Family Trees Decision Chart

Did you find a family tree online that includes your ancestor? Click here for a list of websites for family trees. No - move right Search the Federal Census for family names that you know. Go to Federal Census Tips.
Yes - move down
Is the information in the tree well-documented? Click here for more on documentation. No - move right Save the tree, but verify the information. Click here for more on documentation.
Yes - move down
Download the tree into your family tree software or save to a website. Click here for more on family tree software.
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Online Family Trees

This might sound discouraging at first, but there is a good chance you will not be able to find your ancestor in an existing online family tree. It all depends on someone else having researched your genealogy and posted the family tree to one of the sites on the Internet. Nevertheless, it is always worth a try to find existing trees. Here are the sites with the most family trees for you to search. Each will open a new browser window so that you can continue to refer to this page if you are unable to find trees online or if you determine that the documentation of the online trees is insufficient.

  1. Public Member Trees
  2. Computerized Ancestor
  6. Geni
  8. WeRelate
  9. WikiTree

Another option is to try the Family Tree Searcher. At that free site, you can enter you ancestor information just once to search each of the sites listed above.

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Documentation of Family Trees

If you are able to find a family tree online, be careful to examine the documentation that goes with the tree. Unfortunately, many trees are not documented well. Just because a tree is posted online, does not mean it is accurate. You should not take it a face value. Instead, you can treat online trees as "big hints" for places to look. 

FAST TRACK One of the best ways to verify much of the information in family trees is to use the Federal Census along with birth and death records. Go to Federal Census Tips.
REFERENCE Get a book on what makes for good documentation in family trees. One good book at is Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.

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Advanced Research For Your Ancestry

This site is designed to provide the basics in researching your genealogy. It emphasizes the use of the Federal Census, Social Security Death Index, online family trees, and birth/death records. There are, of course, more sources of information. If you are looking for advice on additional sources, go to the Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor. That site will provide you with customized research advice based on what you already know about your ancestry.