How to Start a Family Tree on FamilySearch: Adding the First Four Generations

June 12, 2019  - by 
a young woman does family history on her laptop.

If you’re ready to get started learning about your family tree, then is the perfect place to do it. Opening your own free account is a cinch. Once you have your account set up, you might find yourself wondering, “Now what?”

The best way to get started is to add first four generations of your family. Building your own tree will help you find where you connect to FamilySearch’s global family tree. With one link, your small family tree could suddenly stretch back hundreds of years!

Gathering your family information into a family tree can also help you preserve memories and information about your living family. Besides just entering dates and places into your family tree, you can also upload precious family documents, store photos, or even preserve audio clips.

Creating your own family tree couldn’t be simpler! Here are some steps you can take right now to get started.

Start with Yourself

In the menu at the top of the FamilySearch home page, hover your mouse pointer over Family Tree, and, in the drop-down menu, click Tree. Your family tree will show on the screen. Your name, just as you entered it when you signed up for your account, should appear in the center spot. Remember that FamilySearch protects the privacy of living people. Nobody else will be able to see what you enter about yourself or other living family members. You also won’t be able to find yourself anywhere else on the tree—even if other relatives entered information about you. Information about living people must be entered into each family tree.

a model that shows how to add family in the FamilySearch family tree.

Click your name to go to the person page. From there, you can add more information to your page, including dates and places as well as notes and memories (such as photos, documents, and stories).

Add What You Know about Your Family

With yourself in the center spot on your tree, you are ready to start adding family relationships. To add your mother, for example, simply click Add Mother. A box like this one will appear:

the "add mother" box that appears when you select "Add mother" on the tree.

Enter as much information into the form as you know.

You can add information about other family members—spouses, children, and parents—in the same way. The goal is to reach a deceased ancestor. When you add a deceased ancestor to your tree, FamilySearch will automatically search its vast tree to link you to the FamilySearch global tree.

Ask Relatives for New Information

As you move further back on your tree, chances are you won’t be able to fill in every blank. Don’t let a little missing information stop you! Enter everything you know, leaving parts of your tree blank if necessary. Once you’ve exhausted what you know, you are ready to move to the next phase—searching for new information.

The best way to start your search for new information is to reach out to your family members. If you’re missing information about living people, the obvious solution is to ask them! To find missing information about deceased ancestors, ask older living relatives or relatives who may have known those people.

a family speaks together in the doorway of a home.

Once you have collected what your family knows, it is time to search FamilySearch’s vast collections of records to learn even more about your family. Be sure to let others know where your information came from by adding sources. Learn more about how to add sources here.

Link to Other People in Family Tree

Once you move from entering information about living people in your tree to entering information about deceased ancestors, it is possible to connect with people already entered in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Making this sort of connection can be a huge timesaver. Instead of having to enter in all the information yourself, you can take advantage of information that others have entered.

Ready to get started? Follow these suggestions to add the first four generations of your family into Family Tree. But why stop with four generations? You might find that building your tree is so fun that adding four generations is only the beginning of your family history journey!

Read More about Joining the Family Tree

a young boy explores the online family tree on the FamilySearch Family Tree app.

Leslie Albrecht Huber

Leslie Albrecht Huber has written for dozens of magazines and journals on genealogy and other topics. She currently does communications consulting and contract work for nonprofit organizations. Leslie received a bachelor's degree in history from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked as a professional genealogist, helpingothers trace their families, and has spoken on genealogy and history topics to groups across the United States.

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  1. There is so much information just waiting to be found. I value the information I have located by persevering and persistence. Family Search has been a wonderful source and have expanded and added many features to assist in researching as well as several other sites have done a fabulous job. thanks to all.

  2. looking for my 2nd grandmothers mother. frances (thomas)martin1849, her daugther annie mae martin (1871), died in craig county, ok. my mothers mom INEZ ROBINSON(1903-1969) ok.

    1. remember to use birth names where ever possible or MRS . Most parents have children at about age 25, use this fact to estimate parents birth ages rather than nothing . Limit the installing of living people – they can not be seen by others and eventually may cause duplicates

      1. Peter Palmer, I have clarifications and/or additional information regarding your age hints. What is common or known practices in this day and age was different for our ancestor’s:
        1. Child baring age for females is 14 -16 years old. By the time some females reach 25 years old they may have birthed several children.
        2. Females may have married at a young age as well. Not uncommon to see a female marry between ages 14 -17.
        3. Common to see a female in the household of an older husband or male with children older than herself OR the children are younger than her only by several years. Males whose lost a wife and had young children often married younger females to raise his children. To acknowledge this fact and satisfy the FamilySearch system edit “stepmother” needs to be added to each child in that household that fits this scenario.
        4. Depending on the census year, a birth year and often birth month maybe included as part of the census information.
        5. Census records do identify the age of each person. However, this is an estimate or guess based on who is giving the information and is not always accurate. Ages between each 10-year census periods do not always coincide or match. Sometimes this difference is more than the allotted 3 to 5-year system calculated difference. We have to remember some people were not aware of when they were born.
        6. What do you mean use MRS as search criteria? What is MRS?

        1. MRS means you have used married name – estimating a parents age is so much better than entering nothing at all , your point on mom’s younger birth age is excellent

          1. Thank you for your clarification on MRS for married females, I did not want to assume. I try to stay away from using MR. and MRS as part of the person’s name because I find most records do not use these titles when recording information. Valuable source data for people may not match the search engine. If you are having luck finding source records it may be based on the location or time period you are searching in. What I do instead is utilize the Alternate Name Field in Family Search. When I have the married surname only OR her married surname without the identification of a husband, I enter the females married full name in the Alternate Name Field with the identification as “Married Name”. The Family Search system does utilize this field as part of the search criteria. I have found many married females I may not have located otherwise.

            Another point of clarification from your initial post: “remember to use birth names where ever possible”.
            1. For females we have to know when to use her birth surname versus her married surname.
            1a. Birth, death, and married source documents for her children 99.9% identify the mother by her birth surname. Some of these documents only use her surname only no first name so you would need to know what her birth surname is. I have however depending on the state they may list her married surname instead.
            1b. Once a female marries census records, death information (social security, obituary) will identify her by her married surname.
            2. Females who marry multiple times may hyphenate multiple married surnames. These get tricky to search.
            3. We should not exclude nicknames or initials once these are noted as what the person was known by. I have found GenealogyBank Obituary source documents, Find A Grave Index sources when utilizing these nick names or initials. It all depends on which family member fills out that persons information. You would be doing yourself an injustice not to search with nick names or initials only.
            3a. Case in point – my maternal great-grandfather’s name is Simon Lee. One son was only known so far as most records I have found by the initials S L. I just recently learned my granduncle S L’s name is Simon Lee, after his father. All records and historical information was passed down using his initials.

  3. Fantastic, but my family is from Portugal, Spain and Brazil . I hope you can go to all over ,