Where To Start With Your Family History

Over the years the most common question I have been asked by people just starting out in researching their family history is; “Where Do I Start”; “Who Do I Start With.”

And my answer is always the same. You start with yourself, simply because you know the most about yourself, then your wife and children, if you have any. And then your parents and siblings.  And then work on back through the generations, going as far back as you can.

Now the first thing to do is to get a piece of paper and sit down and write your date of birth, then the date you were christened, ( if you were christened that is), the date you were married,( again if you are married), and to whom you are married to or were married to.  One thing I almost forgot to mention is that for all these events you need to also include where the event occurred. And you need to identify it so that there is no confusion as to where the event occurred. It is not sufficient to just say I was born in the hospital, approx 56 yrs ago. A better and more informative way of identifying where the event occurred is to say,” I was born in Crown St Women’s Hospital in Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.”  So that last statement identified where the event occurred very precisely. This is very important when dealing with similar names in your family history as you go back, tracing your family’s history.

I can remember on one occasion I cam across a family where the mother seemed to have had children till a very late age. upon further research I was able to identify that the children belonged to 2 families. A Father and a Son both with the same name who both had wives with the same first name. The clue for this was in the dates or years of the births of their children.

So the next step is to collect and organise your photo’s, certificates, newspaper clippings and other memoribilla. One of the best and easiest ways of sorting out your documents, certificates, newspapr clipping etc.  Is to get a number of small cartons, about 3 or 4, approximately shoe box size.  And into each carton you put your documents, newpaper clippings etc into each of these cartons.  you maybe surprised as to what information you have.  About yourself, your family and maybe even some of your ancestors.

Each of these boxes represent a source of information about you and your family. Now I would like you to add one more box to those you have and in this box you should find and put any letters you may have from relatives or friends that may mention anything about you and or your ancestors.

Now that you have soorted out these sources of information into different catagories or types you need to process each collection and glean what information you can from each collection. A good idea may be to get yourself a number of small cheap notebooks that you can write information into. I would suggest that you have at least one notebook for each of your boxes.  That way you will find it easier to find specific information, instead of having to search through one big notebook for information.

Two things to remember when sorting and compiling the information you have put into your boxes. When you come to news and or  articles from newspapers and or magazines you need to make a note of where you obtained the article and when it was printed.and with photo’s you also need to identify who is in the photo, where it was taken, ( if possible), and the date or year that it was taken. I will explain the reason why in a later post.

Now that you have gathered your information and sorted it out. You will need to record and organise it. so that you can see what further research you need to do.  I will talk about that in my next post




2 comments on “Where To Start With Your Family History

  1. lynnie57 says:

    I wish I had read this a couple of years ago – it would have helped me organise myself! I am now a bit further down the track and I have one of those concertina files with the alphabet and each time I use a document or photo I attach it to a card on which I write basic information and then I file it. It seems to be working for me.
    I still have a big drawer with “stuff” on my husband’s family which I will sort out one day – perhaps using your shoebox idea.

    I look forward to following your blog and getting more hints on organising my family tree!

    • glens007 says:

      Thank you for your comment Lynne, I appreciate it. i hope that my future posts will be as helpful. Most of what I have to say is based on over 40yrs experience in doing genealogy/ family history. And I find that there are still things to learn.

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