With the advent of the internet, creating a family tree has become one of the most popular pastimes in recent years. If you are a working parent, retired, or just have some extra time on the weekends, Ancestry.com makes it easy to build your family tree.

I started my first family tree in 2008. I had checked out several different websites, like MyHeritage.com and FamilySearch.com, before deciding Ancestry was the best site for me.

Ancestry.com requires a paid membership, but so do all the other genealogy sites that give you access to record searches. Besides the massive amount of records available, you can add photos and stories, collaborate with other family tree owners, and make a family history book. Their most current addition is DNA testing which has skyrocketed in recent years.

To create your family tree, you can start with anyone. You can start with yourself, your father or mother, your great-grandparent, etc. You can also start with a famous person and build your tree forward into time. There are many family trees on Ancestry for presidents, like George Washington and Richard Nixon, famous inventors, like Thomas Alva Edison and Eli Whitney. How about celebrities and politicians? Yes, those have family trees, too.

Who you start your search on is up to you. However, if you want to build a personal family tree, you would want to start with an immediate family member. It is easier to start with yourself or one of your parents, as you would already have the birth information readily available to add to your tree.

I started with myself, typing in my name, birth date, and birthplace, then my parents and their vital information. On my profile page, I already had two “leafs” waiting for me. On Ancestry, these are hints for you to review. If the record is correct, you can accept it and add it to your profile. If it is not, you can “ignore” it.

You can upload photos in the Gallery Section of your profile. I included baby, marriage, and recent pictures of myself that I downloaded from my computer. Scanned documents and family history stories can be placed in this section, too.

Next, you would want to type in the vital data of your husband, children, brothers, and sisters, if applicable. Please note that if a person is living, mark that box when you are creating their profile. The public cannot view a “living” person’s information, so you don’t have to worry about someone stealing their identities.

As I finished my father’s profile, I began a “search” of the records on Ancestry. There are 12 categories that you can view:

  1. Census and Voters Lists
  2. Birth, Marriage, Death
  3. Military
  4. Immigration and Emigration
  5. Newspapers and Periodicals
  6. Pictures
  7. Stories, Memories, and Histories
  8. Maps, Atlases, and Gazetteers
  9. Directories and Members Lists
  10. Court, Land, Wills, and Financial
  11. Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Reference
  12. Family Trees

Each of these categories contains many sub-categories which help you narrow your search parameters. As my father was born in 1940, I found him on the 1940 US Census in Dixon, Illinois, along with his parents. He was also in the military, and I found a passenger list of his arrival to Chicago from Frankfurt in 1961.

On the flight record, I must note that Ancestry had incorrectly transcribed his given (first) name as “Ponald” instead of Donald. Misspelling happens quite regularly on Ancestry. It might be because of sloppy handwriting or because some records are faded and very hard to read. In this case, another family tree member had already made the correction, which made it easier for me to find the record.

The Family Tree category is another useful tool for your search. There are public and private trees on Ancestry. You can view the public trees to verify or add information. If you want to look at a private tree, you will need to send an e-mail to the owner to get permission to view the tree.

On my father’s profile page is a Member Connect button. When I click on this tab, it shows me every member on Ancestry who already has my father in their trees. Once I connect with these other family trees, I can collaborate with them. One member had an old newspaper article about my dad’s high school graduation. She scanned it onto her computer and sent me a copy to add to his profile and gallery pages. I, in turn, sent her a copy of a marriage record for a great-aunt who had lived in the Chicago area in the 1960’s.

With the vast amount of data on Ancestry, and the ability to communicate with other members on this website, you have the world at your fingertips! Whether you spend an hour or two each night or on the weekends, your tree will grow by leaps and bounds.

I hope you enjoyed this article. I am relating my personal experience in using the Ancestry.com website. If you would like to add your thoughts about Ancestry’s ease in building a family tree, please leave a comment below.

In my next article, I will be discussing the pros and cons of Ancestry’s affiliate website, FindAGrave. Look for “Using FindAGrave.com to Build Your Family Tree.”