11 May 2021

How to write a family tree

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:50 pm on 11 May 2021

Putting together a family tree into a written form can take a lot of work. The editor of the NZ Society of Genealogists Bruce Ralston shares his tips for anyone wanting to have a go.

Ralston says it's good to start small.

"I have increasingly encouraged people to think about taking it in small steps, so write an essay or a biography or a description of a family heirloom, that sort of thing," he tells Jesse Mulligan.

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Photo: Unsplash

To start with, reach out to family members, he says.

"That often leads to the lament that 'I haven't spoken to my parents, grandparents before they died'. So much of the interconnecting information is lost along the way. That then requires for the whole process of trying to recreate by using other documentary sources."

Those sources are very diverse these days, he says, rather than just information in Births, Deaths and Marriages much can be found in paper's past or online from family genealogy websites.

Ralston says the genealogical structure considers who the person was, where they existed and what connections they had to others.

He says the majority of written family histories combine genealogical information but it is also an opportunity to be descriptive of people, setting them in the context of their lives and their surroundings.

It's a way to put your own understanding of who you are and where you came from in some sort of order, he says.

"But to that you hopefully should add some questions like why, how and what."

You never know who will end up reading a family history, he says. While the majority will be for family use, if they're published they can be used for historical purposes and end up in collections.

For anyone wanting to take a crack at their own family tree, there's a range of resources available.

Ralston says YouTube is a great resource, as is the public library, and once you've got some information together, the New Zealand Society of Genealogists can help to compile it all.

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