"Every family tree produces some lemons, some nuts and a few bad apples." - Anonymous
This quote is applicable to those who can trace their family hierarchy for many preceding generations. A family tree is a creative representation of the family lineage. It's a way to keep a record of the family bloodline and traditions. Sometimes, tracing an ancestry can be a difficult job, specially if the family has relocated many times. If that is the case, one can draw family tree on a map and implement many such ideas to make it interesting.
Tips for Family Tree Project
To begin with, prepare a rough family tree layout of the family members you know well, and are still in touch with. Collect their contact numbers and addresses.
Generally, very few fortunate people know the exact time period of their family's inception. So, how to start a family tree? It's always better to start from the bottom, rather than from the top. Find out who is currently the youngest member of the family. If it happens to be you, begin with writing your name at the lowest level. Names of your siblings should be written beside yours. While doing so, also write the date and most importantly, the year of birth.
Next, ask your family for pictures, documents, heirlooms, or anything else in their possession that might give you an idea of your ancestry in some way. Try and maintain two separate books for your mother's and father's side. Start with jotting down the surnames of your parents (father's surname is the same as yours but mother's maiden surname will be different).
If a photograph of the member is given beside the name and date of birth, it will enhance the look of the project. Many families have an icon or symbol that is passed down in the family for ages. This symbol can form the background, if the tree is being drawn on a chart sheet; or it can be the cover page, if the project is created in a scrapbook or a folder file.
Any incident worth mentioning can be written against the name of the person. Take care that the incident does not damage the family image in any way. Avoid digging up any skeletons of the past that might hurt the sentiments of your family members. Along with birthdays, marriage anniversaries, and death dates of the deceased members can also be mentioned in the family tree scrapbook. Photographs of family reunions can be glued while you go in for family history scrapbooking.
A humorous design idea of a family tree is to draw a jumbo-sized tree with as many nests as the number of families. Choose any bird, make a template of it and of its babies and replace the heads of the birds with the photo-heads of your family members. The baby birds can have the pictures of the children and if some new member is expected, it can be shown as an egg with the label "Baby/Junior John/Julie" and a question mark at the date of birth. A grapevine can also form the basis for a creative family tree layout, with the names or photos of each member of the family on each grape seed.
One can resort to a certain professional trend that runs in the family. If many members of the family have been in the army, a design of the family tree with a military background will be suitable. If the family has seen many musicians over the years, making a musical project to depict the genealogy will be a great idea. A family tree creative layout can also include a background, displaying fields like sports, politics, etc.
Digging Up Your Family's Past
Before you embark on the journey of finding out your roots, you need to first ask yourself what are you going to achieve from this family tree? Are you doing this to know the buried tales of your family or do you want to re-connect with some long-distant or estranged relatives? Or is it just an academic assignment for you? Whatever is your reason for pursuing this adventure, be prepared to come across some obstacles on the way. Some people might not be too keen for parting with information concerning "that old and forgotten matter". However, that should not deter you from finding other ways to gather information about your family history.
Finding out about your immediate family and their relatives is pretty easy. The trouble begins when you have to dig information about the wife of a great granduncle or some other ascendant of yours. In such a situation, you can rely on family heirlooms or family bibles and old photographs. If you are quite serious about finding more about your ancestors, then you can also try to assess the public records of courthouses. Making an accurate family tree is an elaborate task which requires a great deal of organizing skills. At some point, you might get tempted to just connect the dots even when you don't have any proof in front of you. I cannot say guesswork while making a family tree is good or bad, as it depends on the situation. It's your call. Just be prepared to do a lot of researching, organizing, and drafting.
Every family is unique and it's worth knowing even the forgotten pieces of your clan. This is where putting together a family tree will help you. Therefore, enjoy the experience of learning about your long-lost family members and some unknown secrets that are unraveled during the process. Even if some piece of information discovered during the investigation is troubling, do not let it come in your way of finding out the truth.