Starting your family tree – the first 3 steps

Make the most efficient use of your time by following our tips to get started on researching your family history. A word of warning – genealogy can be addictive, so it may end up occupying more time than you think!

Regardless of where your ancestors are from, the process of family history research is the same.

  1. Start with yourself and work backwards
  2. Write down the names, dates and places of birth etc. of ancestors you know of
  3. Ask family members what they know
  4. Confirm nos. 2 and 3 by double-checking against other records
  5. Fill in gaps and find other ancestors by following the paper trail of records

I’ve been researching my own family tree for more than 25 years – people are often amazed to find that we were able to research family history before the internet! It was certainly more time-consuming, but probably less easy to go wrong than it is now.

There are some computer programs that will help you to organise your research, and several subscription websites allow you to create free trees on their websites, but it’s often easier to start off with a simple pedigree chart that you can fill in by hand.

We have created an editable pedigree chart to get you started. You can either print off a copy and write in the information or edit and save the PDF document. Just start with yourself at number 1, then type in the name of your father at no. 2 and your mother at no. 3.

Women are always referred to by their maiden names in family history so, if you don’t know a women’s maiden surname, just leave the surname out for the moment.

Then fill in the names of your father’s father (no. 4) and father’s mother (no. 5), and your mother’s father (no. 6) and mother’s mother (no. 7). Keep going until you don’t know any more ancestors.

When you’ve filled in as much as you can, then it’s worth having a conversation with family members to see if they can confirm the information or add any further details.

All Solihull Libraries have subscriptions to the Ancestry and Find My Past websites. They are free to use from within the library either by using library computers (two hours’ free PC use for library members per day) or if you bring in your own device and connect to the free library WiFi (available during library opening times without any time restriction).

If you have any queries, please email us and we’ll do our best to help with any family history queries – regardless of whether or not they relate to Solihull.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian


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