Understanding the concept
Developing your Family Tree
Getting started with your investigations
All you need to get started is a pen and paper. Sketch out a rough plan of what you already know about your family. Place your immediate family at the start of your family tree, and work from there. Start with yourself, your children or your grandchildren. Then work through your siblings and their children, and then your parents. Thereafter, you will be working backwards through time.
Where possible, try to keep separate research notes for each family member. If you can develop some form of reference system that links your notes to people on the family tree - perhaps using a card index system if you are not working on a computer - it will help you keep a clear idea of where you are going.
The first task that faces every family historian when they begin research into an individual is to collect basic biographical details about the person under investigation. The events that are shared by everyone - birth and death - are the best place to start. In many cases marriage will also be on the list. By compiling a framework of facts centred on these events from legal or parish records you can then continue to include other aspects of that individual's history.
Due to massive population expansion in the 19th century, civil registration for births, marriages and deaths was introduced in England and Wales in 1837, 1855 in Scotland and 1864 in Ireland. It became a legal requirement for every birth, marriage or death to be officially registered and a certificate issued as proof.
Before this date, other records do exist containing information about these events. Usually these would be the registers of baptisms, burials and marriages that were maintained by each parish. It is important to know how to use these records to make a satisfying family tree, but you need to record the simplest information about your family first.