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Beginning Your Family History: Part 1

16:37 Mon 24th May 2010 |

Beginning Your Family History:  Part 1.

The desire to delve into the History of your family can be triggered by various events, a marriage and the joining of 2 families, a new baby bringing a new generation and new grandparents, retirement and the need to fill your leisure time, or the more challenging discoveries, such as an adoption revelation or the diagnosis of a hereditary or genetic condition.

In all these  scenarios, we should thank our predecessors for their diligence and concern for  accuracy in recording the lives of our ancestors.

Everyone starting their family history these days instantly turns to the internet sites that have been set up to make the many records accessible to all.

It is essentail however, that a new researcher is not instantly drawn into a world of archives that they have not used before and that may not even be relevent to their particular families.

Before making a commitment to an online account with one of the main Genealogical Internet Resources, any researcher should establish the very basic facts that will give them the information they need to begin the step back from the known to the unknown.

In most families there are usually one or two things that crop up when research first starts, firstly an old biscuit tin or handbag is produced by a relative containing an array of hitherto unmentioned certificates and family papers, secondly there is the 'Family Legend' that an ancestor was :

1) A criminal
2) Left a fortune
3) Related to royalty
4) Not born with the surname they were later known by.

In my experience, in every case of such Family legends, there has been uncovered some simple truth that led to the mystery being handed down and usually exaggerated.

This then leads to the first thing any new Family Historian should be aware of, there are two aspects to your new hobby, discovering who , where and when, which is Genealogy, and finding out where they lived, where they went to Church and to school, what thet did for a living, and whether they achieved any fame or notoriety in life, this is the Family History.  These two topics are very much interlinked, but one is the compiling of a list of names dates and places, the other is putting flesh on the bones of someone's short time on the Earth.

Whatever triggered an interest in the subject, it is always wise to start with the known facts (or percieved facts) and verify these by obtaining the proof in the civil or Church records available.

Very often the starting point is simply to take every opportunity to speak to all memebrs of the family and ask them to recount their own version of their family's history as they see it, this might not necessarily be from an elderly family member, but certainly the older the person is the more possibility there is of leaping back a generation or so quickley.

It is importnat to establish surnames, religions, occupations and locations, before starting to use any records.  A quantity of family record sheets are all that are  needed to start with, and an ancestral chart that allows you to connect the first few generations is sufficient.  These are available from  any good Family History Software programme.  Family Tree Maker version 6 or 8 is excellent but there are other brands available.

Identifting locations of burials and gravestones will give you some experience of recording Monumental Inscriptions which can give you some excellent clues as to relationship.

It is essential to obtain a guide to the resources in your Local Reference Library, where you should find many local records plus some national records in varying media forms.

Finally for the beginners guide, I would highly recommend seeking out via your local Reference Library, the branch of the local family History Society.  These Societies provide access to expert support and local archive material that have been collected for members use.

In the next part I shall begin to look at some of the records available and explain their compilation, content and pitfalls.




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