Recording Your Family History
Now that you have started collecting information on your family, you need to decide how you want to keep track of it. You have three different options:
Handwritten, Computer Program, or an Online Database.
All three have their pro’s and con’s. I’m going to give you information on each one to help you decide what is the best choice for you.
When I first started researching my family I had no idea how far or how much research I planned on doing. When my grandfather, Robert Lee Blackwell, died on February 1, 1989, I listened to my dad, along with his sister’s and brother, discuss how they wish they knew more about my grandfather’s family. They knew that he came from a large family, but that was about it.
It was a couple of years later, after listening to them repeat this same conversation, that I got the bug to actually look into and research our family. I wanted to be able to give them the answers they were looking for. To do that, I started by writing down all sorts of notes when I talked to my grandmother, Wilma Jean (WILES) Blackwell. This was exactly what I needed, notes, notes, notes! They were great at first, but as my research grew I needed some way to keep it all organized and in order. I learned that there were websites online where you can download and print a free family tree chart. I was so excited!
The thing about handwritten documents is that they are always accessible. You don’t have to worry about the internet being down, or a website not working for some reason or another. They are easy to grab and take to someone that is interested in seeing what information you have found on the family. They also make copying your family tree really easy. You can just grab your file and head to the local copier store.
The only negative about handwritten records, is that if you find someone online that you want to collaborate with, you will either have to type everything up for them, or send them your handwritten copies in the mail. Retyping your information out, is going to take up your time, and you may unintentionally make errors. (Which we want to try and avoid!)
Computer Family Tree Programs
Computer family tree programs can be a great investment. I really like the Family Tree Maker program, but it is also the only one I have used in the 20+ years that I have been doing the.
If you don’t plan on researching your family any further than your grandparents, or even great grandparents, I’m not sure that it would be worth the money to invest in one of these programs. Although, if you want to create any kind of printed book with pictures and other documents, it may be worth the investment.
Computer programs make it easy to share your information with family. It is also easier to read than handwritten records depending on what your handwriting looks like. They keep your records nicely organized. You can also add photo’s and documents to each person. This is especially nice if you want to print out and create a book on your family.
The one caution I want to give you regarding computer programs: Do NOT under any circumstance combine your file with someone else’s. I made this mistake when I first started and because of that one of my lines has a ton of error’s in it that I still need to go in and fix. So, please learn from my lesson!
Also, if you don’t have, or even if you have handwritten records, make sure you have a back up of your computer files. You just never know when something might happen to your computer that the files are stored on. After taking all of the time to research and put it on your computer you don’t want to lose it!
Online Family Tree’s
Online family tree’s are another option for keeping track of your family research. All of your research is stored on their database, and not taking up space on your personal computer. Most of them also have a way for you to create books that you can either print out yourself, or for a fee, have them professionally printed.
Here is a list of three free online family tree sites out there that you can check out.
Keep in mind that if something happens with the website and for some reason it becomes unavailable, you may lose all of your work. Make sure you are able to keep an updated backup at all times.
I personally feel that online family tree’s are a great way to SHARE your research, but I would be leary about it being your only or main way of keeping track of everything you learn about your family. Remember that is just my opinion and I am sure someone else would disagree with me.
As you can see all three options have their benefits. I actually use all three! I have handwritten/printed out records. I also have a Family Tree Maker Program on my computer and I uploaded it to ancestry.com, so I could share it with others. There really isn’t a bad choice, you just have to decide, how much research you want to do and what you want to do with it.
I hope you have found this helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions.
Have you worked on your families history? How have you kept track of the information?