By Angela Walton-Raji
Have you started going online in an effort to collect data on your family? If so, you have begun to quickly realize that you have to organize the information that you are collecting. As you obtain multiple copies of census records, as well as vital records, you quickly realize that each generation is a link to the generation that preceded it, and the amount of paper starts to grow. The question arises—how do I organize all of this information?
You have two options—store it all on paper or store it in an electronic, or paperless manner.
1) Pedigree Charts are the first forms that want to use to record your data. It is always recommended that you complete a pedigree chart in pencil, because as time passes you may often find that your data may change, and spellings may change. Therefore a pencil will keep your pedigree chart more easily correctable as you proceed with your research.
If you are completing a pedigree chart for the first time, begin with your own name on the first line of the chart. You then begin to add your parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on. The forms are simple to use, but be careful to make sure that as you go back in time, that you place the father’s data first, then the mother’s data. The chart will always allow you to have a quick overview of how far back you are in time.
2) Family Group Sheets This form is just as important as the pedigree chart. Most importantly, the family group sheet allows you to record the names of all family members. That will include your own children, you siblings, you aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Some may prefer to put all family names into a database, and to keep all information electronically. Two popular websites allow you to build your own “family trees” online and to even attach photos and documents electronically to the tree.
First there is Ancestry.com, the popular subscription website which allows you to build your tree as you find the documents. You have the option to keep your tree public where others can find you, who may be researching the same family, or to keep it private. Keeping a private tree does allow you to select special friends or family with whom you can share your tree.
Secondly there is Family Search, a free website maintained by the Mormon Church. Family Search also allows you to build your own tree online. One should note however, that trees placed on Family Search can be accessed by others, and others have the opportunity to add to your tree as well.
Free Standing Family Tree Programs
There are free standing software programs that allow you to store data, and download and print the information in multiple formats. Roots Magic, Family Tree Maker and Legacy Family Free are popular ones, used by many genealogists worldwide. There are dozens of programs however, and you are urged to shop around for the program that suits you. All of the programs will produce pedigree charts, as well as family group sheets and will allow you to print a master family tree chart that can be used for your next family reunion.
Whatever method you decide is best for you, the most important thing is to enjoy the process, and relish the journey to capture your family history.
(If you have a genealogy brick wall or specific question send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org)