HOW TO BEGIN YOUR FAMILY TREE
by Betty Matteson Rhodes
When you begin your search for ancestors it is always best to begin with your parents then both sets of grandparents. By the time you include your great grandparents and your 2nd great grandparents you have a total of 31 individuals - counting yourself. Thirty-one people will give you quite a collection of photos, birth certificates, death records, marriage licenses, wills, deeds, baptismal records, military records, census records, and burial records. Four generations back will also produce [normally] sixteen surnames.
Sometimes there will be two lines with the same surname, for instance - I have two Matteson lines - one on my Mom's side, and of course my Dad's line. I also have two Durkee lines as well - these cross-overs are found just by going back five generations on my tree. This will happen a lot as you will find out when you start building your family tree back a few generations. By the time you get all sixteen surnames researched and documented and obtain all the records you can possibly find on each one then you will have a good start with your family tree. Add to the list above the field trips to cemeteries for tombstone pictures and conformation of ancestral burials. When visiting cemeteries be sure to take a look around at the stones placed around your grandparent or ancestor as these names and people may connect with your line as well.
Where do you begin to look for these records and family history? It is a good idea to start with the oldest members of your family on both sides, whether they be Aunts, Uncles, or grandparents - you get all the information you can out of them before time goes by and it becomes too late. What you want are names, dates, and places. What were the maiden names of your grandmothers? Where did they live? If you are lucky enough and still have elderly family members living who can remember these things, then this is the best place to start. With some names, approximate dates, and locations in hand you can then begin by ordering birth and death records from the State or County in which they lived. These records will usually give you the maiden name of the mother so you will then have another name to go with. Make sure you get a notebook with index tabs so you can make lots of notes - using a tabbed section for each surname that you have in your line.
The Morman Church in Utah [http://www.familysearch.org/] has a website that allows free searches - but beware of the Ancestral files because some may not be correct - many of these files were sent in by beginning genealogists and have not been well researched. The site does have online census records for 1880 - United States; 1881 - Canada; and 1881 British Census records.
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