Compiling a graphical representation and written record of your family tree can be an interesting and enjoyable pastime, but it can also come with plenty of challenges. Fortunately, studying your family’s genealogy is easier than ever thanks to the plethora of websites and resources available to help you along the way. Just a few decades ago, searching for genealogical clues was much more difficult and time-consuming because everything had to be done over the phone or by mail, so there were always delays to contend with.
However, even with today’s online databases that provide instant gratification and information, it is still possible to be stumped about certain parts of your family tree. Ironically, many of the most mysterious pieces are at the root of the family tree – near what would be called the “stump” on an actual tree – because those records are the oldest. With that said, here are 7 tips you can use to discover every branch and leaf on your family tree.
1. Check Obituary Records
Obituary records can be invaluable resources for helping you find out more about members of your family who have already passed away. Since these records typically list details about the family of the deceased, you can often find many more branches of your family tree just by quickly skimming over one of your ancestor’s obituaries. For this reason, obituary records remain one of the most valuable tools for both professional and hobbyist genealogists. In fact, many pros use this service to quickly retrieve and view multiple obituaries in a single online interface. PublicRecordsReviews is one of the most preferred sites for genealogy research because it also provides access to legal records, phone numbers, birth records, arrest records, address history, and other details that might help find members of your family tree.
2. Make a List of Items That Could Be Useful
Now that you’ve probably discovered plenty of new family members through an extensive obituary search, it is time to make a list of all the puzzle pieces you’ve gathered thus far. This will help you determine what kind of items you don’t yet have. It will also serve as a helpful reference for keeping everything organized as the size and scope of your research continues to broaden. To give you some ideas of how you can compile and expand this list, some items to include would be genealogy books, photo albums, old postcards, printed emails, and official records.
3. Take a Quick Course on Genealogy
If you really want to get serious about creating a truly organized and well-researched family tree, taking an online genealogy course will definitely help. In just 1 to 2 weeks, you could be a veritable expert on the main aspects of genealogical research. While you might not wind up certified as a professional genealogist, you’ll certainly know enough to feel like you don’t need to pay for the services of a professional yourself.
4. Ask Family, Friends, and Locals
Sometimes, to find a piece of your family tree that has been eluding you, it might be necessary to go beyond the official documents and records. Asking the relatives who are closest to the missing link, or speaking with their friends, might help you find out the names of their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings. This is usually the best place to start after you’ve checked out the most obvious documents like obituary records.
5. Consider All Possible Clues
A great genealogist can uncover even seemingly trivial details about someone who lived hundreds of years ago. That type of exhaustive research can only happen when you’re taking every possible clue into account. For example, you might need to start expanding the geographical boundaries of your search to see if there are pieces of your family tree that are located elsewhere. Uncovering as much as possible about each member of your family tree helps provide the certainty needed to stay organized.
6. Keep a Journal
Once your family tree starts to really blossom, remembering every step you took can start to become almost impossible. Carry a journal and use it to document any important clue you find as you go along. This will serve as a great reference later on while also having a sentimental value of its own.
7. Make a Schedule
To make sure you stay organized going forward, it’s best to create a basic schedule that defines when and how long you’ll be working on your family tree. That way, you’ll be committed to it, as opposed to simply working on it whenever you feel like it.
Check the Records Again
Finally, it is important to remember that public records are always being updated. Thus, you may want to periodically re-check for certain records, especially those that pertain to living or recently deceased family members.