Family Tree Research

Genetic GenealogyPeople have all kinds of reasons for conducting their family tree research. Some want to understand who they are and where they came from. Some research their family history for religious reasons. Some do genetic genealogy to understand more about their inherited medical conditions.

Maybe you enjoy the detective work involved in putting together the puzzle of your family. Maybe you're adopted and want to learn more about your birth parents. Maybe you have prominent and famous ancestors, or maybe your ancestors were poor. Maybe you want to learn more about your great-great grandfather who was a Civil War veteran. Maybe your ancestors were Chinese railroad workers and you want to understand the obstacles they overcame in America. Maybe your ancestors were wealthy plantation owners. Maybe they were poor Appalachian farmers. Maybe they were slaves.

Whoever your ancestors were, and whatever your reasons are for wanting to learn more about them, there are many different ways to conduct your family tree research:

  • You can search the internet and take advantage of the myriads of genealogy websites available there
  • You can interview your relatives
  • You can go to an archive or genealogy library and search their books and microfilms
  • You can pay someone professionally to do your ancestry research
  • You can write letters to courthouses and government offices to obtain documents


Whatever strategies you decide to use when doing your family tree research, professional genealogists agree that there is a process of four basic steps, known as the preliminary survey, that you should start with:

  1. Check home and family sources. See what documents, photos, certificates, and scrapbooks you have in your own home that can help you.
  2. Interview living relatives. Collect the stories and oral histories of your relatives, and use their knowledge to begin filling in the branches of your family tree.
  3. Check for published histories. Most people are surprised when they learn how many books and publications have been written on their family, either by distant relatives or by genealogical societies. There's no reason to duplicate these efforts; instead, start where they left off. You can find these kinds of histories by searching online or in local libraries.
  4. Search internet databases. Again, there's no need to duplicate the work that others have already done, so check bulletins, message boards, and databases for your family names. This is also a good way to get in contact with others who are researching your family.


Doing your family tree research doesn't have to be difficult. Start with these four basic steps and you'll be off on the right foot; you'll be finding ancestors in no time.

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