Digging up the Roots of Your Family Tree
Ever wondered if your great grandfather was a highwayman or if your grandma was a Russian princess? Family History expert, Clare Massey tells us how to get started.
Genealogy is becoming ever more popular. ITV has its own television programme on the subject to compete with the BBC’s highly popular “Who Do You Think You Are?”. It is among the most popular search topics on the internet and there are tens of thousands of websites dedicated to genealogy. If you are interested in tracing your family tree, where would you start? With so much information available it can be confusing and costly if you start off on the wrong track.
You should start with what you know – the names of your parents and grandparents. Talk to anyone who is still alive, try and get written down any important dates and memories they may have. This can help later when you begin to write up your tree but it is important that you check out the dates and stories you are told wherever possible. Just because Great Grandad Bill says your family came to England during the French Revolution doesn’t actually mean they did; you will need to prove it.
Next important – family members to find out if anyone has any photographs, Birth, Marriage or Death certificates, service papers, the family bible or anything at all relating to your ancestors. These can all help to flesh out your family history and give you important information. Birth Certificates can give you not only the date when an ancestor was born but also the mother’s maiden name (an important fact should you decide to trace more than one branch). A Marriage Certificate can tell you the couple’s occupations, whether they had been previously married and addresses as well as the couple’s fathers and the witnesses. A Death Certificate on the other hand will tell the date of death along with cause and also the informant. These three certificates form the basis of family history research, and it is important to remember that before 1837 there was no civil registration.
Now you can begin to put together what you have collected and this should form the beginning of your tree. However, it is only the start of your adventure?
It is important when starting out on researching your tree you don’t make it too complicated for yourself. You need somehow to record and store your information. There are many genealogy software packages available or maybe you prefer the paper system with lever arch files which ever you choose or if you choose both, you need to make it easy to find information when you require it.
We advise that you begin with either your maternal or paternal family and trace back one surname at a time to avoid confusion. You can always come back to research others when that one is complete.
So now it is time to begin your search for your lost ancestors.