It’s OK to Plant Trees in Winter—Family Trees, That Is

Let’s make 2014 the Year of the Tree: family trees.

I encourage you to plant new family trees every month in this New Year.

photo of a frozen tree
Credit: Wikipedia

Like you, growing my family tree and documenting each person in it keeps me busy. More and more information is constantly going online for us to search and add to our family histories. For example, every week GenealogyBank adds millions of additional records including obituaries, birth notices, marriage announcements and other useful articles.

My family tree easily has over 20,000 different names. As I find obituaries for others with the same surnames I am working on, it is interesting for me to see if that person is related to my family.

In a typical day, I’ll pick an obituary for any random “Kemp” or “Varney” and trace back that person’s lineage, chaining through obituaries, marriage and engagement announcements, and the census records to see if they hook into my family tree.

I take that information and plant it on several of the online family tree sites, putting all of my research notes and links online. This makes it easy for me to navigate my sprouting forest of family trees so that I can quickly refer back to them.

In time I can see if any name on these growing sprouts is related to me or not. Having all of the information online also allows other researchers on the same family lines to collaborate by adding to and documenting these lines with sources and photographs. It is essential that we put everything we can online. I limit this to only the deceased members of my family tree, and do not put information about my living relatives online in order to protect their privacy.

Perhaps a certain “Kemp” I found is a relative or not. As I chain back in time the number of individuals and surnames double and double again and again. While this person might not be related to me at first glance, by looking deeper I might find that this person is a cousin through another side of the family tree.

This is especially true in smaller geographic areas. For example, I have found that today I am related to almost everyone that lived in pre-1820 eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. While they were not all related at that time, adding in the generations over the past 200 years has multiplied the odds that there is now a direct relationship to all of them today on my family tree.

By taking the time to organize, document and sprout mini-family trees online, I increase the odds of my linking up all of my extended family members over time.

Play it forward and plant more family trees online throughout the year. It will benefit you and all of your genealogy colleagues.

Make 2014 the Year of the Tree.

2 thoughts on “It’s OK to Plant Trees in Winter—Family Trees, That Is

  1. I have been tracing my family history since 2006. Since then I have found several cousins, 3 of which live in New Jersey and one in Maryland. Thru them and several genealogy sites I have found many relatives on my father’s side. I have been doing my family tree and have noticed that the spelling of some family names have changed. My 6th ggrandfather’s name was Kaempffer and it went from there to Kemp to Camp. I also did the DNA and have found relatives there. I then uploaded to and found many, many relatives there. I also found my 1st cousin whose name appeared in the Camp Family Bible.

  2. Karen Kelly: Good to hear from you. Congratulations – great finds. What did the DNA tell you? What is the Haploroup for your line?

    What have you done with the documents, Family Bible that you found? I encourage you to digitize them and add put them online.

    Upload them to each of the persons mentioned – so that this documentation is permanently available online.

    Tell us more about the Camp Family Bible you found. Can you send us the digitized pages? If so, I will post them to the blog. Please send me the photos at:

    Congratulations on finding & preserving these one-of-a-kind family history documentation.


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