Make A Family Tree Guide

Who’s in my family tree?

Family tree guides are used to help you outline your research strategy as you go about gathering information for your family tree. The guide is also used to help you record your family tree as you begin learning information. Creating a guide before you actually set out to do research or start to arrange the family tree makes the project go much smoother. Think of a family tree guide as a plan that outlines how you intend to go about accomplishing what you hope to discover about your family and how you want to preserve this information.


Creating a Family Tree Guide for Research

1. Decide which family line you want to research: your mother’s line or your father’s line.

2. Set realistic research goals. Decide how far back you would like to trace your family history. Think about the kind of information you would like to find. Make a note of it.

3. Brainstorm. Make a list of leads of the most likely sources where you might find find the information you’re after. Some possible leads could include talking to older relatives (this is always a good place to start); going through the old family documents you have on hand; military records; old passenger lists; immigration records; birth certificates; death certificates; marriage licenses; the U.S. and state census records; old local newspapers; property records; and affiliation organizations such as churches, lodges and volunteer groups.

4. Establish priorities. Determine the best place to begin your research. The areas of research where you stand to gain a wider array of information should take priority over an area of research that likely will not be as fruitful. Websites like (which does charge a nominal fee) offer a wealth of resources.

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5. Devise a system of organization. For example, perhaps it would be easiest to put the information you find about each relative in its own folder. So there would be a folder dedicated to your great-great- grandmother. And a folder dedicated to your great-uncle Bill. And so on.

6. Make a list of the materials you will need to do your research and organize your information. For instance, you may need notebooks, pens, index cards and a box, folders, photo album, camera and a tape or digital recorder.

Creating a Family Tree Guide for Making Your Family Tree

7. Decide on a format for your family tree. For example, you could create a scrapbook-style family tree or a biography-style book where you write a short life history about each family member. You could also just do a simple lineage chart, or even make a family tree video.

8. Describe how you hope your family tree project will look when it’s done.

9. Make a list of the materials you need for the type of project you want to create. For example, if decide to do a video family tree, you’ll need a video camera, videotape, a computer and video editing software.