Create Your Family Genealogy

You’re the keeper of your family’s memories, so follow this step-by-step guide to record them for your children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

By Thomas MacEntee

You probably remember your own grandparents telling you stories of their childhood—their struggles, triumphs, and what it was like growing up back then. And you loved it all. Well now it’s your turn. Connect the past to the present by giving your family the greatest gift of all—a genealogy. Don’t know where to start? Follow our easy step-by-step guide filled with tips and resources for writing your family history. Your kids, grandkids, and future generations will thank you.

Step 1: Decide if you’re going to go high-tech or low-tech. Are you going to use notebooks and folders, or a computer, special web sites, and software? Pick whichever method is easiest for you, then stick with it. 

Step 2: Make a basic family tree. Start with the easiest part: yourself. List your own basic information including when and where you were born, where you went to school, and other basics. Keep it simple, and be as precise as you can in terms of dates. Don’t worry if you need to go back and make corrections, just get down what you can. 

Step 3: Branch out. Work backwards, starting with your own parents and then their parents. Again, focus on the most basic information—where they were born and when, who their siblings were, where they grew up.

Step 4: Fill in your important events. Now go back and add more information including important life events such as employment, marriage, military service, etc.

Step 5: Jot down memories. Those little tidbits you remember about your mother and father, the stories they told about your own grandparents, write them down. Be clear on when you heard the story, who provided the info and if possible, how the story got handed down in your family.

Step 6: Complete the picture. Add photos, news clippings, and documents to your written history. Consider scanning those items so you’ll always have a digital version available. You can then share them with family via email or even social media sites like Facebook.

Great Genealogy Resources 

There are lots of  web sites, apps and software programs available—many for free—that will allow you to enter your family history information and keep it organized. Some programs will even make suggestions on new resources to search. Here is a list of the most popular options:

  • – The largest family history resource on the web also offers a useful step-by-step site to get started on discovering your ancestors. Offerings include free videos and online classes as well as downloadable forms and a research guide. Check out
  • FamilySearch – This free site is dedicated to helping you find your ancestors. Many records are available online and the best way to start is by using the Learn resources at ( You’ll find free articles, helpful guides, and even online courses (also free) to help walk you through any research challenge. Check out FamilySearch.
  • Cyndi’s List – For over 16 years, this free website has offered over 180 different categories of links to other genealogy and family history websites. If there is a record set, a geographical location or almost anything related to genealogy, you’ll find it here! Check out Cyndi's List.
  • Legacy Family Tree – A free database software program to capture your family history information. Here you'll find many options and ways to display data and share it with family members. Check out Legacy Family Tree.
  • MyHeritage – Also create a free online family tree using MyHeritage. The site is user-friendly and has many ways to connect with other family members and work together on research. Check out MyHeritage.
  • RootsMagic – Another free software program with a simple, easy-to-use interface for entering data. Allows you to build a “to do” list and print family tree charts. Check out RootsMagic.

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve research, and is the creator of, a community of over 3,000 family history bloggers around the world.  In addition, Thomas writes regularly about genealogy in his role as ambassador for the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.




This is great! Thank you!

And, people, if you find/have found interesting info on your family or have other good resources you'd like to share, please come into the Community Section (click on Community, at the very top of the page), then the General Gabbery and click on the discussion thread called The Family Tree.

rosered135 on 2012-12-23 06:59:10

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