Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where Do I Start My Family Tree?

If you are new to genealogy, you need to figure out what it that you want to do. You may want to trace your grandmother's family because you don't know much about that side of the family but had heard that they came from an estate in England or you want to find out if someone on your father's side had fought in the Civil War. There are always stories like these that spark our interest. The main thing to remember is not to immediately jump to that ancestor and try to track them down to you, but what you need to do is move back in time, from the known to the unknown.

What Do You Know About Your Family?

The first thing you need to do is to write done what you know about your family. You need to start with yourself. What I did when I started, was to right my name with my own information and beside it my siblings and there dates of birth, etc. Over that information, I would put my parents along with when they were born and married. Then I would try to include my parents' brothers and sisters. The problem was I was running out of paper, so I would start again, beginning with my father's parents by putting my grandparents information on a page with their dates of birth, marriage and death if they had passed on, then my father (his wife) and his kids, and I would do the same on a separate page for my mother's parents. This was my first use of family group sheets and you can check my post Where Can I Download Genealogy Forms And Charts for free family group sheets.

After I had my pages organized into some order, I would look to see what needed to be confirmed and what information was missing. If I didn't know when or where my grandfather had been born for example I would ask my father or mother. Slowly I would get a more complete picture of my grandparents and their families. Unfortunately, by the time I wanted to ask about the parents of my grandparents most of my elderly relatives had passed on. I decided that what I would do is to try to trace my grandfather and his family and when I asked my parents about my grandfather, the information was kind of sparse. He had come from "out west" and had died in World War II after marrying my grandmother, but we had little to go on about where "out west" he came from, who his parents were, or if he had any brothers or sisters.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I decided to request his army records to see if they could shed any light on where he was from. If you are in a similar situation and want the military records of your father or grandfather or another relative who served with the military you should request them from:

The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC at the following addresses: E-mail or

General Reference Branch (NNRG-P)
National Archives and Records Administration
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20408

Or you may call: (202) 501-5652. Give your name and mailing address, the form number and the number of forms you need (limit five per order). To order military service records, request NATF Form 86. To order military pension records, request NATF Form 85. These are the forms used by The National Archives for obtaining military and pensions records for men who have served before World War I.

In Canada:

Go to the Canadian Archives page at:
Canadian Forces after 1918 (including Second World War).

After I received the service record of my grandfather, it showed his date of birth and place of birth which enabled me to request his actual birth certificate. When that arrived, it showed both of his parents names and that he was the ninth child born to his parents! I eventually got in touch with the brothers and sisters of my grandfather who had died in France in the 2nd World War and discovered that I had hundreds of cousins all over North America and have had the chance to meet many of them (not all, but hopefully some day).

From there, I've traced my great-grandfather back to the city in Scotland my family originated and found many ancestors (and their descendants!) in Scotland and England. I am still working my way back further and further on my grandfather's line and that is just one of several that I have traced.

No comments: