Sunday, December 23, 2012

LID: How To Build Your Family Tree

December 23

National Roots Day

I love this holiday! It's a genealogist's dream holiday. Roots day. Genealogy is the study of family history through lineage. I was introduced to genealogy when I was around nine years old. I have been conducting research into my family tree ever since. Above is part of my pedigree. On my mother's side I can trace our family to the 17th century. My father's side is harder to trace because my grandparents were from Germany. Some of my family members have tried to trace that line but have come up empty handed. There are many genealogy resources on the web which has opened many door for genealogists to conduct research in areas where they may not be able to visit. Sites such as Ancestry allow descendants from the same lineage to work together in order to find information that they are needing for their own tree. If you look at my banner, you will see two pictures of my ancestors that I found on The one on the right is my German grandmother, Johanne Weers Bruning and the one of the left is of my Appalachian Irish great - great grandparents, Lina and Dallas McCardle. 

How to Build Your Family Tree

A family tree is a form that genealogists use to track their lineage. To start with grab this lineage chart from ancestry YOU WILL NEED TO WRITE IN PENCIL AND MAKE SEVERAL COPIES OF THIS CHART. 

Let's get started. Below you see part of your chart. We will always start this chart on the left hand side. Place YOUR name on the first line. Now fill in the rest of the information in your box. Below your box add your spouse's name. If you want to do your spouse's tree you will need another chart. 

Great! Now add your parents.  You're father goes on the top and your mother goes on the bottom. Always use the maiden name for females not their married names. For example. My parents would be Roland Irving Bruning on top and Betty Jane Carr on bottom. 

If you don't know any of the information don't worry about it. We will research it later. 

You will also need to create a family group sheet. I have found using these are great when a family has multiple children. Grab this here: Each family including your own should have a family group sheet. Don't worry about creating one for siblings of your direct ancestor. We are only interested in your direct lines. 

Next Step:

We need to add your grandparent's information to the chart. 

Do the same thing you did for your parents on the brackets behind them for their parents. Don't worry if you are missing information. Just write what you know.  Behind your grandparents you see more brackets but the information below them is missing. That is because you will only place your great-grandparent's names on the lines. Each great grandparent will have their own chart. 

You are doing great! 

Now let's talk about the Cont. on Chart lines. Each chart that you create is numbered. This is the first chart of your linage. On the upper right hand corner of your chart you will see:
Write the number 1. This tells you that this chart is your starting point.  You will need to keep your charts in order. I have placed all my charts in a 3 ring binder with copies of the evidence to support my claims. We'll talk about evidence later on. 

On the upper left hand side you see:

Place a number 1 on the top and bottom lines. This means that you are the first person on this chart. Now go back through your chart and number each person from top to bottom. 1- you, 2- father, 3- mother. 4- paternal grandfather, 5-paternal grandmother...etc.

Now that you have done that look through your information and see what you are missing. 


Are you ready for the fun part? I am! 

To find your missing information you will want to interview your parents and grandparents. Don't just ask them for the missing information but also for any stories they can recall. You will want to record this interview if they allow it. I have found some of my best information comes from the stories my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc have told me. Be sure to record your findings on the document I have given you. Once you have the information you seek return to your tree and place it in the bracket it belongs in. See how far back you can get while interviewing your relatives. They may even give you documents and portraits for your tree. You will want to accept those. I have found my father's birth certificate by talking to my brother.

Here are some other places you will want to look:
  • Family reunions 
I discovered at a few family reunions that there was a Hill and Messenger Genealogy book already complied. If you are at a family reunion and you find out that there is already a family genealogy book ask for a copy of it. Most of the time whoever is the keeper of the family history will allow you to have one. Also be sure to talk to your relatives. You never know what bits and pieces of information you will find.
  • Local Libraries
Most local libraries have a genealogy room you can use. It will have books of local history, microfilm of older newspapers (which are great for stories about your family, obits, birth announcements and wedding announcements), and online resources. My family has been described as the Who's Who of Marion County, Ohio so it was easier for me to research for my family in the Marion County Library Genealogy Room. I have found many stories about my family in the Marion Star as well.

  • Ancestry
Ancestry is a wonderful resource that I have used in the past because it links your tree with other people who are searching the same ancestor. You have to be careful though that the tree you are trying to link up with has proper documentation to support the claim. Don't just accept everything you see. Verify it.

  • Courthouse
You will need to obtain the following documents for your ancestors at the courthouse that is associated with where your ancestor lived. Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Divorce (if they did), and Death Certificate. If you cannot go to the place where these are located you can call the courthouse and ask for the documentation. You will need the name of the person and the date of the event. It will cost you a small fee for them to mail it to you or for you to pick it up. I have done this plenty of times.

Military records will not be found at the courthouse. I would suggest finding those on ancestry.  You can request any military personnel's records through

If your ancestors were immigrants you can search the Ellis Island records for free at

  • Genealogy Societies
These are wonderful to use. Every county should have a local genealogical society you can join. They will help you to locate documents that you are missing. If they don't have the document then they can point you in the right direction. I have used the one in Marion County, Ohio for much of my research.
  • Cemeteries
Cemeteries are a great resource. I suggest once you have located your ancestor's grave that you bring supplies with you so that you can do a gravestone etching.  Gravestone etchings are considered records. Read this to learn more.

You can also take photos of the gravestone. If you can't get to the location yourself you can ask someone on FindAGrave to take a picture for you. You can also search FindAGrave to locate your ancestor's grave. Here is their link.

Before you head out to the cemetery be sure to grab these forms. 


When you get to the cemetery you will want to document where your ancestor's grave is located. You can record more than one ancestor on this form. Be sure to also map where the headstones are located so that it will be easier to find if you or someone else returns. 

  • Ancestry Societies
There are many different types of Genealogical groups you can join. I am a member National Society of the Daughters of American Revolution. My ancestor Private Reuben Messenger fought in the American Revolutionary War. The male counterpart is the National Society of the Sons of American Revolution.

You learn more about the other societies at 

These groups are not only filled with people who share a common heritage with you but are also about keeping history alive and serving others. 

The Next Chart

Now that you have all the information you need on the first chart it's time to pick a great- grandparent and start a new chart. You will place that grandparent on the first line of the new chart.  On the new chart find this at the top and put a number 2. Every time you start a new chart you will put the next number in that space. 

Remember this?

Find that on the top of your new chart. Now go back to your first chart. Find the number associated with your ancestor on the first chart and place that number on the top line. Below the line place a number 1. This tells you where to find your ancestor on the preceding chart. You will continue to do this for each new chart. Make certain you match the ancestor to the correct chart and number. 

That's it. You just continue the process with each new chart. ENJOY! 

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