How do I begin my family tree?

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the best place to begin your family tree is to start with yourself and work back, from the present to the past. Starting with what you know and working back provides stepping stones to the past.

First, start with yourself, write down everything you know about your own family, birth, marriage, and death. A good tool for organizing this information is the Family Group Record, blank forms are available on the Internet. This form groups families together, parents to children, and indicates the parents of the husband and wife. A common goal is to complete a Family Group Record for yourself and each direct-line ancestor through four generations.

Second, in the beginning stages of research, the best place to look for information is home and family sources. You may be surprised at the amount of information you have in your own home records. The next step is to interview extended family members, especially the elderly who may have important, first-hand knowledge.

Third, when you have gathered as much information as you can from home and family sources, and filled out as much as you can on your Family Group Records, it's time to stop and take a look at to see what's missing. After evaluating what you know, decide on a single question you would like answered (such as your grandparent's marriage date), and proceed to find the information. Once you have found the answer, write down what you have found and where you found it, and then repeat the process: evaluate what you know, look to see what's missing, then move forward. This is the research process.

Using the information from your Family Group Records, you may want to start a Pedigree Chart, which acts as a sort of road map, letting you see your family tree at a glance. Sooner or later you may want to put that information into a genealogy database. If you have questions about where to look for a particular type of record, the LDS Family History Research Guides are a good tool. You may also wish to take a beginning genealogy class or attend a local genealogy conference to gain additional knowledge.

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