. Later, you will be able to view your results online. An online account is usually required to use most kits.
- When the results are available, the company will send you an email, asking that you log in. A simple layout shows you how many different genes are present in your sample and the percentage of each.
- People who want to find out who their relatives are that they never knew about prefer the autosomal DNA test. You can share your results online when taking this type of test.
- Anyone whose results match yours can connect with you and chat online if they submitted their own tests.
- Take the example of a relative who gave up her baby for adoption. Using the kit site, you can contact those adopted children and tell them about their families.
- You can learn a lot about your origin from a home DNA test kit, as well as your connections to other people.
- You will usually be able to see your genetic makeup based on the regions of the world in which your genes come.
- The information you share with your genetic matches can be viewed by anyone, and you can request to connect with other matches as well.
- An investigation of your family tree cannot go as deep as an analysis of these genetic tests.
How to Use a DNA Test Kit?
- It should be no different from any other saliva test you’ve taken in the past. A test account must be created online before you can take the test.
- After you open an account, you can place an order for a DNA kit, and it will be sent to you.
- Usually, the test arrives in a couple of weeks. Over the counter, you can also find testing kits at some drug stores, though the precise test you need may not be offered there.
- The instructions for the test are detailed in the kit, so read them thoroughly before operating the device.
- There is some kind of saliva sample required for this kit. A small vial is used for spitting when you send in your ancestry DNA.
- To spit into a vial, first, remove the lid. A liquid must be added to the vial to keep your sample safe during the test.
- In other tests, you are asked to rub the inside of your cheek with a cotton swab removed from a sanitary package.
- A second container will be used to seal the swab. Your sample must be sent to a lab for both tests.
- Take a sample before going to bed for those with insomnia. If you don’t have saliva yet, wait for a few minutes and swab or spit when it has built up.
- Consuming food or drinking can cause the sample to degrade and damage it. All cigarettes, coffee, soda, and foods you consume are included.
- In order to ensure that enough saliva is produced for the test, you may want to consider eating foods that will stimulate your salivary glands.
- You may need to wait for 6 to 8 weeks to get your full results depending on how many kits you need to be tested.
Creating A Family Tree Chart
- Although a DNA test can give you insight into your chromosomes and health, your research will really be more effective if you create a family tree chart. Here are some great ways to get you started on your family tree.
- There are many sites that allow you to create a family tree chart for free. Any information you find can be entered and links between individuals can be created using these websites.
- Other sites, like Ancestry, also allow users to create an online family tree for free once they become members.
- The tree can either be kept private or shared with others. You will be able to see links to similar trees if you choose to share yours.
- Your own personal information is the ideal starting point for creating a family tree. It is best to include your full name and date of birth at the bottom of the branch.
- In the case of married couples, you can add your wedding date and link your names with the date of your spouse’s birth.
- Now you can add other family members’ names and details.
Tips for Beginners Starting Genealogy
1. Start With Setting up a Goal
- We expect that you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and resources available. Particularly if both your last names are common.
- Maintaining track of your goals is an easy way to stay motivated.
- Make a specific mission out of your search, such as learning when your family entered the country for the first time.
- You should strive to achieve that goal through all your work. As you work towards your other goals, you will stay focused and on track.
2. Create a Timeline
- Taking down all the basic facts and moving on to your next family member might seem like the easiest option as you record your family history.
- Researching each person in a timeline format will help you learn more about those people.
- If you are writing about your grandfather, describe his life throughout time.
- You should keep records of his service in the military, his marriage to your grandmother, his jobs, and his date of death that you found in the census.
- In addition to giving you an overview of your relatives’ relationships, the timeline will depict how they interacted.
3. Use Citations
- Those who have written papers for school know how important proper citations are.
- Doing genealogical research might lead you to think that citing your work is not necessary since you will not be sharing it.
- Though, you can use these citations if you find some contradictory or confusing information later on.
- For example, some sources indicate your grandfather was born in 1918, while others give his birthdate as 1921.
- By comparing your citations, you can find out which sources give a different date of birth and which one is indeed accurate.
4. Go One Site At A Time
- It’s common to feel tempted to jump to a second site and compare the information found from a database like the National Archives.
- This will only make you more confused. You should choose one site to start with and use it often till possible.
- Keeping track of your notes is easy with a notebook or a file on your computer. You can move onto another site when you have finished with that one.
5. Don't Forget the Females
- Several genealogists are unable to find information about a female ancestor, which is a common problem.
- Traditionally, women remained in the same household as their husbands, having their names, telephone numbers, and addresses listed under their husbands.
- Several states even outright forbid the ownership of property by women.
- You can check the marriage databases to see if she remarried later in life by looking up her maiden and married names.
- Additionally, you may want to look up her siblings’ and children’s names on the census.
6. Take A Deep Look At The Data
- Having a family investigation break down and later realizing that you were wrong is a very frustrating experience.
- Consider the case where your great-grandfather disappeared mysteriously years ago.
- A record might provide the impression that he had married another woman and started a new family, but when you carefully examine the information, you realize that this was a man of a different name.
- Write down your findings whenever you encounter conflicting data, and then consult your research to determine which story is right.
- Research can be hampered by the incorrect name, initial, date of birth, or various other reasons.
7. Don't Follow Just One Person
- You and your past relatives shared genes just as you and your brothers and sisters share chromosomes.
- Never be afraid to search beyond that single individual when you’re having trouble finding someone in your family.
- Finding the person you’re looking for may be easier if you search for any close siblings.
- The census records might also contain information about your grandfather if you look for his brother.
8. Don't Over Work
- A family tree tracing back multiple generations at once may be so tedious and frustrating that you decide to give up and let someone else in the family complete it.
- You should try to work for fifteen minutes at a time, according to experts.
- In this time, you can search one database or search public records for a few names without feeling overwhelmed by searching all of them at once.
- Your family tree can be kept up-to-date by setting reminders to spend a few minutes every day on it.
9. Take Help From Forums
- It is worthwhile to sign up for an account on a paid genealogy research site if possible. There are many forums on the internet where there is a regular discussion on this topic.
- The site members can post their family trees and ask other members for suggestions on how to make them more complete.
- In this way, others who are related to you can also provide you with any information they may have about your tree. When you run into a snag, you can also post in those forums.
10. Take Help From Books
- In spite of your belief that most people do not care about your family, you may be surprised to learn that someone else could have written a book about them.
- Your local library catalog has a searchable database that allows you to browse by family name, even if you don’t have a library card.
- You can request a book about your family from the library if you find it through the system.
- You may obtain these books if you wish to trace your ancestry before or after your ancestors immigrated to America.
11. Use Your DNA Test Results
- You can connect with others who have the same genes as you by using a home DNA test.
- It is highly recommended that you open an account with the site and tell it that sharing your information with other potential matches is no problem for you.
- Almost all sites allow you to send private messages to other users, giving each user a chance to think about their response before responding.
Whoosh.. this was a long article about beginning Genealogy. Now, you must have got a great idea about creating your own family tree and knowing more about your ancestors.
Once your family tree is created, you can pass it to your children and then their children. They all will just have to update it as you already have done most of the work.
The DNA test which you will get done in this journey can be used in more places like in a medical emergency etc, Genealogy is a great way to put your time into doing something highly productive and interesting. Thanks for reading this Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy.