What’s this I hear? You haven’t started building a family tree! You are worried that it’s too hard? A boring activity for retirees? Your cousin has already made a tree? In this post, I’ll give you my top reasons for building a family tree. I hope you are inspired to starting working on yours right away!
With all of the advances made possible by technology over the past few decades, I feel confident in saying that this isn’t your grandmother’s genealogy. It’s easier than ever before, and you don’t even have to leave your house.
Family tree research is seriously exciting
If you are looking for some excitement, you might be surprised to find out that you can find just about any kind of adrenaline rush you need while hunting down details about your ancestors. Contained within the family tree of just about any family is enough drama for a soap opera, complete with all of the plot twists.
Adventure, joy, success, fame, romance, and overwhelming love, meet with heartbreak, tragedy, deceit, murder, illness, theft, and infidelity. Especially when you consider that these are your ancestors you are learning about, it’s enough to keep just about anyone riveted for hours at a time.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good mystery? I guarantee that you will find plenty of those in your family tree. It’s almost like being an amateur detective.
You can build your family tree for free, right from your living room
There are several very good, free places to build your family tree online, so you don’t have to worry about having to spend a lot of money downloading expensive software. Want to find a scanned image your great-great grandfather’s baptismal records in Slovakia? You can find those, too, totally for free.
There are thousands of volunteers and workers all over the world who have worked, and continue to work, tirelessly to scan and index the billions and billions of records available on our ancestors. With a smartphone, tablet, or computer, you can access a sizeable portion of these documents for free, right from home.
For those of you who don’t mind paying a little bit for convenience, you will find your quest even easier.
Even if your relative has built a tree, you should build one, too
I have a pretty good friend who I see on a regular occasion. He is elderly and has done a DNA test, but hasn’t started building a family tree because he has a cousin who has “already done all of the research”. He is missing out on so much!
His cousin, who happens to be his first cousin, is a half-cousin. Typically, first cousins share 50% of their ancestors with their other first cousins. In the case of an half-first cousin, they only share 25% of their ancestors.
My friend’s cousin has done good research (I’ve seen it), but it’s only on 25% of his tree. There are 75% of his relatives that are NOT included in the research that his cousin has done.
If your genealogist-cousin is a second cousin, then you can imagine that the ancestors that you share in common are even fewer, which makes it even more imperative that you build your own tree.
But what if the person who has started building a tree is your sibling? What better than to be able to share your progress and even provide assistance to someone who is just as invested in learning as much about your ancestors as you are?
Genealogy is NOT only for grandparents
Did you know that genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States? It’s also the second most popular thing to do online (I won’t mention the first most popular thing… it’s, well, ahem, inappropriate for decent company).
I couldn’t find reliable statistics to site the average age of people doing family tree research, but I know for a fact that there are lots of young people on social media posting about finding an ancestors birth certificate, or wishing they had a little more time to work on their tree, but they are too busy with their young kids.
Personally, I started spending a lot of time on family tree research when I was resting after the birth of my youngest child. I had to sit down to nurse, and I had a free hand to hold my phone to scroll through census records 🙂
If you haven’t yet started building a family tree, definitely check out my book which is a guide to family tree building basics.
A family tree can help you better understand your DNA results
If you have already done a DNA test or you think you might do one in the future, building a family tree is an absolute must for you.
One of the most well-known aspects of DNA results is called the “ethnicity estimate”, or ancestry composition, which basically tells you where your family most likely lived over the past few hundred years.
By building a family tree before or after you get your DNA results, you’ll have a better idea as to the accuracy of your ethnicity estimates. Plus, you’ll be able to know how accurate your tree is by checking out your DNA matches.
I hope that this post has helped give you some inspiration to get started on your family tree today. I’m sure there are many more reasons to build a family tree, and I would love for you to post your reason for doing genealogy in this discussion below.
Thanks for being here!