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Determining your goals

The first step you must take when you have decided to pursue this formidable task of assembling your clan's family tree is to decide on a course of action to take. It is important to decide which genealogical lines to follow early on. Of course you only have two parents but this further translates into four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on. So, as you can see, this task has a potential to be very complicated with a lot of tangled bloodlines in your path. Deciding on the best paths to follow early on will save you a lot of hard work and minimise the time wasted pursuing lines that may ultimately lead to dead ends. Planning the best course of action to take will also ensure that the lines that you do follow will uncover as many important details as possible.

Most people who undertake genealogical research typically have one of three goals in mind; they may wish to establish a fairly straightforward family tree, an extended family tree or they may wish to gather a comprehensive listing of their ancestors to produce what is commonly known as an Ancestry Chart.

Family trees may simply cover the direct male ancestors of your particular subject such as the father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on, with only a cursory mention of the wives, brothers and sisters of these relatives. Depending on their purposes, genealogical researchers may also focus their efforts on the female line relatives, although this may prove to be a considerably more difficult task than researching male line relatives. The main reason for this difficulty is that traditionally, records kept for females have been sketchier than those for males. Add to that the common practice of women taking on the husband's last name after marriage and you can begin to appreciate how much more difficult the task of tracing women's lineages can be.

An Extended Family Tree, as the name implies, may be extended to include many other lateral branches of the family tree. As you can imagine, this is a far more exhaustive list that may grow to include all the descendants of the earliest known relatives of your subject, their spouses, their brothers and sisters and even their cousins. As with the simple Family Tree, genealogical research typically focuses on the male lineage but this is not always necessarily the case. Establishing an Extended Family Tree can potentially uncover many distant relatives that your subject's family never even knew existed.

As comprehensive as Extended Family Trees are, the coverage of Ancestry Charts will extend even further. Research efforts involved in the establishment of this kind of chart may attempt to trace as many direct ancestors as possible, whether they are male or female.

In any case, even if you were only concerned with tracing a direct lineage to your ancestors, it would be a good idea to keep a record of any little bit of information that you come across in your research. This may prove useful in establishing identities and bloodlines later on.

Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: Nicola Norfolk
Updated On: 06/02/2007

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