Embarking on an ancestor hunt can be as exciting as looking for buried treasure. For the hunter the early enthusiasm can, however, quickly drain away if early successes are few, and a clear route is not apparent to finding that nugget of information about an ancestor. The sheer enormity of the task then may seem overwhelming.
So, as a beginner, keep it simple. Start with a recent generation and target say three or four generations to research, concentrating on the direct male line.You can expand your scope any time as you grow in confidence, knowledge and experience.Tracking is so much easier now than it was ,say, six years ago. Many records you need have been digitised and can be researched from your computer making an actual visit to a record office rarely essential (as it was in the past).
Do remember every generation researched multiplies by two or more the number of ancestors involved! You can soon be looking at a large family!
Early on Use all the free tools you can. Many magazines give away useful software for family history research and family tree building.
Before you buy visit your local library to see what records it keeps.
Join a local family history society which can be extremely helpful and fun!
Borrow or buy one of the many excellent ‘newbie’ guide books on genealogy around.
Have Your Own Family Tree – Find Out Who You Are
Have you ever wondered who your ancestors are? William Shakespeare, or even Elvis Presley, perhaps? More likely you have a family member who served bravely in the military, or served as a public figure with distinction. There may of course be great-aunt Emma who was well, just quite simply an important family member. A professional genealogical researcher can help you find out if you are,indeed, related to anyone famous, or who great-aunt Emma was.
Friendly and accessible,we specialise in tracing family histories and producing professional family trees. You can have your own unique family history record, and printed family tree. Why not contact us today for more details at CFM – Family History Services at firstname.lastname@example.org
“There is no more fascinating subject in which a person may become occupied than an examination into the history of his ancestry. The study of human beings is an interesting one, especially when they are the particular human beings from whom the student has derived his existence, his character, his likes and dislikes, and those elements which differentiate him from every other human being and constitute him an entity with an individuality.”
Excerpt from “Art of Ancestor Hunting”
Get your free eBook copy of this classic work about tracking down your ancestors here:
I will try to give you some basic tips to get you started but you must remember that you need to research a lot unless there’s already some kind of family tree created by some of your ancestors.
If you are serious, invest on a family tree software that will organize all the information you find. Paperwork may become overwhelming as you will notice.
You will need a lot of paper.
Use a single sheet of paper for every person/ancestor in your family. Then make small family groups of ancestors. You will write information you find for every person in the single piece of paper that belongs to that person. And you will write a summary of the information from all persons who belong to a family group to the sheet of paper that belongs to a certain family group. For example for your family group (e.g. you, your spouse and your 3 children), use 6 sheets of paper one for every member of the family and one for the family group (5 members and 1 family group).
In the ancestor sheet of paper you will write all kinds of information you find about that particular person: Date Born, Birthplace, Marriage Date, Date of Death, Father’s Name, Mother’s Name, Spouse Name and all other information you decide is worth mentioning in the family tree.
In the family group sheet of paper you will write a summary of the information you have gathered from all persons who belong to that family group: Number of members, Husband, Wife, Children and other kind of information you might find and want to include.
Now it’s time to work and research. Start with yourself and your family. Gather information from your parents and their children. Then your grandparents and their children. Remember to keep track of the family groups and the sheets of paper that belong to each ancestor. As you go back in time you may need to contact other relatives, family friends or even researchers. Ask them to help you fill the information on your sheets of paper. Tell them you are creating a family tree for your entire family.
It’s a good idea to keep a family tree log of your actions. For example when you find a birth certificate update your family tree log writing the date that you found that death certificate and the person that death certificate belongs to.
Check out if there’s already someone who has created a family tree for a certain family group. Use that information to save time but verify if the information you find is correct. Look for wedding books, divorce papers, birth or death certificates, funeral cards, awards, diplomas, school books, employment records, military records, medical records and anything that you might find useful. You can obtain a lot of information from such papers like dates, ages, parents, witnesses etc. If you are really motivated and determined to create a family tree, this journey to the past will be fascinating.
And now let’s move on to the fun part. After you have gathered all the information you need, it’s time to design your family tree. You may want to use paper and fill the information so that it is organized and easy to access. But I’m sure after all that paperwork you will definitely need help from a family tree software that will save you a lot of time.
I hope you will reach your goal of organizing your family’s history and creating a family tree. If you are interested here’s a step by step family tree system that could really help you.
Family history research is a fascinating study which once you start it will probably turn into a passion.
Many people have asked themselves where they come from, where are their roots, and these questions reflect a yearning that all of us have. Genealogy is the science of tracing your family tree. It is a kind of detective work or paper chase game. The results are often unpredictable but always fascinating.
Family history research has recently gained a powerful tool in the internet. Now that it is possible to do a keyword or name search almost instantly, it has become much easier to trace a family tree. Easier at least than in days gone by, when a researcher had to spend a lot of time trudging around a dusty archive library, or waiting several weeks for a reply from one records office or another.
Even with the internet though, there are some parts of one’s family tree which will be impossible to reconstruct due to certain historical circumstances. One example that comes to mind is the fire that destroyed the Irish records office in Dublin in the nineteenth century.
So you have decided to try to trace your family tree. The question is, where do you start?
Probably the best starting point is to talk to members of your own family, particularly elders, and try to get them to remember as much as they can about the past, and about their relatives and forebears. This can be very useful in providing some jumping off points for further investigations. The facts they are able to give may well help you to refine and focus your search right from the start, thereby saving a lot of potentially wasted time and effort.
Talking to people about the past is something that should be done in a sensitive way, as it can often awaken memories which people would rather forget.
Next you should decide what aspect of your family history you are going to investigate. Are you interested in finding out about everything you can about everyone related to you? Or do you prefer a more narrow focus, such as tracing one particular branch? Or perhaps you will keep an open mind at first until you find something in your family tree that provokes your interest.
Some people even trace their spouse’s family. A friend of mine who is divorced nevertheless is tracing her husband’s ancestors on behalf of her children, since her ex-husband is descended from an old aristocratic family who were very powerful and influential in medieval England.
There are many different reasons for wanting to research family history, each one of them is interesting to the individual researcher, and all of them have been greatly facilitated by the arrival of the internet.
For more ideas, see our Genealogy blog http://phe-genealogy.blogspot.com/
Article by Ann Applin
A question I am often asked is how do I trace my UK family tree?
Taking the journey into the unknown territory of the past can be a mixture of exhilaration and tedium. You will meet with misspelt names, birth dates that vary from one census to another, missing ancestors and be led down blind alleys. But when you finally meet up with that elusive ancestor the joy of success will spur you on with your research.
Like every good journey it starts with the first step, so buckle up your genealogical seat belt and I’ll guide you through the first important stages.
First find any birth, marriage and death certificates, correspondence, insurance policies, ration books, etc. These will be of great help to you as you start your research. Anything that will give you details of your parents or grandparents. Gather up as much information as you can and jot it all down to start your tree. Lay the tree out as the youngest first and work back. You can download blank family tree charts on our site if you wish, then start completing your family tree as far back as you can.
Keep detailed notes on each person. You will thank yourself for this action when you find that you are retracing back and forth to verify information. I can’t stress this enough, you must be sure that you have the correct records for your ancestor, not somebody else’s. It is quite an easy mistake to follow the wrong family back through the centuries as names can be similar and sometimes the same. I found that my great, great, great grandfather had a ‘detail double’, with the same name, the same year of birth and the same place of birth. It took 2 months of research into each one, retracing details back and forth to tie in the right man! I almost felt I could claim the other man as an ancestor, I knew him so well in the end!
Your initial aim is to collect enough verified information to take you back to 1911, at which point you can delve into the world of census records and begin to unlock the doors to your past. Within the census your ancestors will come alive for you.
Don’t worry if you can’t find any certificates lurking in drawers or boxes, armed with only your parents’ names you may still be able to trace back through the years, although you will have to buy birth and marriage certificates. I managed to trace my family tree knowing only the names of my parents and their dates and places of their birth. I needed to buy my parents’ birth certificates so that I could find out their parents details, thus keeping the trail going.
To overcome this type of problem I recommend you sign up as a member of a genealogical website, and then start searching their records. My first search was my father’s name, date and place of birth the results showed all the possible matches with my dad at the top of the list. I clicked on the link and it took me to the registered GRO entry for his birth, which in turn gave me the index reference details:
Surname at birthForenamesYearQtr. (the year is broken into 4 quarters)DistrictVol.PageEvery event of birth, marriage or death registered in England and Wales is allocated a reference by the General Register Office. Next I went to the GRO website (www.gro.gov.uk) and purchased my dad’s birth certificate. I repeated the same process for my mum.
By supplying the index reference the correct entry can be located by the GRO and the certificate will be sent to you. You can also purchase certificates from registration offices, but if you want to research online without having to travel miles then the internet is the way to go.
I sat back and waited for the post, it took about 7 days for the certificates to arrive. I opened them with anticipation and I wasn’t disappointed. I had in front of me the full details of my grandparents, their names, addresses and occupations. I used this information to find their marriage, which in turn gave me their father’s names and this was all I needed to take me back to the census records and from there fly back in time to meet my older ancestors.
This completes the first article on how to trace your family tree. I will be publishing further articles on how to use birth, marriage and death certificate information and how to use census records found online.
About the Author
Ann Applin is a self taught genealogist specialising in tracing UK family histories. She has traced her own UK family history back to the 12th Century and was astonished to find French and English royalty in her genes. If you are interested in tracing your UK family history, but do not have the time or inclination to do the work yourself, why not visit UK Family Tree at http://uk-family-tree.co.uk/
Article by Stephanie Varney
Many genealogists use surnames to dig up their Irish roots. This is an important and sound technique, because surnames can often point to the Irish county from which your ancestors came. However, surnames aren’t the only type of name you can use to trace your Irish ancestry. Thanks to common traditional naming patterns across the country in the 19th century, first names can also often provide an important clue as to the identities of your elusive family members. Here’s how:
Nineteenth-century Irish family naming patterns usually followed the guidelines in the list below pretty closely:
1. The oldest son was named after the father’s father.
2. The oldest daughter was named after the mother’s mother.
3. The second son was named after the mother’s father.
4. The third son was named after the father.
5. The fourth son was named after the father’s oldest brother.
6. The second daughter was named after the father’s mother.
7. The third daughter was named after the mother.
8. The fourth daughter was named after the mother’s oldest sister.
As you can see, this type of naming pattern can potentially provide important clues to your Irish roots. It’s especially useful in cases where you don’t know the names of the parents of a particular ancestor. By looking at how he named his children, you can have an idea as to what his parents (and siblings) names may have been. While the above guidelines were by no means set in stone, and sometimes varied, the pattern was usual enough in the 19th century to be of real use to genealogists searching for Irish ancestors.
By looking at naming patterns when searching for the parents of an ancestor, you can keep a closer eye out for potential candidates by looking at their first names. Of course, you should always verify and document all information, and never assume to know an ancestor’s name simply by what it would be according to the above list. But, for example, if you’re looking for the parents of an Irish ancestor named Michael Donnahue, and you know Michael’s first-born son was named Martin, then this might be a clue that Michael’s father’s name was also Martin. In this case, you can look more closely at men by the name of Martin Donnahue who lived in the same area as Michael and were of the right age to be Michael’s father.
Knowing the traditional naming patterns helps you find your Irish roots by alerting you to clues of identities you may have otherwise missed. Use it cautiously, but do use it! It can help you tremendously!
About the Author
Ready to meet your Irish ancestors? Come to Irish Genealogical, the Internet’s top place for all things Irish genealogy!
While you’re there, be sure to read our article on a little known source that can help you make big strides in your Irish genealogical research.
Article by Sue Fenn
As a fellow genealogist, I am sure that you have had the same experiences I have had, in attempting to find people in census documents. Sometimes, an ancestor can be found in, say, the 1851 and 1871 UK census documents, but is nowhere to be found in the 1861 census. Or, you find them in all of the census documents, but the information in the various documents is not consistent. These situations no doubt are the cause of a great deal of frustration on the part of genealogists, but the frustrations are generally offset, to a great extent, by the feeling of satisfaction and triumph when the ancestor is finally located or the discrepancies are resolved.
A few things to keep in mind when searching census documents electronically for an ancestor:
1. Be creative with spelling. Spelling was not standardized to any great extent until relatively recently. (Some sources say the mid-1800s). Add to that the number of different regional accents in Britain, and the fact that, even after “standardization”, some enumerators were not good spellers, and it is easy to see how a family name could be reflected on paper in several different ways. Further, if there were spelling variations in a family name, even within the same parish records, the family members themselves mostly likely would be unaware of those variations, as the vast majority of the people were illiterate before the 1900s. Hence, it is possible that two branches of the same family living in different areas would end up with two different spellings of the family surname (i.e., Denby versus Denbigh; Shirley versus Shurley or Shurly; Morrison versus Murison; and so on), or, that an ancestor could have three different spellings for his surname at birth, marriage, and death.
Sometimes, of course, the family name was deliberately changed, for various reasons. I heard of one couple who, with their children, were recorded as the “Laframboise” family on a couple of census documents. The mystery of where they had disappeared to was solved when someone noted a family named “Raspberry” that showed up in the same location when the Laframboises were no longer listed. Some families will translate their names to English, as this one did; others will change it completely, seeking a new identity. Still others would do so to differentiate between one branch of the family and another. A fellow researcher told me that his branch of a particular family moved to a different area of the country, and dropped the ‘k’ from the middle of their name, so that they would not be confused with the other families of the same name, some of whom were very rich and well known. I’m sure there are many other reasons.
2. If you cannot find the person you are looking for, and you know the names of other family members, try searching under each of their names and birth years, rather than the ones you are actually trying to find. Try choosing the family member with the most unusual or rarely used name, as they will likely be easier to find, and the list of “hits” you’ll have to search through will be much shorter.
3. Look for remarriages of an individual’s parents. I once found the children I was searching for listed as having the stepfather’s name shortly after their mother divorced and remarried. In a later census, when the children were of age, they had reverted to their original surname.
In another instance, I could not find a particular family in the Irish census documents for 1901, although I knew, from other information I had, that they had to be there. I discovered that the husband’s mother had married between the 1891 and 1901 census events. I also noted that one of the children had a somewhat unusual name. I entered the child’s name and year of birth, with no surname, in the 1901 Irish census search function. What opened up was a page containing all of the children in the Irish census bearing that name – I think there were half a dozen of them – including one bearing the step-father’s family name! When I clicked on the link to view her other family members, there was the missing family group! This led to locating the husband’s military records, as it turned out he had enlisted using the step-father’s name, and stated that he was age 18, rather than his actual age of 16. However, in the 1911 Irish census, the family had reverted to the husband’s original family name, although for military purposes, he continued using the step-father’s name. A later entry in the military record re-enrolled the husband in the army using the step-father’s name, but stated that he was “alias [birth name]“, and gave his real date of birth – thereby verifying that the military man using the step-father’s name and the civilian with the family using the original surname were one and the same person.
4. Again, with respect to marriages, remarriages, and name changes, do not always assume that a child who was born with one family name, and his/her birth was registered with that surname, will continue to use that name. In one recent situation, I had a young woman who had married and had a couple of children, following which her husband died. She then either married, or lived common-law with, the father of her next two children. (I can find no record of a marriage, but that does not mean that it did not occur). The two children of the second marriage were mysteriously absent from one of the census documents, when they were in their teens. The son was named Leara, a very unusual first name for the time. (When I found the record, I learned that the transcriber had recorded it as Sarah. Searching by the unusual first name therefore did not pay off on this occasion.) I checked all of the surnames related to the family that I was aware of, and could not locate these two siblings in the census. It was only when I thought about where parents might send their teenaged children that I found them living with their maternal grandparents and assisting them in running their inn. The surname used was that of the mother’s first marriage, rather than the second, and even then, was misspelled sufficiently that it did not appear in a search under that name. This was the first clue that the two families (that is, the children from the two relationships) might be using the two surnames interchangeably. One of those two siblings went on to have a couple of children out of wedlock; she then married, but the union did not last long. A number of other children followed, some of whom were given the married name, although in the census documents, all three surnames were used over the years for some of the children. In this particular circumstance, it was necessary to go back two generations, using the census documents, to determine how the surnames were linked, and how they were being used, in order to verify that the woman identifying herself as the birth mother, using three different family names on the various birth registration documents, was indeed the same person.
5. Also, census records are not always accurate. In the 1841 UK census, for example, the census takers often rounded the person’s age up or down to the nearest ’5′ or ’0′. There also were reasons for people to lie with respect to their age, their marital status, or any other information recorded on the census documents. I once found a relative who stated, in the 1851 UK census, that she was a widow. I originally assumed that this was true; however, when I went looking for her husband’s death date, I discovered that he had been shipped to Australia as a convict, after committing a break and enter. He was very much alive, as there were records of him appearing for convict musters in Australia, and of a later pardon. Clearly, it was easier for the wife, back in England, to state that he was dead (and in a sense, I suppose, he was dead to her and the family, as they never saw him again) than to explain to the enumerator that her husband was a convict. The moral of the story: the census documents should not be taken as absolutely true, but should be viewed as clues to a puzzle; clues which may or may not be entirely accurate.
6. Sometimes you will find that a woman is listed as the head of the family, but her marital status is shown as “married”. (Generally, if a woman was married, her husband would be listed as the head). There are a number of reasons why this could occur. In one instance, I discovered that the husband was serving a short sentence for getting into a fight with another fellow; in another, one of the men in a collateral line to my family was a Quaker minister, who traveled all over the world on preaching tours. Alternatively, the husband might have enrolled in the military, and was overseas somewhere. Another possibility was that he was ill, and in hospital. Men who fished or sailed for a living may not have been listed with their wives and families on the census, if they were not on land when the census was taken.
I hope that these tips will prove useful in your research using census documents, no matter which country they are from. As with anyone doing genealogical research, I still have some “brick walls” that I have not been able to break through, but as I work on other branches of the family and discover useful, alternative ways of looking at things and finding the information, I am hopeful that some of these strategies will prove fruitful in finding those solutions.
About the Author
Sue Fenn lives in Ontario, Canada. She is a lawyer and teacher, and in her spare time, she enjoys discovering new things about her forebears. http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sue_Fenn
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