I assume you have already read the First Steps page, and that you are now champing at the bit to get under way!
As I’ve said before, start with what you know. Your family tree needs to have a firm foundation, so start noting down all your own details.
Open your choice of software programme, and start a new family tree file. Hopefully you know (or can easily find) all your own details, (names, birth-date, birth-place and so on). Get used to the format of details as every person record you add will need the same basic information.
Genealogy computer programmes utilise linked record sets, e.g one table for the storage of place names, another for the different types of records, and so on; these linked sets of records, however, need only to be created once. You may well have to add to these sets as you find information from many different places.
One of the paper records I keep are full birth, marriage and death certificates. I even now do not have every certificate for those in my tree, but it’s pretty important to have them for your most important and direct members. I try to make it a habit to order a certificate when I can afford it, and I have a list that I update of ‘needed ones‘. (You can order and purchase birth, marriage and death certificates online in the UK from the Government Record Office)
Original certificates are a great source of information, and can provide lots of details apart from just the name of the specific person. Details like the names of parents (including maiden names),occupations, places, names of witnesses at marriages etc, could well provide a vital clue to enable a record to be identified and linked to others.
Apart from the bare bones, on both of the programmes I mentioned earlier, a person record has an area for comments in text files as well as a store for images. Jot everything down as you go; it’s well worth it! Save photos and image files also, they are a priceless resource.
Once you have your own record set up, set up similar records for each of your parents, as well as your siblings. These show not only their own specific details but also their relationship to you (father, mother, brother, sister etc). With the combination of these details you will then have built a family record. Don’t worry if you haven’t got every detail stored away, you can always return and add additional information.
Get your immediate family information whilst you can, believe me, I wish I had! There are just so many things that I had wished I had asked my parents whilst they were still alive. If you can, ask if you can see and take copies of their certificates. If the originals aren’t available for you to sight, then (in my experience) sooner or later you will need to buy them.
Once you have exhausted all your living direct relatives, you’ll then be ready to start the next stage – searching for records of relatives who have passed away.
I’ll talk about that next article.