DrupalWomenQ-#7460

How far back will a family tree take you?

20 Answers

  1. Kathleen Klatt wrote on :

    I’ve been using my computer and have traced it back to 1663, in this country, through the Revolutionary War and Indian wars. My 10th (I think Great Grandfather was given a land grant by King Charles (the 2nd I think). He helped found one of the first cities in America and was a tavern owner and Deacon of his church.
    Before that I traced my family back to the 1500’s in Yieldham, England. Before that it was Normandy, France.
    So it can take you back a long ways. I must say that this has all been a surprise to my family who thought we were from Ireland.
    I have traced my family back 14 generations on my own. It does take time though but lots of fun, like a treasure hunt.

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  2. cafamily wrote on :

    I agree with the comments here that it does depend to a great extent on the records. You have to keep in mind, though, that as you get farther and farther back in time you may be relying on fewer and fewer records to document each birth, marriage, and death. And all it takes is one error to through the whole line off. There may be two women who married one man, where it appears there was only one, because one record was lost, for example, or a man who appears to be the father may be a step-father who raises the children. These are just a few of the examples. I think research and documentation are great–just always be ready to adjust the results when you get better information. And again, the further you go back, in general, the more potential for an error or two.
    Susan http://sksgenealogy.blogspot.com/

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  3. clcrss wrote on :

    There have been many instances of people finding their ancestors quite a ways back in time. You just have to start with the most recent info and work your way backward in time – step by step. Remember, the United States is not the only country that counted it’s citizens thru a regular census enumeration …. different places have different amounts of date for review. As you search for your ancestors remember to research the thime of history in which they lived to get a better sense of how they lived. clcs

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  4. susaneking wrote on :

    Genealogy is a very personal thing and as such, much depends on what your true purpose really is. If it is the lessons we can learn from the stories of our ancestors is one thing. If one wants to find a connection to royalty or a famous person, that is quite another. Since the process is to work backwards from you, this decision can change at any time, based on what you have learned and if the information meets your objectives.

    My 2 cents.

    Susan
    http://www.susaneking.com

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  5. Ultimate-Genealogy wrote on :

    To get a family tree you have to do lots and lots of research and puzzle solving. Until you start researching there really isn’t a family tree. Once you start with yourself, your parents and grandparents that is the start of generations of a family tree.
    Some lines go one or two generations and some go hundreds.
    I did for fun and to see if I could, realize you would have to believe the history books and the bible, I was able to take my husbands tree back to Adam and Eve.
    I have several lines I can get back to the 1500’s but that is because the church records (written in Latin) had birth/baptism, marriage and death all recorded and survived.
    Just remember people moved around, went to different countries, some records burned or never were required. So making a tree takes effort and lots of work.

    From http://www.jillsgeneal.ogy.com/misc/this-and-that/772-do-you-know-that-if-you-go-back-24-generations-you-will-have-8388608-people.html
    8,388,608 people = 24 generations starting with yourself. And you want to know if I am finished with our family tree?
    Ultimate Genealogy
    http://www.ultimate-genealogy.com/

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  6. jwagn wrote on :

    This depends on many factors. I would just start with yourself and see what happens. Some can go way back because of documented blood lines like the English. Some leave marks in history and then leave a trail going back. In the United States, one might be able to go back to “our” begining. Here on Long Island there are primary sources from the 1700’s. There is that phrase “crossing the pond” which means tracing your roots in Europe. Some have much luck with this. You have to talk to as many family members as possible and then talk with family members you find that you didn’t know you had. Have fun !!!

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  7. redpak wrote on :

    as far back as you can find records that can be proved to be your family

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  8. montaguecottage wrote on :

    It depends on finding the right records and luck plays a great part in whether those records survive. I am based in England where records do mostly survive but it does get much harder to trace individuals before church records of baptism/marriage/burial were kept – which realistically for most parishes is about 1600 although some survive from the 1530s. If you can prove a link to the “gentry” or aristocracy then it is much easier to trace them back so you hope for that or to have someone in your tree who is in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Failing that then it is a trawl though the manorial records which are in Latin and in difficult handwriting although some have been transcribed and published.

    For England it does get harder before civil registration in 1837 once you don’t have the censuses as a reference point which means in practice that most people get stuck at about 1780 when online searching may draw a blank.

    Any births marriages and deaths before 1837 which are not in the IGI or the National Burial Index require a trawl through the relevant films of the various parish records either at an LDS family history centre or travelling to the County Record Office for that county. Not all parishes’ registers are included in the IGI, and most nonconformists and catholic registers aren’t either and some of the original registers have not survived. Also you really need to check both the registers and the copies sent to the diocese every year (Bishops Transcripts) as they do not always tally.

    Another thing to bear in mind is that even within a county people did not stay put in one place. They moved for work, to be near the wife’s family and all the usual reasons we do it today. It is sometimes possible to trace them via the poor law records if they survive but again this is where luck comes in.

    What I find most interesting (and here it isn’t sour grapes as I have traced one branch of my family back to 1234) is not in getting as far back as you can but in finding out as much about the individuals in your tree as you can and making them real people not just names and dates.

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  9. Genteacher wrote on :

    How far do you want to go, and how much time do you have to do the serch? I have gone back to about 3,000BC with my mother’s line. This is approximately 100 generations. These were Irish and Scottish roots, and the oral tradition is quite good. With my father’s line, mostly English, about 1500AD is all the further I have gotten so far. Good luck!
    Marilyn Giese http://www.askagenealogist.com

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  10. Melin_Swango711 wrote on :

    As far as you can obtain records. In the USA, 1607 for Jamestown and 1620 for the Mayflower, except for the Spanish…..In Europe and other countries, you can go back to William the Conqurer and others!

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  11. dhooper wrote on :

    It is more a question of how far back can YOU take your family tree? Some people claim to have their free back to Adam and Eve (I kid you not)! Some have them back to Charlemagne (many people are descended from him). Part of the problem is finding the sources to document your family tree. You will come across many family trees (especially online) that go way back but nothing is documented. I have taken some clients back to the 1600s in the US and others can only get back to 1890 due to lack of documentation (this is a VERY unusual case–an orphan). The best advice I can give you is to document everything from the very beginning. There is nothing worse than years later trying to remember where you obtained certain information.

    It is also more difficult for someone who does know which records are available or the reason they were created to get back as far as someone who has studied genealogy and has a solid background in evidence analysis. It is a fun hobby–and very addictive. But quite often a family historian will have to hire a professional to get beyond a “brickwall.”

    Let me know if you need any more information. Good luck to you!

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  12. gradyjb wrote on :

    This depends a great deal on the country involved. In the U.S. if the person owned land, lefta will, was in the census and you know their locations and religion, it is very possible to go back13-15 generations, depending on your age. It is also relatively easy to do this in England if they belonged to the state religion and their location is constant. Earlier than the 1500 becomes more difficult for the ordinary person. Foreign countries have varying degress of records. For example, Switzerland has many older records, while Ireland has very few. Good luck

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  13. sandra18100 wrote on :

    It all depends where you live. I provide research in the UK and it’s possible to get back to the 1100s if records survive. Good Luck with your research!Sandra@ances-tree.co.uk

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  14. sshayward wrote on :

    I have taken one of my clients back to the 12th generation, but not all the lines are filled in for every generation. An interesting question popped up on Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter and it demonstrated the number of direct-line ancestors one would have for each generation.
    4 generations = 14 ancestors or 2 parents, 4 grand parents, and 8 great-grandparents.
    8 generations = 254 ancestors
    11 generations = 2,046 ancestors
    12 generations = 4,094 ancestors
    15 generations = 32,766
    42 generations = > 4 trillion
    These would all be direct-line descendants. Mind boggling!

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  15. VMAH wrote on :

    The best answer is, as far as PROOF will take you.

    Valerie Metzler Archivist/Historian

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  16. BranchingOutGenealogy wrote on :

    Both money and time help, but all that really matters is if the records still exist! Good Luck!

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  17. nanjones wrote on :

    I have researched mine back to 1150 and he died during the crusades in Turkey in 1190. Lots of that is luck as to the records available. Tried to verify a family member at University of Heidleberg in the 1500’s and they had lost 40 years – the very ones I needed. So you never know. it is time consuming but a great experince. This bit I just found this year and I have been doing research on my lines for over 10 years.

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  18. wrote on :

    As far back as you can find verified records!

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  19. Jerry wrote on :

    You can go back as far and time and energy allows. If you start with yourself and continue back with accurate information and diligent searching, much of your ancestral tree can develop right from your computer screen via many good Internet resources. I’ve been enjoying the hunt with my family for the past 25 years and sometimes feel I’ve just begun to scratch the surface with some lines. But, be sure to set goals for yourself. If you stick with only direct line without considering the siblings for each generation, you may be missing the big picture of your ancestral family history.

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  20. MaryDouglass wrote on :

    How much time, expertise, and money do you have? I’ve taken clients back 12-13 generations into Europe. Some of my personal lineages are back 15 generations in the US. Unless you have royalty in your lineage, don’t expect to get back much further than the 1500’s for the common person. However, if you’re very tenacious, are fluent in old English or the foreign language of your ancestor, and are willing to travel, you might get further.
    Mary Douglass http://www.historical-matters.com

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