Monday, February 24, 2014

Getting Started with Genealogy Part 1: Gather Information and Record it in your Family Tree

I been thinking a lot lately about how I wanted to approach this post, and hey, I'm no expert! So... I'm going to lay this out in sections based on my own experience, and point you to some awesome resources along the way. So here it goes...

I would recommend that the first thing you do would be to gather all the information that you have that is pretty accessible.  For me that included documents that I had about me, my husband, kids, my parents, photos and stories.  I was also able to get a bunch of stories from my parents.  I know what some of you are thinking... "I just want to start at the end of a line and work out from there and just start finding names", but trust me, you need to start with you!  I'll get into more details of why later...

If you want a good guide on what information to gather first, check out this new booklet.  I picked one up at the Distribution Center for $1, or you can just download the PDF here.

Once you have a little bit of information, either sign up or login to  If you have never been on before, but you have an login, try using that login first, it should be the same.  If not, just sign up and make sure that if you are a member to use your member # to sign up.  It helps get a lot of information in there for you automatically.

Quick Note: There are lots of ways to do this, I am just going to explain it in the way that I do it.  Feel free to leave comments if you have thoughts :)  Also understand that Family Tree is still fairly new and there are going to be occasions that you run into something that might not work properly or that frustrates you... don't give up!  It is an awesome system, and don't be shy to ask for help.  There is a link "Get Help" on the top right of the website.  I often find that I just need to restart my browser or some other minor issue.  

After you login, you will either have a lot of information in there already, or you might have not much at all.  Either way, start by looking at your Family Tree.

You should be able to see your own name at least.  When you click on your name, you can see a quick summary of what information is already there.  Now, you'll want to click on where it says "Person".

This is where you'll be able to add and edit information.  It's pretty self explanatory, so I won't go through everything.  Just click around and feel free to ask me questions if you have them and I will answer them the best that I can.

The next thing that you'll have to do, is to add your living relatives.  Living relatives will NOT automatically show (sometimes your immediate family members will), but information on living people is private and so you just have to add your own living relatives, for your own record.  The booklet would be a really good guide to help you add those people first.  To add a person, you can add people either from the Family Tree view, or the Person view.  With living relatives, like I said, they are private, so do not even bother trying to find them.  Click on the "Add Person" tab and input the information there.

After adding living relatives, you can add deceased relatives.  You will do this the same way, except, you will stay on the "Find Person" tab.  You may find several names, as you go through those names, select CAREFULLY.  Remember, tons of people have the same names!  Make sure that you are checking dates and places carefully.  If you are really uncertain about a name, do your research the best you can and if you are still uncertain, go ahead and just add a name yourself.  Because if you select a name and it is not the right person, it may link you up to an entirely different family tree.  So just always add and edit names with that in mind.

Once you have added a few deceased relatives, you will probably find that your tree will automatically add a lot of ancestors all by itself!  If not, then you have a lot of work ahead (which is great!).  At this point, check all of the ancestors against your own records.  There are going to be many cases where there is conflicting information on different deceased relatives, use your best judgement and make edits if necessary, but always stay on the side of caution when making any sort of edits.  You can always up discussions, leave notes, and come back to someone later if you are unsure about certain information.

At this point, do not just jump on reserving all of the temple work that you see!  It is tempting, but believe me, if you get ahead of yourself, you will get in over your head and you might be reserving work that has already been done.  I will go into lots of details about reserving Temple work in Part 3.  If you have found a name that you want to reserve, just write down the persons ID.  It is a 7 digit number/letter combination, usually right under the Name (it is displayed in this format: XXXX-XXX) and you can come back to it.

Next, take the stories, documents, and photos that you may have gathered and start putting those in.  You can input those in the Memories tab on the Person page, see below.

It is pretty self explanatory, so I won't go over everything.  If I don't explain something that you need, just ask me in the comments and I will try to answer the best I can.

First I'll touch on the Photos... just click Add (shown above) and upload your photo from your computer.   After you upload the photo, you may notice a red !  This just means that you need to tag your photo to the correct person (kind of like you would tag someone in Facebook).

To do that, you just need to click on the picture and add the name (if it didn't already do it for you), toward the bottom and add a title if you like and then hit save.  You can add more information if you like such as the date, location, description, etc.

When you are finished, your Memories pages might look something like this!

This is as far as we are going with Part 1... if you didn't learn anything, don't worry, we will go over a lot more of the complicated stuff in the other parts.  Listed below are the FAQs for this part.  If you have questions, feel free to leave me a comment.


I am cannot see or add my Temple Ordinances, can I do that?  As far as I know, no, you can't do anything with ordinances with any living people, including yourself and your immediate family members.

I cannot find my living relatives?!  I know that they are in the system, but I can't find them when I search for them.  Information on living people is private, so they are not searchable, you just need to add your own living relatives, for your own record.  Note that whatever you add about your living relatives will not be searchable by other people either.

Continue on to Getting Started with Genealogy Part 2: Cleaning up your Records and Start your Research

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