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How to start your Family Tree

How to start your Family Tree

To begin your family tree is surprisingly easy, as you start with yourself and work backwards systematically.

How much effort the overall project will be, depends on how many generations you want to go back. Have you done a Free search for your ancestors on Ancestry24 to see who you can find?

Recording the basic information

The first thing to do is to record the basic genealogical information you have about your closest relatives. Full names, birth dates and places, marriage dates and places, and death dates and places.Enter these details into the free Ancestry24 Family Tree Builder.

Resources in the home

Other sources of information include:

  • Autograph books
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Baptisms Certificates
  • Burial Records
  • Bibles
  • Birthday books
  • Books (check for inscriptions in them)
  • Certificates (from schools or jobs)
  • Clothing and hats (check inside for names)
  • E-mails
  • Recipe books
  • Furniture (sometimes you’ll find names and dates on the bottoms or backs of furniture)
  • Photo albums
  • Diaries and daybooks
  • Guest books
  • Jewellery (such as pins, ID bracelets, charm bracelets, lockets, or anything else that may have an inscription or indicate membership of an organisation)
  • Letters
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Personal telephone books
  • Pictures (don’t forget to look at the backs)
  • Old school ties
  • School reports
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sewing samplers
  • Silver mugs, goblets and trophies
  • Street directories
  • Tombstone inscriptions
  • Trunks and chests
  • Wedding rings
  • Yearbooks

Ask your relatives

Be sure to consult grandparents, aunts, uncles and broader family. Ask them about the gaps that you’ve identified in your own research as well as confirmation of information. Perhaps they have access to documentation or items listed above.

When interviewing people personally, try to use a recording device. Apart from not missing anything important, you will also have a recording of a relative’s voice. If your grandparents are no longer alive, ask your parents about them and your great grandparents. Another source of family information can be close family friends.

Visit their neighbourhood

Visit the old neighbourhood swhere you family lived. This can provide leaves to put on the branches of the family tree. Don’t be afraid to tap into gossip, because in that might be a worthwhile lead.

On Ancestry24 you can find Almanacs, with information relating to inhabitants of major cities between 1805 and 1902.

Check the local cemetery and internment records at the Regional Services Council, looking for family names. Even though only one name might appear on the tombstone, there could be several other people included in the grave. The plot card will give you this information.

Look at our growing free gallery of tombstone images from all over South Africa to see if your area has been covered. We welcome you to contribute images to this project.

Check Ages for accuracy

Study your dates carefully and look for inconsistencies in dates, for example a granny who was 72 when her last child was born. Dates are vital and need to be perfect.If you are unsure of an exact date, leave it blank for now or enter an approximate date, indicated by “abt” (short for “about”).

External resources

The National Archives offers the largest repository in South Africa for acquiring death notices, wills, estates, mortgages, divorces, adoptions, etc.

At local Family History Societies such as the Genealogical Society of South Africa or the Cape Town Family History Society you can meet other genealogists.

The Department of Home Affairs houses birth, marriage and death certificates. National and University Libraries also contain family documents that have been donated by various individuals.

Additional Information

For more information and guidance, download our free Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy.

Start your Family Tree right now.