A family tree is a chart showing the course that each side of a family took to get to the person making the chart. Some of these resemble an actual tree while others are charted in a plainer method, looking somewhat like a good, old-fashioned sentence diagram. The choice is that of the person who is doing the chart.
It is fascinating to research the various family members to place on this tree. One can locate all sorts of facts about a family: some ancestors may have come to the USA from other countries centuries ago, maybe there are relatives who fought in the Civil War.
You could also find unexpected information while doing a family tree. Like Great-Uncle George could have been a horse thief or other unsavory type of person. Therefore, be prepared for what you may find before looking. By the way, the study of one’s family history is called genealogy.
Of course, one could also find ancestors doing great things: he could have been involved in early lawmaking of this country; he could have paved the way for children to get a better education or safer working conditions.
Sometimes a person might just be tracing one side of the family at a time. Then two separate trees can be made. It is best to do all the research before starting the family tree though. This way you know the oldest generation to put at the top and you can go down from there, filling in the various families that came after.
How to Research Your Ancestors
When researching your ancestors, start with the present family members and find as much information as possible about grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and so forth. How far back do they know the family history? Take the information they know and start looking at the nearest relative for which information is needed. Start by checking the courthouse in last known city where they lived: it might be possible to physically visit this courthouse and see what records can be found. There are sites on the internet that can do name searches and come up with information. County historians could be another place to look.
Once information on that person is found, go to the next person. Keep working back in time with the individual people until you hit a dead end. This person will be at the top of the tree. Of course, if doing both sides of the family and you wish to have a separate tree for each side, there will be a person at the top for each side.
How to List the People on the Tree
A somewhat simpler method is the following: list the oldest member and their spouse showing any children from that marriage, continue this process showing the direct line from the previous family member, their spouse and any children. Once your parents and immediate family are reached in this tree, it is complete. If using a premade template make sure you have one large enough to show all generations.
There are many resources available all across the country for searching out ones ancestors. Use of online resources is very popular. Making a family tree with the knowledge you find is both rewarding and fun.