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Creating your Irish Family Tree

What is a Family Tree

Creating a family tree has long been a popular hobby and a complete family tree is an object of immense satisfaction, showing your ancestors throughout the centuries. Finding out about your ancestors - whether they were princes or paupers - is half the fun and doing the detective work of tracking them down gives a great feeling of satisfaction and achievement. In the past this used to be a job for a professional archive researcher but with the Internet and some simple software it can now be an enjoyable hobby for anybody with an interest in their ancestral lineage.

Shape of your Family Tree

There is no set way to make a tree. It all depends on your own preference and how many people you have to include. As you move along, the tree will change its shape, and you can adapt it according to your discoveries.

Your family tree will generally start with yourself at the top, parents in two boxes below on either side, their parents spread out in the same way below them and so on in a pyramid of increasingly distant relatives. As your tree grows, find and make copies of papers in your family's possession. Find birth and marriage certificates, house deeds, any dated letters and envelopes with legible postmarks. There may even be old press cuttings, passports, school certificates tucked away in an attic.

When your family tree expands, draw up separate trees for the different branches rather than try to fit everyone on to one sheet. You might find useful one of the many family tree computer programmes on the market and many of these are advertised on the internet.

Eventually you will be able to see the outline of your family tree in a much clearer manner and ancestry projects can often lead you to a better understanding of decisions, events and secrets from the past. Usually such projects are very well worth the investment of time and energy that they present.

Researching your Family Tree

Depending on the knowledge of and the information gleaned from your own family, once you get beyond grandparents or great-grandparents, it then becomes difficult to locate ancestors. At this point the research enters the game and you will have to check through birth, death and marriage records to fill the gaps.

Once you have mastered the first few generations of your family you will begin to realise the sheer enormity of what you are getting in to and you will be swamped with a plethora of long-lost relatives - on paper at least! However, it is best to concentrate on just a small part of the tree or chart at any one time - you can always move to another part when you get stuck.

Storing Information

Sometimes you may discover another distant relative - perhaps in another part of the world - also trying to produce a family tree, who will probably be delighted to share and swap information to tie the two strands together. There is no doubt that, no matter how far back into the family tree you get, you will learn many amazing facts and stories about your forebears.

Always note the source of any information you uncover. You will also learn to check dates to make sure they add up. Sometimes there may have been a mistake in the original entry or you could have written some detail down incorrectly. Your powers of observation and detection will be fully utilised and this is another of the things that makes creating a family tree such a fascinating and ultimately rewarding pastime.

Check published genealogies in case you can link your family up to one that has already been researched. However, do not take as gospel some lengthy pedigree which supposedly enables you to claim an impressively long descent perhaps from nobility ... or indeed from a notorious criminal! On the other hand do not totally discount far-fetched family stories about connections with the famous. Rather, take all these factors on board as potentially valuable information whose accuracy you have to confirm carefully before you adopt it.