The most difficult step down any path is often the first one—and that principle can be true even of using your family tree on FamilySearch.org. But while getting started might feel intimidating, it’s really not hard at all!
Before taking a first step into the dark, take a moment to understand a little about how the FamilySearch Family Tree works. Family Tree is a massive, interactive, collaborative tree created by submissions to FamilySearch programs over the past decades and by current users as well as from other records. (To protect the privacy of living people, their information is viewable only on their own tree and on the trees of their direct descendants.) The open format of the tree means that everyone can work together to make the information as complete as possible. It also means, however, that there is no guarantee about the amount of information in the tree or the accuracy of what you’ll find there. You’re bound to make some exciting new discoveries, but you’re also bound to find some areas that need work—which means you can contribute and make a difference! Here’s how:
1. Create an account, and log in. If you don’t already have an account, start here. When you log in, the FamilySearch Family Tree will draw on information you enter as well as information from your church membership record to put you as the first person on your tree.
2. Add what you know. When you first log in, the tree software will detect if you are starting from scratch and prompt you to start entering information. You can click the Start Here icon or simply click the spot on the tree where you want to add information. Begin with what you know, and work backward, filling in the blanks in the pop-up boxes as best as you can. Some onsite training is available to help you get your feet wet. (In the upper right corner of the screen, click Get Help.)
Keep in mind that just because you can’t see any relatives at first doesn’t mean none exist in the tree. Your tree will likely connect with the trees of others at some point. Each time you add a new person, FamilySearch combs through the database to see if that person is already there. If it doesn’t find a match, a box like the one here will appear, and you can click Add New.
If there is a match, you can connect to what’s already in the tree. If you suspect an ancestor might be in the tree, you can also try searching for him or her by clicking Find at the top of the screen.
3. Find new information. After you’ve added what you know about your family, it’s time to do some exploring to see what else you might find. You might try:
- Talking to your relatives. Ask others what they know or if they have any documents, letters, or photos that could help.
- Diving into the records. Start with FamilySearch’s record hints, which can save you time and trouble. Learn how here.
Ready to get started? Follow these steps, and you’ll be up and running in no time.
For additional resources on this and many other topics, please visit the online Help Center.
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