Writing your family history Research Guide


This guide is intended to help people who are starting to research their family tree and would like to record and share their family history. You will find links to lots of useful guides found on WeRelate and elsewhere.

Conducting family research can turn you into the family historian, the title of which is a genealogist. To assist people who are new to genealogy this guide is divided into five sections. The topics covered include researching, recording, sharing and presenting your family tree along with the tools available to assist with compiling a family history.


Researching your family tree

Researching is a simple as writing down the information that you already know about yourself and your family, through to tracking down historical documents that provide information on your ancestors. A lot of family history research can be done in local libraries and on the internet, as a result you will likely find information that was recorded by government agencies, newspapers and other genealogists.

Recording genealogy sources

Recording where you got your information doesn't usually seem that important when you first start researching your family. If you are like me then you most likely started researching and collecting information with no record of where it came from. My memory is good, but the larger your family tree grows the less likely you are to remember where all your information came from. As time goes on and you are gathering more information and sharing this with other family members it becomes important to know where you obtained your information from.

Sharing the family information

Sharing what information you have with other family members is not only satisfying but it often results in them sharing further information with yourself. The more that you share information, the more you will find other family members sharing things with you. Most family members will happily share their information, photos, certificates, newspaper articles and other information. Before sharing you need to be aware of privacy, copyright and legal obligations.

Presenting your family story

Presenting your family tree can take many formats and will most likely depend on the focus of your research. A hand drawn chart, lists of names and dates or publishing your family stories in a book or on a website. You probably already have some ideas for putting together a family history. I will provide some options based on different formats and information that is generic to all family researchers.

Tools for genealogy

Tools available to genealogists include forms which can be printed to record information on, the most commonly used of these are called Pedigree Charts and Family Group Sheets. Genealogy computer programs that help you keep track of all the individuals and relationships in a family tree. The internet is also a wonderful resource for accessing people, photographs and information on your family that you previously did not know of. There are also a number of tools available to make it easier to share and publish your information.

Other Beginners Guides

Some free booklets aimed at beginners which can be found on the internet can be located at:

  • Climbing the Family Tree. An MS Word document with an English focus with some great resources and reference points listed
  • Genealogy Kit. A simple beginners guide with some nice lists of how and where to look for information
  • Beginners Handout. From Cora Nunn, a great resource with a focus on Australia
  • Genealogy Booklet. With an American focus this has a lot of links and commonly used resources