Deciding Your Goal

Develop a plan. Think about which lines to follow. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. You have to draw the lines somewhere. You can use your time better if you develop a plan to guide you.

There are in fact three commonly adopted plans:

  • Some people aim to produce a "Family Tree" - showing their male-line ancestors (father, grandfather, greatgrandfather, etc.) and the wives, brothers and sisters of these ancestors. (It is of course possible to concentrate on female-line ancestors, but the types of records that were kept, and the common practice whereby a wife took her husband's surname at marriage, can make this difficult.)
  • Others try to produce what is sometimes termed an "Extended Family Tree". Such a tree shows all the collateral branches of a family, i.e. all the descendants (with their spouses) of some earliest known (typically, but not necessarily) male-line ancestor. An extended family tree therefore will grow to include many of your distant cousins.
  • Yet others attempt just to trace as many as possible of their direct ancestors, through both male and female lines, and so produce what is termed an "Ancestry Chart". (In fact, even if you are only trying to trace your ancestry it is wise to record any information you happen to obtain about your ancestors' siblings, since such information can sometimes help to resolve tricky questions of identification.)
  • However, whichever aim you set yourself, it is best to concentrate on just a small part of the tree or chart, so to speak, at any one time - you can always move to another part when you get stuck.

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