My Free Genealogy Experience With FamilySearch and Wikitree.
March 30, 2018 at 5:39 pm - Views: 69 #460
I wouldn’t call myself an expert on genealogy by any means, but my family tree is starting to come into picture and its amazing how the more you investigate, the farther back through the ages you go.
For instance I found that I have Italian, German, and Irish ancestors who all came to the US from 1850-1910 on my paternal side. On my maternal side, I have a lot of US Settlers who link back to royalty and have a richly recorded history that I connected to, but didn’t have to do any research myself.
But I think I have a great grasp on how to get started with genealogy, especially if you know the names of your grandparents and great-grandparents.
To get started, I’d make a free account on FamilySearch.org.
Fill out all the family members you know. Note that living family members will be kept private, and nobody else can see them. However, once you start putting deceased ancestors on there that’s where you may start to see other people have put those same ancestors and you can connect to their work instead of your own.
Work your way up your tree from the bottom up, layering on generation by generation. Fill out all of your grandparents and then hopefully great-grandparents if you can figure out their names.
I had some great-grandparents who already had profiles. Some second or third cousin or twice-removed relative or something must’ve added them to FamilySearch.
But if you can’t find any matches from your great-grandparents, try to find documents. FamilySearch has indexed many US census records, the newest being 1940. But with great-grandparents, I found a gold mine in these census records and if you keep attaching sources you’ll eventually find the link to the names of your great-great grandparents.
If you can get to that pre-1940 mark, you can find all sorts of helpful documents.
The further back you go the more likely someone else has already built a profile for that person, because the growth of possible relatives at each generation is exponential.
You only have 2 parents, but 4 grand-parents, 8 great-grandparents, and 16 great-great-grandparents. Think of how many descendants those 16 might have?
Not every time, but frequently when you discover those ancestors you then unlock an entire wing of your tree that you didn’t have to put together yourself.
So the value of FamilySearch for me is:
a. Find as many ancestors as possible, building a giant tree and connecting to other people’s work.
b. Connecting as many sources to verify ancestors as possible.
Your next phase is to sign up for WikiTree.com
Wikitree is fantastic because they have a code of conduct that users will ONLY create profiles for people they know existed, and only include information that can be confirmed by sources.
Here’s what I’d recommend:
a. Take all of the profiles you found on FamilySearch that have evidence to back them up and build profiles for them on Wikitree.
b. Before you post a profile, check to see if there are any matches for people already on Wikitree. If you create a duplicate profile, don’t panic. Just request a merge between the two profiles and start working with and connecting to the original profile instead of the one you created.
c. Hopefully you’ll eventually link to the “one family tree” which is a web of 17 million profiles that all are connected in some manner to everyone else on that tree.
Wikitree is fantastic because their profiles read like biography or wikipedia pages, so when you find a profile for a well-known ancestor they are usually filled out with a lot of really fantastic and interesting information.
The other great thing is that they are set up like a database, which means there are all sorts of cool functions they can do to first of all keep information accurate, but second of all let you know how you are related to anybody else in the world!
The relationship finder is my favorite feature hands down. When watching a historical show or learning about history, you can check on Wiktiree what your relationship is with somebody. For instance, the other day I checked if I’m related to William the Conqueror. Turns out his father is my 29th great grandfather.
Seeing how that relationship is mapped out is really cool and helps put the history in context.
Furthermore, you’ll find out that pretty much everyone is related to everyone else within the last thousand years. If I map out more and more of my family tree it is probably likely I’m a direct descendant of William the Conqueror and anyone else with English descent is as well!
The pitfalls of geneaology:
Keep in mind that there are a couple of things that might go wrong and diminish your experience in some way. First of all, if there are unknowns and adoptions, it’ll make it difficult to build out your tree but not necessarily impossible.
I have a glaring hole in my tree, because I don’t know anything about my grandfather’s parents. He was adopted and his name changed as a baby so I haven’t found any records about him. In addition he was born in 1945 so the 1940 census isn’t of any use.
The second thing you’ll find is that you definitely have ancestors who were terrible people. Perhaps they were criminals, had 4 wives at once, or caused pedigree collapse to a questionably close branch.
Just know that everyone has these ancestors, and its a part of being human. If you mentally prepare yourself for that, you’ll find it is easy to handle anything you discover and perhaps even learn to avoid those same mistakes.
Overall, the two site combo of FamilySearch and Wikitree has been really enlightening and fun! My hope is that everyone gets some idea of their relationship to the one world tree and we document a large part of our history for future generations to enjoy.
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