Family History for Beginners

Introduction

I had no idea how to start doing genealogy or family history work, and that prevented me from trying. Just recently I dove in and found it quite doable and enjoyable! This post is intended to help anyone get started (a simple, beginners guide to family history work).

Motivation

Families receive great blessings for making and keeping temple covenants (i.e. promises made to God in the temple). Being united for eternity is one of those blessings. Heavenly Father wants all of his children to have these blessings. By finding the names of our ancestors and performing work on their behalf, they can have the opportunity to enter into these covenants and receive the associated blessings. I have felt the power and virtue of these covenants as I’ve listened to their words. This is why I want to find my ancestors and help others to find theirs. (You can read more about this, here).

Let’s Get Started (Living Individuals)

Tip: You may want to print this page so that you don’t have to go back and forth between these instructions and the websites

  • Open FamilySearch
  • Create a record for you
    • Hover your mouse over “Family Tree” in the top menu, and click on “Person”
    • Fill out some information about yourself (birth, etc) – all information that you enter about living individuals should remain private on the site
  • Create records for your parents
    • Scroll down to “Parents and Siblings” and click on “Add Parent”
    • If your parent is alive, select the “Add Person” tab, and fill out the form. Otherwise, stay on the “Find Person” tab and fill that out.
    • After the record is created/found for your parent, fill out some information about him/her.
    • Then go back to your record (i.e. Scroll down to “Spouses and Children”, click on your name, and then click on “Person”)
    • Scroll down to “Parents and Siblings” and click on “Add or Find Spouse” above/below your parent’s name
    • Again, fill out the form on the “Add Person” or “Find Person” tab, as appropriate.
    • After the record is created/found for your parent, fill out some information about him/her.
  • Follow a similar pattern to create records for grandparents and great grandparents until you have completely connected your record to your deceased ancestors. The goal is to reach the public branches/trees of deceased individuals. (Remember, the records that you create should be private to you as long as the individuals are alive).

Get to Know Your Heritage

One simple and fun activity is to see where your roots lie by seeing where your ancestors were born across the world.

  • First, observe the list of third-party apps that build upon FamilySearch, by going to https://familysearch.org/products/
  • Open the one called RootsMapper by going to https://rootsmapper.com/
  • Click the Login button, enter your FamilySearch login information, and then click the Sign In button
  • This should bring you back to RootsMapper where you can select some number of generations and see where those ancestors were born

I found out that one of my ancestors was born on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic ocean!

Find Holes in Your Tree

Here are a few tools that can help you discover where there are holes in your family tree, or where there is missing/incorrect/duplicate information:

Search for People

Once you’ve found a hole in your tree (for example, “who is Bob Smith’s father?”) then:

  • Go to FamilySearch, see the top menu, and click on “Search”
  • Enter what you know about some related individual(s)  – for example, Bob Smith was born in 1905 and married Jane Doe in 1925
  • Look at relevant records to help answer your questions – in this example, a wedding record between Bob and Jane would likely include the names of both sets of parents

Graves

You can also find people by searching through gravestones.

  • Go to Billion Graves ( http://billiongraves.com/ ), create an account, and sign in
  • Click on the “Tools” tab, select “FamilySearch”, and then “Authenticate with FamilySearch”
  • After authenticating with FamilySearch, and then clicking “Get Started” on the Billion Graves site, you will be presented with a close match between FamilySearch records and the Billion Graves database of gravestone images
  • You can choose to link this image to the FamilySearch record if you want to
  • Also, you can click on the “Search” button towards the top of the page to find someone’s gravestone
  • Enter what you know about the individual and click “Search”
  • Finding the correct gravestone can provide you with previously-unknown information about the individual (ex. birth/death date, or death location)
  • The gravestone itself might identify who is also buried there, or the individual’s relationship to nearby graves (ex. “Father”)
  • In the second case, click on “View Others Buried Nearby” to see what family members may be buried nearby

Temple Work

There may be some temple work just waiting for you. To find out:

  • Go to FamilySearch, see the top menu, hover over “Temple” and select “Opportunities”

If there are no opportunities there, then you can look for distant “cousins”:

  • Hover over “Family Tree”, select “Tree”, and then change the view to “Fan Chart”
  • Go back through your ancestors (by clicking on a name and selecting “Tree” from the pop-up) until you’ve selected an individual (i.e. the individual is the center/core of the fan tree) born well over 110 years ago
  • Change the view to “Descendancy”
  • Scroll down through this list, clicking on the arrows next to names to see their children (as necessary), to find green temple icons
  • When you see one, click on the icon, and (if there are no warnings or notifications) click on “Request”
  • Thoroughly read and accept the policy, and then click on “Add to Temple Ordinance List”

Hopefully that’s enough information to help get you started. Good luck!

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