18 June 2020

Preparing your first family tree template in 2020: Advice for amateur family genealogists

by Anna Janovsky
Preparing your first family tree template in 2020: Advice for an amateur family genealogists

Emotions and memories wrapped in a unique, original design.

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Yes, a family tree is definitely an interesting idea for an anniversary, jubilee, or birthday gift. But how do you make such a family tree template? The task would be easier if you’ll have a possibility to reach for family albums, wherefrom your great-grandfather or great-grandmother looks at you from old photographs. The wish to make such a family tree can be greater if you do not find such albums in the attic or your parent’s basement. Now even stronger you would like to recreate the tree of your own family and place it in a central place on the wall of the large room. Yes, we know how it’s like. So how will you handle it?

How do you search for your ancestors?

The first task may seem like a job for an investigative journalist. You should play the role of getting important information about your ancestors. Talking to your grandfather, distant aunt, cousins, even neighbours might be helpful to create the scheme of your family tree. However, we are aware that not always those solutions work well for everyone. Another way would be to look in the official archives. It is tedious work, but often very effective. You should start with your birth certificate or baptism certificate. Your parents’ marriage certificate can work as well. The right parish can be a real mine of knowledge about your extended and close family.

Whether you find marriage records or marriage certificates, this task will be greatly facilitated. The situation gets more complicated if your grandparents lived, for example, in today’s Scotland, Ireland, or France. There is no situation without a solution. There are various archives or websites that can help you dig in a family past. However, these are not free solutions. You will have to pay for the information and it’s the time to analyze how deep you want to dig or in other words how big you’d like to create your family tree. The further you dig the more you’ll pay

Talking to your family or even neighbours might help you with creating the scheme of your family tree

Where can you find useful information?

Sometimes to find your ancestors, it would be necessary to travel all over England or even abroad. However, if you only know the surname, it has not been said that after travelling, you will explore the history of your great-grandfather or great-grandmother. The coincidence of names can lead to quite false clues. Therefore, it is important to complete as much data as possible to be sure that, for example, James Smith, born in Bournemouth, was indeed your great grandfather. How can we check it? Social media like Facebook can be useful. Making contact with people with a similar name, you can determine whether you have blood ties or whether it is just a coincidence of names. You can also get support and find your roots on such websites as www.myheritage.com or www.ancestry.com

However, you must be aware that this type of search usually focuses on how to establish basic information, such as who your great grandfather was, but not necessarily to find old photographs. Therefore, before you start your search, it is worth thinking about how the family tree template should look and what should it contain – photos, descriptions, or just dates of birth and names?

How to find information from previous centuries?

Archival collections can be a valuable source of information. It is also worth mentioning that in parish offices, you can find documents made even several hundred years ago! Furthermore, state archives can reach until the beginning of the 19th century. The lists that were made back in the days of the Kingdom of Great Britain are very accurate, so they contain a lot of data – places of residence, birth certificates, and even traces of military service. This makes easier further searches because it indicates in which collection or city you will find specific notifications about your ancestors.

Parish offices may be a very useful source of information. They can have data from centuries ago.

Finding out where your ancestors are buried can lead you to a tombstone that can contain information such as date of birth, death, or even a photo. Sometimes people are buried together in a family tomb and it could give you an opportunity to find next of kind.

The family tree template doesn’t need to be limited to just a few generations. It can cover the history of the family up to the 16th or even 15th century. Where to find this information if, before the 19th century, books were not systematically kept and catalogued and most of the documents were written in Latin? This is more of a role for historians, who will undertake this task for adequate payment.

A tombstone can deliver a lot of useful information about your family ancestors

Family tree template – inspiring ideas

So all names are established, you already know who your great grandfather was and when his great grandfather was born. Unfortunately, you don’t have all the photographs. However, your tree may have a completely different design, e.g. with hand-painted portraits or only with written names. It is important not only what you put on the tree, but also the method of making it. Plan the family tree template very carefully. To begin with, it is worth analyzing what format the photos should be – think about the size of your family tree. Secondly, you can start to complete the appropriate photos.

Make a decision on what style of photo you would prefer on your family tree template

Adjust your black and white photos using a contrast tool in graphic software (e.g. Photoshop, Lightroom) so you can make them look more unified. If you feel this task is overwhelming for you, you should consider hiring a professional retoucher (e.g www.annajanovsky.com). The family tree would be even more original if the images will be done by a painter or even drawn by a grands.

Drawing a family tree diagram on a piece of paper is also worth considering. It will surely help you to know who you still need to ask for a photograph and you will have a guarantee that you didn’t skip any of your family members.

Final advice on what to look for while creating your family tree template

Even if you were convinced that finding former relatives would be the most difficult task, you may change your mind when you start creating a family tree scheme. Although you have gathered all information, you should remember that creating a family tree scheme might slightly differ in the case of its design depending on the person you want to give as a present.

For example, for your grandparents, try to choose more subdued, classic designs. If the tree is dedicated to being a souvenir for younger generations, then take a look at more modern trends.

Creating a family tree template is a very time-consuming project and requires a lot of preparation. Keep in mind to start this task enough earlier to avoid situations in which one of your family members won’t deliver the photos on time.

If you do not feel up to the graphic design of your family tree diagram, we recommend using our easy and intuitive online family tree creator which you can find here. You can choose from various frames examples and family tree templates matching every occasion.

We hope that this article has helped you at least a little bit with creating your family tree template but still if you have any questions or doubts, please feel free to ask us by sending an email on hi@family-tree-gift.com

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