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When I was growing up there was just me and my sister and I thought I only had a small family and used to frequently daydream of lots of brothers or cousins to play with!
While I was saving up to get married I was looking for a “cheap pastime” that I could be involved in while not working on the house and decided I would try and track the family I had daydreamed of! Little did I know that 9 years later I would have over one thousand family members and still discovering more.
I began my research with a little “luck” as I had always been told my great grandfather came from a large family who lived in a small village and that the graveyard there held some answers, We paid a visit to this village – Bignor and this gave us a flying start. From here we then delved into the census, IGI and parish records.
The following is some tips for research – some of which I followed in the beginning and others I have realised I should have followed!
Start with interviewing family members and try to write everything down, including information you think isn't related – you never know when little snippets of information come in handy. Try to clarify all information – is Aunty Joan a real aunty or just a neighbour, clarifying this at this stage can prevent you spending huge amount of time tracking aunty Joan only to find she is no relation at all! During interviews ask family members to identify people in old photographs and date them.
For other family members I sent out very simple questionnaires/forms asking people to fill in birth, marriage, death dates and locations and asking for photocopies of any certificates held.
Get registered on Genes Connected – a very user friendly site suitable for beginners with endless possibilities.
Put up your research interests or surnames on genealogy sites – there are numerous sites and too many to mention here, most are county based and can easily be found through search engines.
Visit a family history fair, these are held regularly at leisure centres etc, look out for them advertised in papers or magazines (esp. family history magazines which are very useful to buy – there are many produced monthly), there is also a national one held annually in London hosted by the “society of genealogists" Join any relevant family history societies which can be done at these fairs. I also completed an evening class in “family history” and found this very helpful.
Visit places where your ancestors have lived – this brings the research to life – always take your camera, notebook and pencil everywhere you go! A little tip for looking around graveyards – take an extra pair of shoes to wear – they can get very muddy!
Visit the “public records website” for information on how to search stored documents.
Always write down all the information found and its source and the date you found the information, if you are finding no information also write down where you have searched and the date (this all helps when trying to work out what records to search as you can easily see what you have searched and where you have not)
Remember to reply to everyone who contacts you via research – it is a good way to build up new friendships.
I attended a family party of some people we met through the research – I took along the huge printout of the whole family and was getting everyone to identify themselves and work out all the relationships, this was great fun as well as being a great way to get everyone talking – it was also the opportunity for people to add their correct spellings, occupations and dates etc – thoroughly recommended.