When I began my family history journey, I started with paper charts and forms. It did not take long, however, to realize that there had to be a better way to store all of that information so I didn’t have to make photocopies and instead I could make nice charts and tables to share.
When I got started, there weren’t a lot of software options out there, and especially not for Mac users. I used a free shareware genealogy software for a while, but eventually found my way to Reunion. Over time, various websites developed that allowed users to create and store their trees in the cloud.
What is the best way to go about this these days? My answer to these questions is always “do what works best for you.”
Some only work in the cloud, having their tree completely at Ancestry or MyHeritage or any of the sites that let you build your trees online. Others only have sparse trees on those sites and keep the bulk of their research on their computer software. And still others, only work in word processors or on paper. Again, the best system is the one that makes the most sense to you.
I do a combination of all. I have most of my research in Reunion on my computer. I print out important items and keep them in my binders. I add clues or other documents as I find them to my trees online.
If you are looking for software, there are some great options. I recommend consulting Cyndi’s List for the latest. You can also find ratings and reviews at pages such as GenSoftReviews.
Find a system and and online or desktop tree-builder that works best for you. It will help you stay organized and keep you research manageable.
If you are brand new to genealogy or if you want to do a refresh here are some solid starting points.
Start with yourself and work back in time.
Begin with what you know and work toward the unknown.
Start with the basics: birth, marriage, death
Add more details: military, education, residences, employment
Utilize common family history forms or genealogical software to help you build your family tree. Start with yourself and record everything about you, your spouse, kids, etc. Then work on your siblings and parents. Don’t stop with your direct line. Write down everything you know about your aunts, uncles, cousins, expanding out from your direct line.
Start in your own home. Look through your old papers for:
birth and death certificates
letters or diaries
I’m not going to tell you that one way is better than another. The best way to do anything is the way that works for you. I will tell you that I started with paper forms. Then I used an old Mac program that no longer exists. I’ve used a Mac since the beginning of time and so I have been a Reunion user almost since their beginning. I also use online family trees, but I treat those more like a holding place while I’m using their website. All of my research is housed in Reunion. I also print everything and organize it in my binder system.
Once you’ve exhausted everything in your own home, you’ll want to start talking to your relatives. We will discuss that next time. That’s where the fun begins!