How Do I Begin to Search a Family Tree?

How many times have I been asked that question?  How do I begin?  What do I do?  How can I trace my family tree?

Well, the easiest answer is :  START WITH YOURSELF!

You know the date of your birth, right?  You know the date of your marriage - if you are married.

Get a sheet of paper, or the worksheets I will provide at the end of this lesson, and begin.

Write down your name, your FULL name, and your birthday, as well as where you were born.  If you are married, write down your spouse's name, and birth date, and the date and place of your marriage.  You now have Generation 1.

In Generation 2, write down the full names of your parents, father up, mother down.  Now, if you don't know the dates and places of their birth, marriage, and death...find out.  Call somebody!  Certainly, if they are alive, ASK THEM!!  Now you have Generation 2.

Generation 3 gets more complicated!  You only have two parents, but you have four grandparents, and you want the same information about them, BIRTH, MARRIAGE, DEATH (called in genealogy BMD).  Mother's parents go down, and Father's parents go up!

NOTE:  If any of your ancestors were born in Texas, you can purchase their birth certificate at your local city hall.  If they died or were married in Texas, you will have to purchase them from the county seat in which they were married or died...and all bets are off on how much the counties want, what sort of identification from you they want, etc.

If your ancestors were born, married, or died in another state, you will have to contact the local authorities through their "vital records" department.  Sometimes you can get what you want from the county of the marriage, birth, or death...sometimes from the state...and sometimes not at all because, as in the case of Missouri, their record don't go back past the 1920s (why, I do not know)!

Watch out for commercial sites like  They promise more than they can deliver without a substantial fee!!

For instance, if your ancestors hailed from Arkansas, you would go to, and check there.  This is the state agency, and their charge is between $10 and $12 per certificate.  This is a good price.

Oh, and when someone in your family dies, is born, gets married, for goodness sake, keep one copy of the certificate!!!

When I went looking for my grandfather's birth certificate, I had to go a little farther than a US state.  I had to go to Rechtebe, Germany.  Here is a copy of his birth certificate:

Ok, now you need to get to work.  I cannot upload pdfs to this blog, so I am giving you a link,  Click on each graphic, and you will be taken to a pdf that you can download or print.  They are all good charts, but I prefer the first three most.

If you have questions, queries, or critiques, please comment here OR go to my Facebook "Sue Looks into the Wood" site.  I will endeavor to assist you!


iHanna said…
What a great post and idea! I love genealogy and used to research it when I was younger. Lots of interesting things to "dig up" in the archives here in Sweden.
My name is Riet said…
That is so interesting. My brother was into that also. He got very far back.

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