"GENEALOGISTS DO IT BACKWARDS"!  - Family research starts with you and via your parents and their parents you trace the branches of a family back to earlier times. Obvious you might think? But there are some new to genealogy who start by presuming someone with the same surname is an ancestor and trace forward convinced it will end with them! Whilst you can do a 'one name' study of your surname it is still best to start with yourself.

ORAL HISTORY - Speak to your family and close family friends. Try to find out all you can about your parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Family gatherings are an excellent place to collect oral family history so take a small notebook to weddings, christenings etc. It's not difficult to start a theme going and people's remembrances will spark off each other. Visit relatives who might have photographs and family papers tucked away. They may allow you to copy or, if you are very lucky, keep. But before you gather up the treasures ask them to name and date the items. Use personal names with nicknames and not just relationships on their own like 'Dad' - Whose Dad? After all we all have one!

Try not to disturb the storytellers' flow by questions as it may lead them off on another tack. Clarify details later.
Note who said what and write it all down, regardless how far fetched the tale, it may be of use later.
Don't ignore younger members of the family they may have been told things by their elders that will add to the mix.
● Note
items about siblings of your prime subject as searches of close family members may help when yours get 'lost'.


KEEPING RECORDS - If you become the custodian of family photos and original documents they will need to be stored for prosperity There are several specialist companies who provide archive standard storage systems and display folders. You will often find them at family history fairs or a web search.

Once you have some information you will need to start keeping it in some logical order and a notebook will be adequate to start with. However, you will soon start amassing a great deal of information and if you have a computer you will find it is the logical way to store it all. Most family historians keep hard copies as a back up. If you don't have a computer or prefer pen and paper then start with pre-printed forms. You can buy them but they are also free on the internet to download.

COMPUTER STORAGE - to save expense if you understand databases start one to store your research or make use of free online tree-makers on family research sites. You don't need to take out a subscription to use them although this may mean you don't get the full experience for example messages from contacts may not be passed on to you.

TAKE CARE WHAT YOU PUBLISH ON THE WEB - Although its a great help when a distant cousin contacts you to swap information  that information can be seen worldwide. Regardless of your wishes, anyone can copy and use your research however they want to. Best practice is never publish any data about yourself or any living persons on a public website.  Remember not to take as read anything you find online. Best practice is to check any information yourself and keep notes, for each item, of where you found the information.

TREE MAKERS - If you want to invest in your own Tree Maker software there are many on the market and they are several  adequate packages that are not overly expensive. It is difficult to recommend any particular one but prime points to look for would be get a version for the country you are from so the terminology is familiar to you and check that the reports it generates are suitable for your needs. There is often a demo or 'try before you buy' function online. But best of all is to find a couple of 'old hands' and get them to show you how there tree-maker works and what they do and don't like about it.


Tricia Baxter, Webmaster

David Wood BA (hons.), Branch Chairman

Page updated:  09 May 2014