Whether it be by curiosity, by special interests or simply for the fun of it, to plant a family tree and make it grow is no easy task, it can even become quite a challenge and an adventure. Being the one who created the Restigouche and Gloucester County GenWeb sites, I receive many e-mails a month from people all over the world. The question I get most often is "Can you tell me where to go from here" ? or "where do I begin"?
Having said that, I would like to give you a few hints on this subject. More and more, church registers are becoming harder to have access to. They are marked with a "confidential" stamp from the Bishops and we just do not have the "rights" to go through them looking for family information. If you are lucky enough to have the name of the person you are looking for and an approximate date the church may search for you if you're lucky.
I can't repeat it enough, "Sit on your grandparents' knees", well if you don't feel like sitting on their knees then at least sit by their feet and ask questions. Where they came from? Who was their parents? Where did they come from? What do they remember of their childhood? are there any dark family secrets they remember? Where they married? How they met? How old were they? How old were they when certain things happened? What do they remember of their parents? Did they meet their Grandparents and who were they? Where did they come from? Funny things that happened to them? Not so funny things that happened to them? Sad things they remember about the family past? Happy things? Anything that will help you put meat on your family skeletons. It's fun and a challenge to put your family tree together but if you get your information from church records all you will get is names and dates, no family history. History will dress up your skeletons, make them dance, laugh, cry, suffer, play, live and yes even die.
So the first steps to take is to get as much information as you can from home from those who are still near you. Don't stop at grandpa and grandma, get your great aunts and uncles, your parents, your aunts and uncles, it is not everyone who remembers facts the same way. Now don't try to keep all that information in your head, put it on paper and once you have enough to get started put it in some sort of order. Don't forget a family tree is built backwards, start with you, your parents, their names, when and where they married, their parents with same information and when at all possible make sure you get a birth or marriage or death certificate to back up what you found. Marriage records will usually give you the parents of the spouses that way you get one more generation. They may also give origin of the newlyweds or of their parents. This is where it is good to know where they were from, it helps when you want to go one more generation back and their origin is not specified in the church records.
There are two kinds of family tree, the detailed tree where you find all members of the family, cousins, aunts, uncles, in all families, their date of marriage, their parents their date of death, their spouses and their parents etc.... this sort of tree can go on for ever and ever and it will sure kill you doing it.. The partial tree is the tree where you stop at parents of parents such as you, your parents, their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc...
Now don't forget when doing a family tree, don't assume, you assume, you get lost and go off on a tangent and lose precious time, energy and you may even end up in the wrong family. :) Another thing to remember is to write down your sources, write down all the information you find even if it does not seem relevant at the time you may need it later. Write down not only where you found your information but also where you did not find it, that may help when you look again for something else and you will not do the same search twice or again if someone else picks up your info after you've given up or have gone on they will know where not to look.
When looking through church registers, we often find that the priests/rev./parsons etc.. were more concerned about the spouses than with their parents so very often the parents' names are not present in some of the marriage records. This is where it's important to find out who your grandparents or great grandparent's sisters and brothers were so if you don't find the parents in one marriage you may find it in another. It is also good to have an approximate date of birth or death and a place to start looking.
There you go, you are ready to start climbing that tree and find out who is sitting in those branches.. Better also bring a good shovel as you will have to do a lot of deep digging to find those roots.