Building your family tree is a great way to celebrate your roots, preserve your family history and educate your younger generations about their ancestors. While it might seem like a daunting process, especially if you come from a large family, those who take the time to dig out those old family photos and create a family tree find it to be a heartwarming and nostalgic experience that was worth the time and effort. To help you start the process, we’ve mapped out the steps to take to ensure your family tree project is successful.
Why create a family tree?
A family tree is a wonderful visual representation of your family history, demonstrating its size, cultural background and providing a solid understanding of your roots and who you truly are. Following are the top five reasons why it’s a good idea to start your family tree:
- Connects the dots among all family members over multiple generations
- Documents your family history for future generations to build upon
- Reveals cultural backgrounds that might have been previously unknown
- Provides a historical perspective of family hardships and major world events ancestors experienced
- Learn about relatives you never knew were part of your family
Research & Planning
Once you’ve committed to creating your family tree, the first step is to conduct the necessary research to ensure its accurate and comprehensive. Questions to ask yourself include:
- How far back should my family tree go?
- Which family members would be great sources of information and family photos?
- How much information do I want to include beyond names? (maiden names, occupations, dates of birth and death, etc.)
- What format makes the most sense for my family tree?
Next, you’ll want to create a list of all the resources available to you to locate and document your ancestry. Those resources can include:
- Living family members
- Old family photos and home movies that will help identify family members
- Genealogy resources such as Ancestry® or MyHeritage™
- Government archives and public records available online >> Learn more here
Creating Your Family Tree
There are two ways to create a family tree, with physical supplies or online tools that do much of the work for you.
- DIY Family Tree
To create a DIY family tree, start by gathering up photos of your ancestors and determine how they will be displayed. There are large wall decals for placing family photos and names, framed family trees, printed family trees, hand-drawn on sturdy poster board, or family trees that are extra creative with thumbprints used as leaves for each family member. Regardless of the format you choose, having a photo of each family member is necessary to starting your family tree, along with scissors, adhesive, and paints or pens.
- Digital Family Tree
There are a number of online resources that will allow you to digitally create your family tree, which can be a flexible process since editing and adding to it is easy. A digital family tree will require a high-quality scanner so you can upload and add photos of family members, and some offer DNA research and a public record search to help you locate family members to add to your tree. They do a considerable amount of the work for you, making it an interesting process to see what their resources uncover. Online resources also provide functionality for you to upload contact information for family, and share the final family tree with them.
Once your family tree is complete, keep those old family photos out and get them digitized so they’re preserved forever. Companies such as iMemories exist to help with this process, taking your cherished original photos, expertly digitizing them for lifelong preservation, and ensuring their safe return to you. The digitized photos can also be easily shared with family members, so they can be enjoyed by all.