A couple times a year, I get on a major genealogy kick. I’ll try out different family tree programs, do a little research, talk to a couple of the relatives who have done research in the past and talk to them about merging work… and then it fades. I’m currently on my most recent genealogy kick and I thought I’d tell you about what I’ve found so far this time around in terms of the technological side of things.
I’m in the first stages of putting together a thorough family tree. I really want our daughter to have a good grasp on where she comes from, particularly since her family tree will extend into multiple countries many, many miles apart. Plus, both my wife and I have pretty huge extended families (I have a total of 40 great aunts and uncles).
This first stage consists of gathering the easy-to-find stuff into a good family tree application. After trying a bunch of applications, the one I like best (and which, thankfully, is also free) is Family Tree Builder, a desktop app that connects with MyHeritage.com, the free online storage location for your family tree. FTB/MyHeritage have very good UIs and some potentially cool features like facial recognition and “smart matching,” which looks for connections between your family and existing family trees.
I’ve been talking with my mom and dad, trying to find out all I can from them, going as far back as possible. This first stage also involves searching the Social Security Death Index, a great place to start for little things, like finding out the birthdate of a deceased relative.
Stage one will finish once we get as much information out of my mother-in-law as we can about my wife’s side of the family.
Stage two will consist of getting family tree information from extended members of my family. My dad’s cousin has done some pretty extensive research on one branch of our family tree, so I hope to merge her work with mine at some point.
Stage three will be the trickiest, perhaps taking years to work on. This will be the part involved in searching the family histories in Ireland, Scotland, Poland, and Vietnam. Once we get to a certain point, there’s just not much that’s known, so this is new ground. Poland and Vietnam will be particularly tricky because of the language barrier and questionable record keeping (questionable in that we just don’t know how well records were kept in these countries). It’ll be incredibly interesting, but potentially very frustrating.
Have you searched very deeply into your family tree? Any particular resources you can recommend to a relative newbie? There are a lot of ways to spend money researching your family and I’d really rather only spend money on methods that are going to provide good, accurate payoff.