168Top Ten Tips for Genealogy
- Jan 6, 2006This was on
today, and I thoought you would like to share it, even though they
are basic rules... (also, in UK they are screening the family
history program again on 11th january -I wish they would put it on
Australian screens) Gillian
Nick Barratt's 'Top Ten Tips for Genealogy'
If you are just beginning to trace your family tree and you need
some help and advice, read Nick Barratt's 'Top Ten Tips for
As well as being the resident expert for 1837online.com,
Nick is also the genealogist star of BBC2's hit series 'Who
do you think you are?'.
1. Write down what you know about yourself and your family.
Record full names, (including middle names), dates of birth,
marriage and death, and make a note of where these events took
place geographical clues can be very useful when you start your
2. Start asking your family for more information.
Try to talk to older relatives and focus on the names and relevant
dates of their parents and grandparents although you will probably
have to check some of this data in official records. Also make a
note of interesting anecdotes or stories, which you might want to
follow up later on in your research.
3. Look for family heirlooms.
Many people have wonderful collections of family photographs that
often have names or dates written on the back. Similarly, personal
correspondence not only gives you an insight into how your ancestors
lived, but you can often find out where they were on a given date.
Other objects might have been handed down from generation to
generation family bibles often contain the names of former owners,
or are inscribed with personal messages.
4. Draw a family tree.
This is the best way of organising your data, and allows you to see
at a glance how family members are related.
5. Work out what you want to research.
It's important to decide what questions you want to tackle do you
want to extend your family tree as far back as possible, or
concentrate on one or two ancestors and find out as much as you can
about them? It is often a good idea to take small sections of your
family tree with you on a research trip this focuses your
attention on the person you are researching.
6. Find out where you need to research.
For many people starting family history, visiting an archive or
working online can be a daunting prospect. What you want to
investigate will determine what website you need to look at or which
archive you need to visit. The best archive to begin with is with
your local study centre, where you'll find records and indexes
relevant to families in the local area. County record offices will
have a larger collection of documents, whilst you might want to
consider national organisations such as The National Archives for
specialist lines of research.
7. Order birth, marriage and death certificates for your ancestors.
You can build your family tree by ordering duplicate civil
registration certificates for births, marriages and deaths in
England and Wales from 1837 to date. Birth, marriage and death
indexes can be viewed online at www.1837online.com and once you've
found the person you are searching for within the indexes you can
order the relevant certificate online from the General Register
Office. Alternatively, the original indexes are stored at the Family
Records Centre in London, and most county record offices hold
duplicate indexes on microfiche.
8. Find out more through census returns.
Once you've located some of your ancestors, you can find out more
about them using census returns. The latest set to be made available
to the public is the census from 1901. Thereafter, earlier returns
survive from 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891. The Family
Record Centre holds a complete set for England and Wales, whilst
most county record offices hold copies for the relevant area.
9. Place your family in their historical context.
You can use clues from certificates and census returns to find out
more about how and where your ancestors lived. Placing them in their
correct historical and social context is an important part of your
research. Further research in specialist archives can help you to
understand the events and circumstances that shaped their lives, and
you can begin to relate to them as people rather than names on a
10. Join a family history society.
Family history is a sociable pastime, and one of the best ways to
find like-minded researchers in your area is to join a local Family
History Society. Most societies run talks, lectures and workshops
where members provide advice, guidance and help to less experienced
members, and volunteer members often compile name indexes to local
records. It may also be worth contacting the Family History Society
in the area where your ancestors lived. For information on a society
in your area, visit www.ffhs.org.uk