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How to research your family tree

One of the fastest growing leisure pursuits is researching people's family history. Genealogy - as we now call it - was once the preserve of the more wealthy people that had lots of information passed down from their ancestors. Nowadays, with the Internet readily available, nearly everyone will be able to trace his or her family back to the 19th century and beyond.

When you start to research your family tree,  you will need to know where to look for information. A lot depends on the whereabouts in the Country your family originated, because official records are held by many different organisations.

The National Archives in Kew holds the official government material for England, Wales and United Kingdom as a whole. whereas the National Archives of Scotland hold the records for Scotland. Northern Ireland has a separate Public Records Office and Isle of Man and Channel Islands also have their own. The National Library of Wales is useful for Welsh genealogy but more importantly each County or District will have local offices where is is easier to obtain information.

 

 

There is no set process to research your family tree, but certain disciplines will make it easier. It is best to match links from generation to generation, but it is important that you try not to guess. Remember that spellings may have changed over the decades and it was not uncommon for some people to spell their names differently and even to use more than one name.

Look through old papers and certificates that you can find in your home because even qualification certificates are useful for ages and names. Memberships to professional organisations or trade unions can prove to be useful in your research to the various institutions.

Most people have someone in their family who was linked to some military organisation and the official Army, Navy and Air Force records hold valuable, reliable information, together with information on war graves. Sometimes a gap in information during either the First or Second World War can mean a war casualty and it is possible to find the exact cemetery.

People in the family are often chosen to be executors of wills so apart from information of the deceased, there are other family names to be found as executors and beneficiaries.

In years gone by,  the family bible recorded major events at the front or back of the bible. Accuracy cannot be relied upon and spelling may be poor but can be good for birth and death information, particularly as many babies died before their first birthday and can be hard to find on census forms.

Photographs can be useful to trace people at certain dates in their life and there is often a photographer's name and town on the picture. there are Internet sites that can help to trace them and also to date costumes and certain types of photography and also social status. Medals, awards and uniforms are a rich avenue of research too.

Once all the information has been gathered together you are ready to start. It is best to chose one family line at a time such as mothers or fathers and concentrate on that one first otherwise each line will be too thinly spread and information can get very muddled.

Donít despair if the whole experience seems daunting. The very minimum of information you need is your own date of birth.

If you are interested in Family Tree Software, you might find this page helpful.