Tracing Your Elusive Family Tree

So, you’re curious about your family tree. You know a little bit about your family history, you found a few old photos, some dusty VHS tapes and moldy old documents in storage and you’d love to know more. Here are seven basic steps to start you on a voyage of discovery of your family tree!

Family Tree Research Header Image


Step 1 – What’s Been Relegated To Storage?

Start your search for your family tree by collating everything you have from old papers, photos, documents to family VHS footage. Then check with your family members or other relatives to see what they can turn up.

Convert your family VHS to USB. It an easy and inexpensive process. You’ll save hours by being able to search your VHS content on a digital format. It will also help assuage concerns you relatives may have in lending you their precious VHS tapes.

Pointers to your family roots can turn up in the family bible, on VHS tapes of a family member disembarking from their flight to a new country or even on the backs of old photographs. Remember, scan or convert all these documents, tapes and photos to digital.

Step 2 – Tap Into Your Relatives Family Network

While you’re sorting through your family records, make time interview your elderly relatives. Capture these on digital and look to collect anecdotes and stories.

Remember to ask your family members if they have a genealogy history or other published records. This could save you a lot of time and effort!

Step 3 – Record Or Film Everything

Start collating your findings from your family history and enter your information in a family tree chart as you go. These genealogy charts give you an overview of your family history, making it easy to identify gaps and prioritize your research efforts.

Step 4 – Tap Into Online Sources

Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of online genealogy sources. Government records have been digitized and access made available online. Don’t expect to find your entire family tree mapped out in one database. You’ll need to explore a range of government and private databases relating to your ancestors.

These can include parish birth, death and marriage records, passenger manifests, passport applications, military records, wills, immigration records and land deeds.

Step 5 – Collate And Organize Your Family Information

As you uncover fresh information about your family tree, write it down. Take notes, make photocopies and photograph all the material you uncover. And don’t forget to make screen grabs of anything you find online. Keep a research log of what you’ve searched and what you have found and where you believe gaps exist in your search as you go.

Start a digital video library. Avoid having to wade through VHS originals by digitising your old content has never been easier or less expensive. Similarly, set up a library of old photographs and images of key documents. Don’t forget to take shots the backs of old photos where many people make notes identifying their subjects.

Step 6 – Get Physical

The Internet is a very powerful tool. It connects you to numerous databases and online repositories, but it does have its limitations. There is a lot of useful information you can gather by getting out and about. Visit a cemetery where a family grave is located. Check the physical records held in the local courthouse church or local government office.

Plan a visit to the regional or major city archives and library which often preserve historical records from the surrounding community.

Step 7 – Rinse And Repeat

Most family trees have numerous branches. Some prove fruitful while others inevitably become dead ends. When you have delved as far back as you can into one ancestral line, or find yourself frustrated by the scarcity of documentation, take a break. Always remember, researching your family tree is meant to be fun! Once you’ve rediscovered your enthusiasm, return to Step #4 and select a fresh ancestor to begin researching. You know the truth is out there!

Final Observation

Tracing your family tree is fun and you rarely cease to be amazed by what you discover along the way. However, while you are busy unearthing new and fascinating facts about your distant relatives, it’s more important than ever, to preserve your own family’s more recent major milestones and experiences. Websites such as provide a fabulous, cost-effective service for preserving those dusty VHS and 8mm film by converting them to new digital formats for the benefit of future generations of your family.

If you are interested in even more lifestyle-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.

Family Tree Research Article Image