Family History Methods

I’ve been meaning to post a link on how to get started in family history in case any newcomers fall over this site.  A correspondent asked me yesterday how I made contact with others researching the same folks. Before posting my reply which I hope is of some interest, I must point new researchers to Roy Stockdill’s excellent guide for beginners

This is a must-read, although a little out of date withe respect to how the Internet has changed things. But Internet research brings its own dangers – perhaps I’ll leave that for another post!

This is my reply to my correspondent:

I had no personal information to go on. I started family history too late as my mother had been dead for a dozen years, and every relative I asked said “You should have asked your mother, she’d have known, I don’t!”

So then you’re on to the tried and tested birth/marriage certificate cycle, until you get into the census information. However, there are pitfalls everywhere. Not everyone told the truth on certificates, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately. Also you can so easily make incorrect assumptions – on a census, the wife of the head of the household may not be the children’s mother. I’d like to think I’m as ready to prune incorrect information off my tree as I am to add it. Before 1837 (civil registration) and 1841 (first useful census) life gets much more difficult. Parish records are one way, and the IGI was, and new FamilySearch is) extremely helpful as an index to the real information . But again assumptions can wreck it all. I’ve had many promising lines broken by the additional word (not on FamilySearch) on the parish record “widow”!

As for finding others researching the same lines, there are many sites. Genes Reunited, Ancestry and WorldConnect have many contacts, but the quality of contact can be poor, if they bother to reply! LostCousins is much better quality, but much lower quantity. Emails lists (eg. Rootsweb) have been extremely helpful to me. I guess forums (eg. Rootschat) would do a similar job. Google is of course your friend, and I presume the route that helped you find my website. I’ve found that my website has provided a good number of links – and it’s also not so prone to copying. It’s so easy for someone to attach your tree off Ancestry to theirs, right or wrong. Much less so if it’s got to be copied off a PDF file. Apparently, search engines, like Google, like blogs, so I’m just starting one!

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