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|Tracing Your Family Tree|
The Life Cycle
Finding Out More
Family history, or genealogy as it is sometimes called, is one of Britain's fastest growing hobbies. It is an ideal pastime and can bring alive the history you learnt at school. Your ancestors weren't just bystanders, they were participants: your grandfathers might have been at the Battle of Somme, could have suffered religious persecution or have been slaves on sugar plantations, for example.
Many people think that family history has been computerised and that all you need to do is type in a name and a family tree going back centuries will be produced. While it is true that the computer, and in particular the internet, has revolutionised genealogy, you will still need to spend time in archives, going through pages of paper or reels of microfilm hunting for that elusive ancestor. However, nothing quite beats the thrill of suddenly finding a forebear on a film or handling a document signed by a great-great-great-grandfather.
If your family or some of your ancestors came from overseas this presents particular problems. In Britain there are often few records, because until well into the 20th century the government was generally uninterested in immigrants - providing they did not pose a threat to law and order. There may, however, be other sources, such as birth, marriage and death records or records of social clubs or occupations that can shed light on the arrival of an ancestor.
Eventually, you will need to turn to records in the country from where they originated. Family History Centres, run by the LDS Church (Mormons), are a good place to start, for they can order microfilm copies of genealogical source material from around the world for you. In addition there are often web sites that can help by providing information, contacts and perhaps a personal insight into research overseas.
One of the charms of family history is that it is difficult enough to be a challenge, but not so difficult that these challenges cannot be overcome (in most instances). If you are stuck, ask for advice - most people are only too pleased to help.
There are always people who can help, whether they are record office staff or fellow family historians. It is always worth joining a local family history society - or a more specialist group for descendants of immigrants if one exists - as it is a good way of building up your knowledge.
Family history is a detective story. And like every good detective you must discover the facts and present them in a convincing way. Below are some basic rules:
One of the big problems facing family historians is the amount of information they will acquire about their ancestors and how they will store and find it when necessary. If you have a computer this will help you organise your research immensely, especially if you purchase one of the many commercial genealogy software packages that are now available.
There are many useful tools and avenues that can be followed when starting your research. Read more about conducting your research for detailed descriptions on research strategies, constructing a family tree and family heirlooms.
It is not possible to do all your family history research on the Internet, but it can be an immensely useful source of information, and provides forums in which you can share your research and queries with others. Link here for a list of Useful Web Sites for Family History Research.
Reading around your subject is almost as important as doing primary research and at no time is it more important that when you are just starting out as an amateur genealogist. Our Further Reading Suggestions for Genealogy are good places to start.
Creators: Simon Fowler
|First Steps in Family History||The Life Cycle|
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