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Ancestry Tips For Creating Family Tree


By Faye Collum Fairley


I do not consider myself an established genealogist.  I do, however, possess a passion for finding the truth about my ancestors. My research began more than thirty five years ago when the only access to information was traveling to an out of town courthouse, writing letters, and interviewing the elders.  All of these methods produced questionable results in a lengthy time frame.


How fortunate we are in this age of technology, to have access to exorbitant knowledge at our fingertips.  One click of the mouse and the right “search” will produce our predecessors back many centuries.  There are ways, however, to fumble the information, and record it wrong.  Often, the wrong answer is very easy to confuse with the correct data.  I have established a few “tips” which have helped me tremendously in locating and recording the accurate information.


A    Name


      If the name switches from Susie to Susan, be sure to keep the one on a legal document (i.e. birth certificate, death certificate, obituary, marriage application).  Always keep the name identical on all the records to avoid confusion.   “Susie” is generally a nickname.  Often, a nickname will be found on a federal census report because in the older days, it was more casual for the census taker to record the information.  Today’s method however is a more formal way to extract the data.


B  Punctuation marks


    If you need to type in your name to search in your tree, you must type it exactly the way you recorded it, or will not find that person. Example, if the name on the legal document says “John Jones Jr”….and you have recorded John Jones Jr., the name will not pull up.  For this reason, I avoid punctuation marks completely. I don’t use a period behind Mr, Jr, or a simple initial.  I avoid all punctuation marks in my tree to simplify my searching.  Only one punctuation mark can be found in my tree; I use one for “searching” for hints; the next paragraph explains: 


C  Question Marks


   When I am “fishing” for hints in my family tree, I typically use a question mark in the suffix box. I normally leave it there a couple days, if I don’t get any hints, I remove it.  It is a symbol that my comrades and I recognize and appreciate when we see it in the tree.   (I think it is good to have two or three people working on the same tree; connecting with each other often helps to clarify problems that might arise.)


D Female names


When recording female names, I always use the name they were born with…..I NEVER record the name of a female as the name she married into.  The name I give her is the name she came into the world with.   This keeps down a lot of controversy if other people are looking in the tree. 


E  Nicknames


I avoid nicknames because it causes confusion.

   Names of “Bill”, Sally, Polly, Maggie, etc…might be nicknames, and you will not be successful in your search if that is all you have.   Keep in mind that in the 17th, 18th, centuries, most people were named the old Biblical names, and the names were repeated from generation to generation.


F  Clues

Be sure to compare the “clues” when searching for a particular person. “Francis Jones” could be either gender.

Always check the race, birth/death date, full name, place of birth, parents’ names, and siblings.



G Other Member Trees

When obtaining information from other member trees, be sure to check out all the necessary information to make sure it is correct. (I always look at the documents the person has collected before I accept it as accurate.)


My family tree was created using, but these same tips would probably apply to the other avenues of genealogy, as they are all very similar in format.




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