Shake out those skeletons and have fun mapping your foreparents.
Will your baby have great uncle Martin’s bat ears or cousin Karena’s crazy curly hair? A new addition to the family is the ideal time to start your family tree, especially if you have never done one before.
Starting your family tree is a step backwards in time, although you are retracing your family’s footsteps, you need to start with yourself and work systematically backwards.
Before wasting any time, it would be a good idea to check with grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as your local family history society, to make sure that your family tree has not been done already. This will save you time and money.
When first starting out on this exciting journey of collecting information about your ancestors, it may seem like a mammoth task. This project can, however, become as large or small as you want it to be. It all depends on how many generations back you want to go and how much time you want to spend on it.
Start with relatives who are close to you or in your own home. Gathering family history information is usually quite easy to start off with. You probably already know much of the information about your close relatives, or think you do - but if not, all you need to do is ask. It is always a good idea to check the information that you have already with members of the family to make sure it is correct. Wrong names and dates could make you end up following the wrong family tree.
The first thing you will need to do is to record the basic genealogical information you have about your closest relatives. This would be you, your children and your parents as well as your partner.
Record all facts such as full names, birth dates and places, marriage dates and places, and death dates and places, if applicable. Capture these facts and enter them into a database or Family Tree programme or record them on an excel spreadsheet. As soon as you have collected information about yourself and any younger generations, you can start working backwards to your parents, grandparents, and so on, as far back as you can remember.Looking for family clues
Once you think you have gained all the information you can from family members , start looking for clues in other places.
- Autograph books
- Birthday books
- Books (check for inscriptions in them)
- Certificates (from schools or jobs)
- Clothing and hats (check inside for names)
- Recipe books
- Furniture (sometimes you'll find names and dates on the bottoms or backs of furniture)
- Photo albums
- Diaries and daybooks
- Guest books
- Jewellery (such as pins, ID bracelets, charm bracelets, lockets, or anything else that may have an inscription or indicate membership of an organisation)
- Newspaper clippings
- Personal telephone books
- Pictures (don't forget to look at the backs)
- Old school ties
- School reports
- Silver mugs, goblets and trophies
- Street directories
- Tombstone inscriptions
- Trunks and chests
- Wedding rings
By the time you have finished this and have added your children – you will have a skeleton of your family tree. Then you need to start putting the “flesh on the bones” this is when you need to look for baptism records, deceased estates, biographies.
You can start by searching for records on www.ancestry24.co.za
for Coats of Arms, baptisms, marriages, burials, passenger lists, Genealogies of old South Families as well as adding your family tree to their unique on-line family tree builder. For deceased estates, search National Archives: www.national.archives.gov.za.
Soon you will have a wonderful document that you and your family will treasure forever.Are you interested in putting together your family tree? If you have, which resources did you use?