How to figure out family tree

Find Your Ancestors in the Family Tree

Are you trying to find an ancestor or deceased family member? If so, you should search our Family Tree—the largest shared family tree in the world. The Tree contains more than a billion names. It’s free and open to the public, and the ancestor you’re looking for might already be in it.

Gather what you know about your deceased relative—such as his or her name, birth or death information, and perhaps the name of a parent, spouse, or child—and follow the steps below to see if he or she is in the Family Tree. Or click the button below and go directly to our Find page. 

Searching Family Tree—A Quick Way to Start or Add to Your Genealogy

If you want to find a relative who may be in the Tree, go to FamilySearch, and under the Family Tree tab, choose Find. Be prepared to log in or create a free FamilySearch account. (You can also get to this same page by going to the Search tab, and choosing Family Tree. )

Once onto the Tree Find, enter what you know about your deceased relative. The page opens with a simplified search panel, which works for early searches. To get better results, however, it’s a good idea to open the full search experience by clicking More Options.

The Tree Find looks and functions almost exactly like FamilySearch’s Search Historical Records tool. We did this on purpose, of course. Any search strategies you learned for that page will be equally useful here. Let’s go through the filters one at a time, though, and examine some best practices. 

1. Names

Consider some best practices for filling out the name fields:

  • Enter the person's first and middle names into the First Names field.
  • Enter the person’s family name or surname into the Last Names field.
  • Use the Alternate Names tab for maiden names, nicknames, aliases, other spellings, second last names, and any name changes that may have occurred during a person’s lifetime.

2. Sex

Choosing Male or Female, if known, can help narrow your search results.

3. Life Events

Under Add Life Event, enter what you know about where the person was located during their life. Be sure to change the filter from Any to Birth, Marriage, Residence, or Death. Doing so is likely to make your search more accurate.

4. Family Members

Under Add Family Members, enter what you know about the person’s spouse, father, mother, or other relationship. You can use the same guidelines and strategies for entering names here as you did earlier.

5. Exact Search

Directly below the Family Member section is a toggle for Show Exact Search. Be careful using this option, and only use it when you are getting back more search results than you can reasonably consider. The actual data in Family Tree may be slightly different than the names, dates, and places you are entering, so being flexible with your search criteria is usually a good idea.

It's important to note that turning on the toggle for Show Exact Search doesn’t immediately engage an exact search. Instead, it opens a box next to all of the screen’s search filters, which you can then select or leave empty. It’s highly recommended that you only select the fields you’re sure you want to be exact, and that you start with a few. In other words, you could do an exact search for a particular birth date but not for your other fields.

Once you have entered the information you know, click Find to search for your ancestor’s profile in Family Tree. When the search results appear, click a name to see a summary of that person’s information. Then click on the name in the pop-up window to navigate to the person’s full person page.

Advanced Tips for Finding the Right Person

Too Many Results

Use the gray button filters at the top of the page to quickly fine-tune your search results:

In the search shown in these screenshots, I initially entered my great-grandfather’s name. As you can see, this broad search brought back lots of results—too many to search through. If I click the Birth filter, however, and select a specific area of the world, I can immediately make that number much lower.

No Results or No Matches

If your initial search came up empty, use the search panel on the right side of the screen to modify your search terms. Note: Depending on your screen size, the search panel might not be open at first. If that’s the case, click Search in the right corner to open it.

To broaden your search then, consider modifying anything that might have been too specific, such as an exact year. Increasing the date range for a particular life event can help. You also can try changing the Life Event menu to Birth or Residence instead of Any. If applicable, use the Alternate Names field to enter a maiden name, alias, or different spelling. Then click Search.

If after editing your search, you still can’t find the person you’re looking for, it may be that the person hasn’t been added to Family Tree yet. In that case, you could go ahead and add the person yourself.

In order to add a person to the Tree, you will need his or her name, and then you can enter as much additional information as you can about them, such as where they may have been born or where they lived.

Hint: If you’re missing information about your ancestor, try finding him or her in a historical record, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, draft card, or death certificate.

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Video Companion

How to Use the FamilySearch Family Tree to Find Your Family

Using Preferences to Customize Your Search Results

Experienced researchers will likely appreciate the functionality that comes with the Preference button that appears at the top of your search results page. With Preferences, you can make important choices regarding the formatting and exporting of your search results.

For example, the first option under Preferences is the choice to present your search results in either Data Sheet or Fixed Table:

If I was looking for a search result that matched one specific piece of information—a particular birth date, for example—I’d use Data Sheet. The format makes it easy to scroll and find results that match.

I’d use Fixed Table, by contrast, when I wanted to take a closer look at a handful of search results that all seemed promising, and see how well they matched everything I knew about the person.

Further down the Preferences pane is a section titled Language Options. Here you can choose to view information how it was originally entered into FamilySearch, or to view it with slight edits—what we call “translations”—that make it easier to read. A simple example would be an entry for “Jan 1855,” which, when clarified or translated, would appear as “January 1855.

Last but not least, in the Preferences pane is an option for downloading your search results to your own computer. Perhaps you have your own method for charting and filtering information. If so, you can download the information into any of the following file formats: XLS, XLSX, CSV, ODS, TSV, and ODS.

Find Your Ancestors in the FamilySearch Family Tree!

Ready to learn something about one of your ancestors? Our shared Family Tree has a place in it for everyone in the world—and we want everyone’s help building it!

Pick a deceased relative, and see whether he or she is among the 1.2 billion names in the FamilySearch Family Tree! Find the person’s profile, and enjoy the stories, photos, time lines, and other items that have been attached to it. Then consider what you know about them and could add to their profile. Other relatives may thank you in the future!

How to Find Your Ancestors for Free

How to Find Your Ancestors for Free

By Family Tree Editors

Table of Contents

Free Genealogy Websites


com Free Features

FamilySearch Features

FindMyPast Free Records

Free Genealogy Records

Free Genealogy Software

Totally Free Genealogy Websites

Finding your ancestors for free seems like an impossible task. Everywhere you turn, subscription-based access seems to be the only way to gain the family tree information you’re desperately seeking. But before you take out that second mortgage, take some time to do research on these totally free genealogy websites. We’ve included websites where you can build your family tree, search records, find genealogy books to borrow and reach out to volunteers who may help you with some of your genealogy research—all for free.


This grab-bag of free genealogy records keeps growing.

Allen County Public Library

Though based in Indiana, this library’s online reach extends much further—reflecting its status as the nation’s second-richest genealogy library.

Ancestral Findings

This site offers free lookups of marriage, birth, death, immigration, land, military and census records in dozens of different resources.

Ancestry Library Edition

Your local library may offer you access to’s immigration, census, vital and other records through Ancestry Library Edition. The library has to pay, of course, but it’s free to you as a patron.

Books We Own

The next best thing to owning essential genealogy resources is finding someone who has what you need and will do a free lookup for you.


The world’s biggest social networking site is a useful tool for finding cousins and getting help with research from volunteers. There are countless pages dedicated to helping beginner genealogists, specific states and heritages, surnames, projects and much more.


More than 2,000 online collections make this the internet’s largest home to free genealogy data.

Genealogy Bargains

This site points frugal genealogists to deals across the web—from free records access promotions and webinars to discounts on subscriptions and resources.

Genealogy Gophers

Smart, intuitive searching is the hallmark of the partnership with Family­Search here, which quickly combs 80,000 digitized books.

Google Books

Has someone already written a local or family history book relevant to your genealogy? Use Google Books to find out.


To get the most out of this digital library, you must log in with credentials from a participating institution (such as a university). But there’s plenty here accessible to the general public, too.

HeritageQuest Online

Free to your home computer courtesy of your library card via participating institutions, HeritageQuest is now “powered by” (but not owned by)

Internet Archive

The long list of collections here ranges from 2.4 million library items to specialized collections for California and Portugal. Plus the Wayback Machine can find vanished genealogy sites from the early internet.

Library of Congress

Though not specifically focused on genealogy, the nation’s library has plenty to offer online. The Library’s genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s library.

Midwest Genealogy Center

This site from the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Mo., taps one of the nation’s largest genealogy collections.

National Archives and Records Administration

Read all about the genealogical treasures stored at the National Archives, order military and other records, and browse historical maps and photos.

Olive Tree Genealogy

Since its launch in 1996, this modest website has grown into a useful collection of how-to help and databases.

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK)

For research tasks in a distant library or archive, turn to this directory of volunteers and locations where they can do research tasks. (Please note you may be asked to reimburse small expenses such as photocopying or postage.)


This venerable free site still serves up how-to articles, databases of surnames and US locations, mailing lists, pedigree files and much more—making it an oldie but a goodie.


This volunteer site, with its state and county pages and special projects, remain as vibrant as ever.


Contributors here collaborate to build a single, unified family tree, with pages for more than 2.8 million people and 400,000 places. Register to add your tree; upload your family tree as a GEDCOM; and share documents, photos and stories.


More than half a million genealogists have contributed to this unified family tree, which now boasts nearly 18 million ancestral profiles (including living people, though they’re private except for invited people). Uniquely, more than 4 million profiles include information about DNA tests at various sites, which may help you confirm or reject your relation to that profile.


Find your family history in 2 billion items at 10,000 of the world’s libraries, then click to see holdings nearest you using WorldCat. (You may also be able to borrow the books you discover using interlibrary loan. )

Its offshoot ArchiveGrid searches more than 4 million descriptions of archival records from 1,000 different institutions. Learn about historical documents, personal papers, family histories and other materials that may mention your ancestors. A clickable map makes it easy to find archives near you.

David Fryxell and Sunny Jane Morton

More Resources


NGS Recommends…
18 Important Free Websites for Genealogy Research


26 Free Genealogy Websites


7 Free Genealogy Websites That You Might Be Overlooking

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Ways to Use Ancestry.

com for Free

Even outside of a free trial, the savvy researcher can take advantage of without having a paid subscription. Check out these seven free features of (and its sister sites):

  1. Search the free index collections, which include both US and international records
  2. Use the free card catalog
  3. View record previews
  4. Take a peek at public member trees
  5. Learn from Ancestry Academy’s how-to videos
  6. Watch Ancestry on YouTube
  7. Test with AncestryDNA (You’ll need to pay for a test, but you won’t need a paid subscription to view your results or contact matches.)
  8. Search free records on’s sister sites

Nancy Hendrickson

More Resources


How to View Thousands of Free Records on Ancestry Without a Subscription


Free Databases at


How To Do Free Genealogy Research on Ancestry. com

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Four Features of FamilySearch is the world’s biggest, all-free, all-genealogy website, with the most global record content. Here are four features you should know about if you want to research your ancestors for free.

Historical Records

At last count, FamilySearch is home to more than 4 billion historical, high-quality genealogical document record images, painstakingly gathered over the course of several decades from repositories around the world.

FamilySearch Wiki

The FamilySearch Wiki hosts nearly 100,000 articles to get you started (or help you break through a brick wall) with your current research question.

Family History Library Catalog

The catalog of the entire Family History Library is searchable on Search the catalog by place to explore what resources are available for your locale of interest.

FamilySearch Digital Library

In addition to the shelves of the Family History Library, the Digital Library offers search results on about half a million titles made available through libraries, genealogy societies and university libraries.

Sunny Jane Morton

More Resources


Unofficial Guide to How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website


How to get HELP on


Guide to FamilySearch Resources

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Free Records on FindMyPast

Most of the giant genealogy websites, including Findmypast, allow users to create free guest logins and at least search their record collections for free. But viewing the actual record transcriptions and images you’ll find in search results generally requires the proper subscription. Findmypast’s free portal gives full access to the following to those who create their free registrations:

  1. 1940 United States Census and all Canadian censuses
  2. Parish registers, cemetery records and marriage indexes
  3. Passenger lists and travel records
  4. Irish Catholic parish records
  5. 1881 Census of England, Wales and Scotland

More Resources


4 Ways You Can Get Records at FindMyPast For Free!


Get the Most from A FindMyPast Free Trial


How to Set Up a Findmypast. com Free Trial

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Free Genealogy Records

Here are some websites for tracking down more free genealogy records. Also keep in mind many public libraries, state archives, historical societies and universities host free digitized records on their own websites—so if you want to find your ancestors for free, you may have to do some extra digging.

It’s also possible to find free genealogy records at subscription genealogy sites, if you know where to look. Plus, be on the lookout for temporary, free full access to record collections on subscription sites, usually available around a specific holiday or anniversary of a historic event. You can easily find these at


The Ancestor Hunt

FamilySearch Wiki



Census Finder

Census Online

Internet Archive

My Free Census Records

ResearchGuides. net


The Ancestor Hunt

FamilySearch Wiki


Random Acts of Geneological Kindness
(links on left)


Chronicling America


Google News Archive

Online Historical Newspapers

Old Fulton New York Post Cards



Internet Archive

Google Books

Online Historical Directories



FamilySearch Wiki

More Resources


Free Genealogy Records – A Guide To Frugal Genealogy Research


Genealogy and Family History


Free Genealogy Records: Where to Find Them and How to Contribute

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Free Genealogy Software

If your research has ranged much beyond one family, you’re probably scouting for a way to organize your family tree. Genealogy database software could be just the ticket—and you don’t have to spend and arm and a leg to get enough power to accomplish the task. Several great options are just a free download away.

Ancestral Quest


This software has all the essential features for working with your family tree.


Gramps is a free software and community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists. Features include family groups, charts, events, repositories list, and much more.

MyHeritage Family Tree Builder

Use this software to create your family tree offline or on a secure site at You can print decorative family tree charts from your online tree (order larger copies for a fee). The program supports 36 languages and its SmartMatching technology searches for matches to your ancestors in other users’ trees.

Legacy Family Tree Standard Edition

This free version of the popular software includes family and pedigree views, a to-do list, research log, event reminders and more.

RootsMagic Essentials

You’ll get many of the core features of the award-winning RootsMagic software in this free version: the Source Wizard, loads of reports and charts, unlimited data capacity and more.

Lisa Louise Cooke

More Resources


Free Genealogy Software


6 Best Free Genealogy Software Downloads!


Genealogy Software & Family Tree Research

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General Genealogy


Family Tree Editors

How to make a genealogical tree of family and clan

How to preserve the memory of the past of your family? Collecting old photographs and yellowed letters in boxes on the mezzanine is not the best option: in a couple of generations, your descendants will hardly guess who these smiling people from black and white cards are. How about translating that memory into something meaningful, like a real family tree? Its creation will be an exciting quest for the whole family, and in the process of immersing yourself in your own story, incredible discoveries can await you all.

Building a family tree is not easy, but interesting. To do this, you will have to conduct a comprehensive study, collect all the data and photographs, and then try to create a family tree with your own hands from all this.

In our article you will find not only tips for finding information about ancestors, but also various tree design options. We have also prepared for you two templates for filling in the family tree - for children and for adults.

How to make a family tree with your own hands

Where to start

Before you begin, you must determine for yourself why all this is needed. Are you in the mood for deep exploration, or is your goal just to share stories about your parents and grandparents with your children?

A well-defined goal will help you achieve the final result faster.

Think of a plan, break it down into small steps so you can easily track progress. And this will add to your motivation not to give up halfway through - believe me, you will need it.

Finding information about relatives

Once you've decided how far you want to go, the most interesting step is gathering information about relatives and distant ancestors. You will surely learn many funny and touching stories and find some distant relatives living on the other side of the world. Or maybe even reveal a family secret - who knows? To find as much information as possible and understand how to make a family tree of a family, use the following methods:

  • Questioning relatives

Start your search by interviewing your next of kin. Organize family tea gatherings with grandparents - they will be happy to share valuable memories. Arrange a video conference with those who live in other cities and countries, or just write to them on social networks.

  • Family archive analysis

Carefully study all documents, letters and diaries that have been preserved in your family. In birth, marriage and death certificates, passports, employment records and diplomas, you will find answers to key questions that are important for the pedigree. These records will help restore information that loved ones could not remember. Look through old photographs: perhaps the grandmother forgot to tell about her second cousin. Already at this stage, you can choose photo cards for your family tree.

  • Internet searches

Browse various genealogy websites and related resources for historical information. For example, the website "Feat of the People" provides open access to archival documents about the exploits and awards of all soldiers of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945.

Register on several thematic forums. For example, on the All-Russian Genealogical Tree forum, it is possible to search for a specific person by last name, regions and countries.

Try to find distant relatives of your generation on Odnoklassniki or VKontakte. But do not forget that in a correct genealogical research, any information must be confirmed by archival certificates.

  • Collection of information in registry offices and archives

If you are looking for information about marriage, dates of birth or death, please contact the registry office. If a relative has something to do with the army - for example, is a veteran of the Second World War - make a request to the military registration and enlistment office at the place of residence, service or conscription. But keep in mind: in order to obtain documents of deceased relatives, you must prove your relationship with them, providing, among other things, your birth certificate.

Don't hope for a quick result when searching for genealogy in archives. The process can take months or even years. But the information you find can greatly advance your research.

  • Contact the experts

If you do not want to spend time building a family tree, contact the professionals. Archives staff, designers, and specialty companies will help you find the information you need and create a family tree. In addition, with their help you can create a family tree book, a film presentation and even a family coat of arms.

What are the types of a family tree

There are several methods for compiling a tree.

  • Descending tree

The family scheme is formed from an ancestor to descendants. This design method allows you to visually trace the history of the family from distant times to the present day.

  • Pedigree

Compiled from a person to his ancestors. Such a structure will be especially convenient for those who have not yet completed the search for information and are consistently moving from the known to the unknown.

  • Round table

It is built in a circle, in the center of which one of the children is placed. The second, outer, circle is divided in half and the data of the mother and father are recorded in it. In the third circle, cut into four parts, grandparents are indicated. Then a fourth circle is added, which is divided into eight parts, and so on. This type of tree is quite rare. But this scheme is the most compact.

How to arrange a family tree

  • Family tree on computer

Programs for creating a family tree will help you save time and get a guaranteed result. Use the MyHeritage online service or GenoPro, Family Tree Builder or Tree of Life software. Choose a template, enter your pedigree data and enjoy the result.

You can also find or draw an empty tree yourself in a graphics editor.

  • DIY family tree

Get creative with your family tree results. We have selected a few examples for you to inspire.

Family box

For each ancestor, a box is wound up or one cell is allocated, in which documents, photos, objects are placed. By opening such a box, you can touch the past and find out what kind of person your ancestor was.

Generic tree from local materials

This design option is perfect for a kindergarten or school project.

Family tree in album

Decorative stand with photo frames

How to work with the family tree template

We have prepared two templates that both children and adults will love.

Open Tree Template for Adults

Open Tree Template for Children

Templates can be used both electronically and in print.

  • Print out a blank template and include drawings or photos of yourself and your ancestors.
  • Use a photo editor and paste the scanned images into a template. Print the result.

Filling out a template in Picverse Photo Editor

In Picverse Photo Editor you can not only edit pictures and insert them into a template, but also restore old photos.

Check out our sample of filling out the template - it will be easier for you to figure out how to draw up a family tree correctly.

1) Launch Picverse Photo Editor.

2) If you want to restore photo that has lost its appearance due to old age, open the image in the program. In the tab Correction in the panel on the right, select the option Manual . Open block Smart Restoration . If you want to convert black and white photos to color, activate the switch Make color . Press button Restore . Photos will be automatically restored.

3) In order to adjust colors and sharpness , in the same tab Correction open the required block and change the necessary parameters. Save the result.

4) To add a picture to template , click File –> Open and select the downloaded template to fill. Then go to tab Insert picture and open the photo you want to insert. To resize the inserted photo, drag the corners of the dotted frame. Rotate the photo using the arrow button. If you are happy with the result, press Apply .

5) Once you have inserted all the images, click File –> Save .

How to make a family tree: rules, programs

Knowledge of a family tree gives its owner a solid advantage. This is a chance to tell the younger generation about their ancestors, to instill love and pride in their own family, to preserve the history of the achievements of relatives. In 90% of families, the custodians of information are the older generation, with the departure of which knowledge will be lost. A simple solution would be to compile a family tree. Significant assistance in this process will be provided to you by specialized programs that are presented on the Internet.

Where and how to find information for compiling a family tree

The amount of work that must be done to build a family tree can frighten a novice historian. We suggest using the available methods of obtaining information:

  • Interview the older generation. It is best to do this in person. Using a voice recorder or notepad, record the names, dates of birth, marital status and occupation of the ancestors. Grandparents will be happy to provide you with old photographs that will be used to create the tree.
  • Search in archives. Documents and photographs are stored in family or municipal archives. You should carefully consider the documents found so as not to make a mistake and not include the namesake in your personal archive.
  • Search for ancestors using the Internet. On modern resources, it is possible to find participants in the Second World War, as well as relatives who left a mark on history.
  • This is a painstaking and time-consuming step that requires patience and meticulous data collection.

For more information on how to collect information, see this article.

How a family tree should look like

Having collected information, a person often encounters a lack of understanding of how to systematize it. There are several of the simplest and most accessible options for compiling a family tree for a novice historian. Let's consider each of them in order to be able to choose the optimal solution:

  • From the side of the father. In this case, information about all relatives along the line of the pope is collected and systematized. In the middle of the left column is a photo and information about the customer. Then up are information about his ancestors (father, grandfather, great-grandfather) and down about children (grandchildren). Branches going to the right allow you to use information about cousins, uncles and other relatives.
  • From the mother's side. Compiled according to a similar principle.
  • Ascending family tree. In this case, a person who restores the history of his ancestors is placed at the base. It symbolizes the trunk. Large branches depart from it - these are the parents. Smaller branches are grandparents. And so on.
  • The descending family tree is exactly the opposite.

Having chosen the best option for the future scheme, you should proceed directly to its creation. For this purpose, you can use a sheet of drawing paper or resort to the help of specialized computer programs. Consider the products presented on the domestic market.

Overview of programs for compiling a family tree

Let's start with the fact that all programs can be divided into: It is possible to enter a huge amount of information on each person, scans of photographs and documents.

  • Free. Easy to use, accessible to the novice genealogist or hobbyist who wants to recreate their own history.
  • What programs do professionals recommend using? Paid products include: