This website as been written to help others who are starting to research their own family history.
Help sheets can be printed from the documents page
The first thing people ask is, "
What free websites are there where I can I find my ancestors?"
Then the next is,
"I have looked on lots of websites and can't find my ancestors anywhere?"
The first thing you need to do in getting started searching your family tree is to fill in a individual record form for yourself, you can download these from the links page towards the bottom of the page under charts and forms, or print this decorative pedigree one or this individual one, these forms act as type of checklist of the information you need to look for each person. Then talk to your family, ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, anyone in your family who is willing to share information with you and get them to fill in the sheets too as well as sending 'family' who don't live near you and ask them to fill in their own sheets and send it back.
You can also FREE download software to put everything on your computer from the links page. so you then transcribe everything off the filled in sheets onto your own computer, (don't forget to back up) This way your research is organised, safe and secure and if you wish to share it with others you can still do that but what you stop from happening is commercial companies using and selling your private information of living relations and using/selling your research information to attract paying members to their websites as much of what you find online is a mixture of collected information and unverified/un-cited which is no use in FH research, however many people build their whole tree using just this, which means their tree is a collection of unrelated names and not their ancestors.
Ask to see their old photograph albums as this jogs their memory about people and from the photograph you can often tell the season with the weather and approximate year with what they are wearing...so if they don't remember the date of the wedding/christening it can give you some idea what dates to look for in the parish records....and don't forget to look on the back of the photo as people wrote names, places, events and dates.
Ask to see all/any certificates they have, newspaper clippings, wedding invitations, all of these will give you information and save you money and time.(see 'records in your own home' page)
When you go to ask genealogy questions - take a notebook, pencil, a voice recorder with batteries and a camera. Having too many tapes and batteries is better than hearing a great story and having the tape or battery run out half way through. Or what if you find out there is a great Aunt living close by and you have run out? You can never have enough. When you go to visit, tell the person you are going to record it and place it close.
It is important to ask about all the dates and places but don't forget to ask for the stories. What was Aunt Cindy like? Why did Uncle Joe never marry? Why did the family leave one County and travel to another County? These stories are fun to hear but are also a great wealth of information for genealogists.(see Family Stories or Fairy Stories page)
Many people will be more than happy to let you see their old pictures and certificates but reluctant to let you have them to make copies. If you have a camera, you can take photos of them and no one has to worry that you will lose them.
Write everything down, even if it seems trivial. That trivial piece of information may just be the clue you need 6 months down the line. Date when and where you got your information and who told you.Try not to make it like an interview as that will put people off, general chat, like: "tell me about your mum?" that will encourage them to talk about lots of things in detail, some will not be relevant but it is more relaxed, less stressful and they are unlikely to say " I don't remember" It is these chats that will get you more information and knowledge that will undoubtedly help you later on because you know about what is likely script in your family and what is not ( for script see Family stories...fairy stories page)
1. when they were born and where
2. where did they grow up
3. when and where they were married
4. what were their parents names 5. when did their parents marry and where
6. where are their parents buried and when did they pass away (name of cemetery, city)
7. are there any other family members buried there or close by
8. who were their Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents
9. do they know when/where they were born, married, lived, buried
10. ask them who their oldest living relative is; then make plans to visit this person as soon as possible
Getting your records in order
Then you will need to transfer all of this information onto family history or pedigree charts and/or Freeware FH software for your computer,look on links for free down-loadable ones. Group the information you collect by family, it is important to do this as later when you have tons of information you will not have to spend hours looking for where you put a certain record....and when you do, also do a family tree for older relations as it encourages them to continue to look for more information and it is a nice gift as well.
What next? As many public records are not made public for many years(UK census 100 years)which is why you need to get all your family information up to those dates. Take the information you know and now the detective work begins. Now you start looking for records. One of the first places you should start is with the census records. You will start to learn where your family lived and in what counties. Then you will take this information to search for other genealogy documents such as parish records, obituary notices, tax records, land records, wills etc. Each piece of information will add another piece to the puzzle.
So before you start searching websites and paying registration fees for online databases, do all your groundwork first, not only do you understand who your family are, you will have clues here to look and who for and never forget to cite every piece of information you collect. Cite: the record number,or the name of the person who gave you the information and what 'record' it is, such as 'Aunt Jessie Smith marriage invitation to son Billy's wedding' take a scan, photocopy or photograph of it for your records as well....ONE WRONG PERSON IN YOUR FAMILY TREE MEANS YOU ARE RESEARCHING THE WRONG FAMILY...so citing records is very important and many online family history and databases are copied information, guesswork, donated and 'collected' information with NO record numbers....use them only as a window of where to look for real records, however never believe them until you have found the real records.I write these down in my paper record in red or use red text in my database...so I know they are not cited records.
Building your tree online....
If you decide to build your family tree online and put all your information into commercial website as many offer a 'private web page', read the terms and conditions that you agree to as it gives the website owner full use of YOUR research/records to sell, make profit on and even if you later delete your family tree, they still have all your information and they can still use it.The safest place is to put it on your own computer and then you have the choice to share with other researchers if you want to,Freeware FH software you can download from the links page to keep your information private, secure and safe as it is on your own computer so you can 'forget' your FH for a while and still have all your records, whereas if you do that on commercial websites you will have to renew your paid subscription or if it is a free one it will be very limited for numbers of ancestors you can put in without paying to allow you to add more NOTE: You do not need to pay website subscriptions to research your ancestry and the internet is just a tool, not your complete tool box
Go to the childrens FH page to build your own FREE FH website with Free FH compiler software too.
Get to know where the websites get their information from, remember even if they are from real records then there can be transcription errors ( and often are) and many are from donated, copied and 'collected' information such as the IGI (familysearch)a great resource however they are a collection of parish records ( cited) and donated information ( with an LDS film number or person who donated it) use these only to give you clues of where to look as anyone can donate records to this and they are not checked or verified and the IGI has many mistakes, double entries...and if you check you are likely to find no cited real records, unfortunately people build their trees using this resource without checking, so end up with trees of unrelated names and not their family..
Don't be satisfied with one record, you do need to find lots of records for the same person and cross reference to get the correct information or at least get a fuller picture of their lives, as even cited records can give wrong /distorted information. Often people did lie and for a number of reasons and it normally involved money or sex, maybe it was to enable them to be old enough to get married in the first place, if they were marrying someone much older, saying they were married but they weren't often because one of them was already married to someone else and divorce was not an option for many then, writing the husband as 'the father' of their child when it was really someone else....who said researching your family history was easy?
A downloadable helpsheet on Tips on Target searching on the Internet for ancestors but use this once you have completed all your work with living relations and records at home.
Ask any genealogist who has been researching for a few years and they will say if they knew how important their living older relations were when they started their research they would have spent more time asking them questions and family stories, but at the time they just wanted to get on with 'research' These people are your BEST resource and everything you get is very well worth the time spent.