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Family Tree

This weekend I hosted a luncheon for 12 of my cousins. One highlight was the poster-size family tree I created using a computer-based genealogy program. It made for what one of my cousins called “a valuable roadmap” to understand how everyone in the room was related. Just seeing some of the names prompted wonderful stories about past generations.

A handful of genealogy programs exist for under $50. By adding the names of your close relatives into the program — and then enlisting others to help with names of more distant relatives — you easily build a database. (Additionally, you can pay to join an online ancestry search but you don’t have to do this just to keep your own local database).

In time, you can add significant dates, milestones, photos, anecdotes, and documents. As you come across new facts, add them where they belong.

You don’t even have to have a plan for this data from the outset. As long as you enjoy the process of collecting the information, keep doing it.

Perhaps you will create a family tree for a reunion as I did, or maybe make an album as a gift, or even write a book. Perhaps you will share the file with your children and grandchildren. Future generations can keep updating the data.

Even if you already have a “historian” in your family, don’t hesitate to create your own database. Your perspective is unique.

For one review of the most popular genealogy software programs, click here.*

*Within this comprehensive review of genealogy programs is the somewhat intimidting term GEDCOM. This stands for GEnealogical Data COMmunications. It’s the standard computer file format family historians use to exchange information. (Read more here.) While the programs differ in their ability to translate GEDCOM data, you don’t have to know technical GEDCOM issues to enjoy any of the genealogy programs.