Article by Ancestral Atlas

Interest in family tree research is growing rapidly, with North America, the UK and the Antipodies leading the way. Perhaps this is hardly surprising as North America, Australia and new Zealand are the ‘new World’ seeded by Europe, and by Britain and Ireland in particular. the histories of all these countries are intertwined and for any English speaking family historian looking further back than the 1900′s, it is likely that part of the family is located in these areas. For those living in the new World, who are not from the indigenous population, all roads lead to Europe, at least as far as family history research goes.

Luckily, family tree research and creation has never been easier, even though distance from the source can still be a problem. there are numerous free family tree software packages on the web giving information and support on how to create a family tree and enabling users to create and print their family tree in ever more interesting ways. One downside of these “free” family tree products is that sometimes they are integrated within commercial websites that require you to use their other (paid for) services in order to access this “free” service. also, always check the terms and conditions to ensure that by using a free site to begin building your family tree you are not giving the provider any rights over the family tree information that you add. the website my Heritage is an exception and offers free access to family tree charts and other helpful services with no strings attached. Family tree software is also free to download from the Legacy Family Tree website, and the Family Search site, whereas the very popular Family Tree Maker by has to be paid for.

Most people hoping for success in discovering and building their family tree now start out on the web in marked contrast to previous generations who had to make physical visits to government buildings and archives. it is even possible to discover some of your family tree by using a search engine. Interestingly, three of the most commonly performed searches are ‘family tree maker’, ‘free family tree’ and ‘trace family tree’. the words ‘family tree’ imply so many things; the visual aspect of an actual tree that can be nurtured and which will grow with research, the uniqueness of each family tree (just like real trees), the sense of ownership but also sharing with others that comes from visualising the family as branches and leaves. These ideas are not conveyed in the same way by the word genealogy which sounds more difficult to do, more boring, more about pedigrees. Family tree perfectly conveys the inter-connectedness of many of us with British and European heritage. this has undoubtedly been behind the recent moves by many of the internet data and software providers to try and bring people together to share their research and to enable distant cousins to work on tracing and creating their family tree together.

For those who are digging deeper into their past the new kid on the block is family tree DNA. as well as being able to confirm whether or not people are closely related for example in paternity cases, DNA (your genetic code) is now being used to identify the human groups to which families belong. this is a less specific but no less interesting course of research and is probably the fastest growing area within the world of family history. For some it is, perhaps, one step too far, since it involves providing a sample of your cells (a mouth swab is sufficient) in order to begin the process, and the idea of having one’s DNA stored on a distant database is too Orwellian. We will see how things progress!

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about the Author

Ancestral Atlas is a Web 2.0 company dedicated to providing online genealogy mapping services.

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