Family Research Hints from the Miramichi Genealogy Society

geneology-logoby Penny Creamer

Genealogy involves collecting information about a family’s births, marriages, deaths, ways of life, education, occupations, accomplishments, tragedies, military service and more. Depending on your purpose for developing a family tree, it may also include gathering family photos, documents (such as marriage certificates, land grant records, probate records, death certificates, etc.), recorded memories from living relatives, newspaper articles and much more.

Determine Purpose

Why develop a family tree?
There are many reasons for wanting to develop a family tree, including medical conditions, religious considerations, historical interests, a need for a hobby or just a general curiosity about where you came from. Whatever your reason, being able to identify it will help you to set goals.

What do you plan to do with your family tree?
Are you planning to gather information just for yourself or for just your family (and who in the family does that include)? Are you planning to donate it to an organization for others to use in their research? Are you planning to sell it publicly or to post it on the Internet? There are many options to consider. Whatever your plans, be sure to be cautious about releasing personal information on other LIVING people in your family.

Your answers to the above questions will help to determine the method you should choose to develop your family tree.


There are two common methods of starting a family tree.

(1) Descendant – Identify the earliest known ancestral couple(s) and work through each of their children, branching out with each new generation to broaden the tree, until it eventually reaches your immediate family. Example: You know that your great-great-great grandparents, John Murphy and his wife Sarah Jones, came here from Europe in 1830. Locate as much information on them as you can, then move to the next generation. Identify their children, discover who their children married and who they had for children. Gather all the information available on that next generation. Then work on discovering all their children’s children and who they married and who their children were. Don’t forget to trace back maternal lines in each new generation. This method is a little more complicated than the second method, which is most often recommended. A descendant chart is used to record this information and it can become quite large. Computer programs are a great asset when using this method providing you don’t get side-tracked by connections to the family through marriages.

(2) Ancestral – The most often used method is to start with yourself and your own immediate family, record all the information at hand, then work on your siblings, then work back to your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. This method provides two choices. You can follow a direct line, without listing all your aunts and uncles and their children, OR you can branch out to include great-great-grandparents’ brothers, sisters and their families. An ancestral chart (pedigree chart) used to record this information is normally designed to include only direct line information.

researchlibraryNote: Some people find it helpful to start with one line of the family tree and complete it (as much as possible) before starting on another line. Example: your parents are John Murphy and Sarah Jones. Work on John Murphy (father) until complete, and designate Jones (mother) for later. Move on to your paternal grandparents, Thomas Murphy and Josephine Breau. Continue the Murphy line by researching information on Thomas (grandfather), designating the Breau line (paternal grandmother) to after completion of the Murphy line (father) but before starting the Jones line (mother). Continue by following the paternal line (Murphys and spouses) as far as you can go before beginning with your maternal line (Jones).

Personally, I find there is a serious drawback to using this method. It means covering the same sources of materials any number of times for each different surname instead of gathering all relevant information at one sitting.

Whichever method you choose, researching a family tree is a very time-consuming hobby, but one that is rewarding in too many ways to count. A word of caution — it’s very addicting!

NBGS-Miramichi Branch hopes you find this information helpful. Good luck with your family tree and take time to enjoy getting to “know” your ancestors.

If you would like to join us, we meet the fourth Tuesday of every month (except July, August and December) at the Chatham Library at 6:15 pm. Contact us at: NBGS-Miramichi, PO Box 403, Miramichi NB, Canada E1N 3A8 or visit our website at:

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