Genealogy is the study of family history. It involves tracing lineage and genetics as well as demonstrating pedigree and kinship. Genealogists use a variety of methods to gather and report information about family history. They scour historical records, conduct oral interviews, and use genetic analysis as well as other means of information collection. The findings are then reported as charts, in the form of narrative, or both. Presentation of information can also be in a multimedia form, including audio interviews, video, and photographs in addition to statistical information.

There are many motivations for establishing family history. Learning about one’s history is important for the creation of individual, family, and societal identity and culture. In many cultures, individual identity is much less important than the identity of the family or the tribe. In some religions, family history is a part of spiritual practice. Some organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, require members to establish their lineage. There also are times when family history has been lost due to estrangement or adoption, and in those cases, genealogical study can answer questions that could not be answered any other way.

Genealogical research is complex and multifaceted. Source quality often determines the validity of the findings. In the past, genealogy study required someone with research skills and a lot of time. Some aspects of the process have changed over time, but the starting point remains essentially the same. The process usually begins with the collection of family stories and the examination of documents such as birth certificates and photographs. The typical method is to start with the present and work backward in time through the generations. The first few generations are easy to compile, as family members from those generations are often still accessible. As the family tree and timeline grow, information becomes harder to get. This is when other means of information-gathering must be used, including genealogical software.

Advances in software development have made it possible for even the most amateur family historian to create a robust family tree. What was once done by hand on paper can now be done electronically. Genealogy software collects and compiles information about births, deaths and marriages and organizes the information into easy-to-read charts. These can include pedigree charts, register reports, and ahnentafel reports. A register report uses the register system of numbering, which uses common and Roman numerals organized by generation. Ahnentafel is a numbering system used in genealogy that lists a person’s ancestors in a fixed sequence. Many programs also allow for the inclusion of multimedia elements such as photographs.

The choice of which genealogical software to use is a personal one. One consideration in choosing genealogical software is its ability to link to a website or service that does research into family history. Software helps organize information but does not find the information. A program that works in tandem with a site that allows you to access research will save time in information transfer. Another consideration is ease of use. Some software requires knowledge of computer languages. Those without that type of knowledge may opt to choose more intuitive software.

Genealogy is an exciting field that allows virtually anyone to become an expert in their own history. A process that once was tedious and cumbersome has become accessible thanks to the free flow of information on the Web and software development.

  • What Is the Difference Between Family History and Genealogy? Is there a difference between family history and genealogy? This article debates the point.
  • What’s in a Name? The Genealogy of Holocaust IdentitiesGenealogy is a scholarly journal that publishes genealogical narratives. This article from the journal provides an interesting example of genealogical research.
  • Ten Effective Strategies on How to Build a Family Tree: These ten strategies will help the beginning researcher organize their plan to create a genealogical study.
  • What Is Genealogical Research? This guide form the University of Maryland outlines what constitutes genealogical research.
  • Emotional Genealogy: Emotional genealogy is a different way to look at family history research. It explores what has been passed down from generation to generation in terms of psychology.
  • State Archives: Anyone undertaking genealogical research will need to begin with data mining. State archives are a good place to start.
  • Genealogical Research at the Library of Congress: This document provides useful information on conducting genealogical research using library resources.
  • Digital State Archives: Digitized information from state archives is accessible via this website.
  • Daughters of the American Revolution: Genealogy: An instruction guide for anyone conducting genealogical research to be eligible for the DAR can be found here.
  • Family Stories From the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation: Read brief stories of how people have discovered interesting elements of their history.
  • Share Your Family History: This article provides a starting point for sharing family history information online.
  • USGenWeb Project: The USGenWeb Project provides assistance and information for genealogical undertakings.
  • Online Maps: Maps assist genealogical researchers by putting information in space and time visually. The University of Texas at Austin Library provides a wealth of maps accessible online.
  • Putting Family History in its Places: This family history software service provides a searchable database to link maps and land records to genealogical research.
  • Find a Grave: This database of grave locations allows family historians to find out where relatives are buried.
  • Bureau of Land Management: The Bureau of Land Management allows access to federal conveyance records including images of title records issued from 1788 to the present.
  • America’s First Immigration Center: This database contains information on immigrants coming to the United States from 1820-92.
  • Ahnenblatt: Ahnenblatt provides genealogy software that is free and easy to use. It is available in multiple languages.
  • Ancestral Quest: Genealogical software is available here for free or in a paid version.
  • WikiTree: This site is free, and its mission is to create a single, accurate family tree of everyone in the world.
  • Gramps: Gramps is a free genealogical software project and community created by genealogists. It is intuitive and useful for beginner though advanced family historians.
  • Familienbande: Familienbande is a software package for the administration of personal genealogical data.
  • Oxy-Gen: Convert genealogical files to usable file formats. This application is free.
  • Legacy Family Tree: This Windows genealogical software has a free standard edition and the option to upgrade to a paid version.
  • Hope Chest: This program assists users of FamilySearch.org. There is a free and a paid version available.
  • Geneanet Online Family Tree: Build your family tree with this free online software.
  • Family Echo: Build an interactive family tree with this free program. Family members can be invited to participate.
  • My Heritage: Build a family website to share genealogy, photos, and more. The program is free with an optional subscription service.
  • Ancestris: A free program that works with any platform, Ancestris is available in multiple languages.
  • PhpGedView: This free program allows users to view and edit their genealogy work.
  • ScionPC: Find a free genealogical information management system here.
  • View GED: This free program is used for genealogy file-viewing in GEDCOM format.
  • Twile: Collaborate with others on this free, online family tree and timeline.
  • Genosis: Genosis is a free website builder. Family research can be shared online and can be synced with Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker.
  • One Fam: This family tree program allows families to work together. The program is free and has a mobile app available.
  • DNA Land: This program offered by the New York Genome Center and Columbia University compares your DNA with data and helps the user more fully know themselves through genome exploration. The Ancestry Report can add valuable information to genealogical research. The site is free but does require registration.
  • Virtual Pedigree: Explore your ancestry in a dynamic way.
  • Online Master of Science in Software Development: Learn more about Maryville’s online Master’s of Science in Software Development.