Ever wondered what happened to your great Uncle Edward? Or how exactly you’re related to Susan, who you believe could be your cousin, twice removed? Perhaps you’re simply curious about your family history? If you’re keen to learn more about your heritage, the best place to start is by building a family tree.
How to begin building a family tree
The first step to creating your family tree is to gather information about your family. It’s best to break this process up into simple steps, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed.
First, write down everything you know about your family. Next, speak to other family members to see if they can fill in any gaps.
You might also be able to source documents, such as census records, news stories, land deeds and obituaries to help guide you. The library can be an invaluable resource here, along with genealogy websites such as ancestry.com.au and myheritage.com (although these sites may require you to pay a fee).
Tip: If you’re able to source documents and articles, be sure to take a digital copy of each so you can store it online safely.
Draw your family tree chart
Drawing your family tree can simple or complex – it’s totally up to you. A simple chart may include you, your children and grandchildren, along with your parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Or, to delve in a bit deeper, you could include siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Once you’ve decided how far back you want to go and who you want to include, there are a few more questions to consider, such as:
- Does anyone in your family already have some of the information you need?
- How much information do you want to include (Eg. births, marriages, deaths)?
- Do you want to include pictures of each family member?
Next, you’ll need to think about how you’ll design your family tree chart. It’s a great idea to look at some examples online. There are also free templates you can download, including:
Of course, you can also create your own template in a program such as Microsoft Word or Excel.
What information should you include for each family member?
When building a family tree, you need to include space for the following information:
Always include each person’s full name where possible. For females, use their maiden name (as their married name will be implied by their spouse).
While this may be difficult to ascertain, if you can include places where people were born, married and died, this will give a more complete picture of your family’s story.
Be sure to list all dates – which might be harder to find the deeper you delve. If you’re unable to ascertain an exact date, you can estimate it – just be sure to include the words before, after or about.
Enter the information into your family tree
When you’re ready to begin filling in the data, the best place to start is with yourself. Simply input your name, important dates (birth, marriage, etc), your spouse and the details of your children and their children (if any).
Then, work your way backwards. Fill in your parents’ details, your grandparents and any other relatives you wish to include.
Here’s where the magic all comes together and your family tree really starts to take shape.
Sharing your family tree
This family history you’ve created is invaluable and is great for helping other relatives learn about their heritage.
So, once you’ve finished building your family tree, it’s time to share it.
Be sure to keep it open for contributions, asking your relatives to add any additional information. All these insights will add richness and resonance to your family story.