GenTips: Back to Basics: Build Your Family Tree

Posted August 4, 2008 by Geni | No Comment

Are you perplexed about how to begin piecing together your own family
history?  Have you been researching for years but now have hit that
proverbial brick wall in your research?  Read this post from guest
blogger Lisa Alzo, an avid genealogists and author. This is the first
post in a new series of posts written to give both the newbie and the
more experienced researcher suggestions, tips, and techniques for
finding their ancestors.

At the very basic level, genealogical research can be broken down into several general steps, which will be covered in this post.

Start with Yourself

The first step in genealogy is to identify what you already know. The general rule is to “start with yourself” and work backward in time by filling in as much information as you can, by memory, on an Ancestor or Pedigree chart.  Strictly speaking, a pedigree is an identification of the direct ancestors of one person, such as yourself.  Traditional pedigree charts use ID numbers to identify the names on the chart — the first person on the first chart should be number 1. Note that a man’s ID number is always double the ID number of his child. With the man always in the upper position, all males have an even number and females an odd number. A wife’s number is always one higher than that of her husband.

Creating a Pedigree Chart

Thanks to today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to create a pedigree chart using any number of commercial genealogical software packages on the market.  Social networking and family tree building sites also provide the opportunity to create your family tree on the Internet and share it as you so choose with other family members. is one such site. 

As most of you may already know, Geni is a private place for your family to build your family tree, preserve your history and share your lives.  The site is simple to use and you can create a chart in minutes.  And best of all—it’s free!  If you haven’t already started a Tree you can do so here.

Adding Your Parents

The next step is to add your parents by clicking inside the blue (for father) and pink (for mother) boxes above your box.  You’ll see a little box with tips that will help guide you through building your family tree.  If you need further assistance, there is a help link down in the bottom right hand corner.  For a step-by-step demo, watch the video tutorial here. Quick tip: if a person is deceased, check the “deceased box; if they’re living, leave the living box checked.
It’s that simple!

When you’re done completing your ancestral/pedigree chart, you’ll have a better idea about who’s missing in your family tree.  For each missing person, you should focus on obtaining the following information:

1.    Full name (including maiden names for women).

2.    Approximate dates for vital events (birth, death, marriage, residence, etc.).

3.    Locations for vital events — location is the key element in genealogy, since it indicates where vital records are today.

Then you’ll be ready to start adding and inviting other family members to begin growing your family tree!

If you enjoyed the first GenTips post stay tuned because Lisa will be posting them bi-monthly. The next post will be focused on ‘How to Gather Information from Relatives’. Also, if you would like to know more about Lisa Alzo and her ventures you can read more here.

Lisa has published articles in: Family Tree Magazine, Family Chronicle
Magazine, Internet Genealogy, Discovering Family History Magazine,
Reunions Magazine, Ancestry Magazine, Everton’s Genealogical Helper and
other magazines. 

Lisa is also the author of seven books:  Three Slovak Women, Baba’s
Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions, Finding Your
Slovak Ancestors, Pittsburgh’s Immigrants, Slovak Pittsburgh, Sports
Memories of Western Pennsylvania and Writing Your Family History Book
(just released). Lastly, Lisa is the instructor for GenClass and National Institute
for Genealogical Studies.


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