Sunday, April 18, 2021

Records You Should Find for Your Family Tree

If you’re trying to build a family tree, you may discover that it’s more difficult than initially anticipated. For all you thought you knew, there’s so much more that you need to have to get a full and complete picture of your family as you work your way back into the past.

You may know all your immediate family. But once you start getting into extended family, how do you keep building? What about family members that none of your extended family can remember, either?

That’s where family records–ones that are both in your family’s possession and elsewhere–can come in handy. These family records are some of the most important ones to find for your family tree:


-Letters and journals

-Oral stories

-Census records

-Other vital/general records

Old Photographs

Old pictures can offer a lot of information, especially when you’re just starting out. Where are these pictures from? Who took them? What people are in the picture? What year does the picture show? The answers to these questions can give you important information regarding your family’s history.

If you already have old photographs, consider taking pictures of them with your phone, scanning them with your printer, or sending them to a company to digitize them. If you don’t have any, talk to your family members and see whether they have any squirreled away that they can give you. Digitizing these photographs can be an important part of preserving them for the future.

Journals and Other Handwritten Items

Handwritten documents are important because they often give insight into how life actually was for certain people back when the person in question lived. There’s something truly magical about getting to learn a little more about your ancestors’ day-to-day life and thinking about how you’re both different and the same.

To see whether you have any of these stored away, you’ll probably want to go to older family members. However, you can also ask some more immediate family members about whether they’ve gotten this kind of information from those extended family members. By collecting all the information currently in your family, you can make it all centralized and easier to find later.

Family Stories

Sometimes, family stories can be one of the most important ways to track your family tree. Think about it: you’re not just crafting a family tree because you want to have the tree up on your wall, right? You’re crafting it because you want to learn more about your family. That often means learning more about how your family functioned many years ago.

Even if these stories only stretch back a few decades, you should still try to collect them. Collect audio recordings of your family members telling these stories, transcribe them to keep with your familial records, and make sure you back them up somewhere safe. It’s an important part of knowing more about your family’s life in the past.

Census Records

Census records are an important part of understanding a country’s population. But that’s not the only benefit census records can offer. They’re also useful for understanding your family tree, especially as your family stretches back many decades in the past. Once you get past the place where any living relatives remember, you may be able to look to census records.

In the United States, the census was enshrined in the constitution. There’s been a census every 10 years since 1790, which means people have been counted every year for over 200 years. That’s a long time to track your family history, especially if your family became Americans more than a decade or two ago.

General and Vital Records

These tend to form much of the basis of family tree searching. That’s because records like birth and death records can showcase not only someone’s name but also their parents’ names. You can use that information to start researching more. A great starting point if you’re looking for general records for ancestry research is PeopleFinders.

With PeopleFinders, you don’t have to just try and put the pieces together on your own. PeopleFinders can make it easy for you to find the information available. And it may also help you piece things together by offering a list of possible relatives and associates for further research. You just have to perform a people search on yourself or another family member to start.


This is far from a comprehensive list. There are lots of records that are important for your family tree. However, no matter what records you have right now, you can try and use PeopleFinders to build things out. PeopleFinders may be able to make it easier for you to do research on your family’s history, whether you’re looking decades in the past or just a few years back.

Image attribution: Irina –

PeopleFinders was launched in 1999 to give people easy access to public records data. The PeopleFinders mission is to find, organize and make information accessible - empowering people with meaningful answers.

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