Family Tree Basics
Millions of digitized images, from marriage certificates to military service records, can be viewed online. Published genealogies allow budding family historians to extend their family tree by generations in just a few minutes. There is even free online software available to help you record the information you find and build your family tree. It sounds so easy, right?
As valuable as the Internet is for family history research, it does have its limitations. Most important, don't expect to find your family tree already done for you. The Internet is just one of many research tools and resources you'll utilize in the discovery of your past. For every genealogical record that you find online, thousands more are only available in libraries, archives, courthouses, and other repositories.
Much of the genealogy information published online comes in the form of indexes or transcriptions, which also require further research in original records. And, of course, not everything located online is correct, necessitating research in additional sources to successfully prove your family connections.
Yes, the Internet will simplify and enhance your quest for your roots, but it should be considered a valuable supplement to more traditional methods of research, not the sole tool for tracing your family tree.
But don't let these caveats discourage you. You can successfully use the Internet to plug into your past. Before you begin, however, you first need to learn a few tools of the trade — the symbols, terms, and conventions used by genealogists to collect, record, and communicate the relationships in a family tree. Some of the information presented in this introductory chapter may seem a bit complex at first, but after you spend a little time tracing your family tree it will all start to come together.