To help you along
- Question your relatives. Take copies of their photos and ask them to identify people in them. They may have old address books, letters and school achievement records etc. There may be interesting family rumours. Could “Uncle Bill” be perhaps “William” or “Henry William”. Please don’t overtire them or bore them, and remember there may be events that they do not wish to talk about! Try to keep them focused on the information you need.
- Keep a record of where you sourced your information and the date, so that you or anyone else can locate it again easily.
- Look at the geography of the area and remember that both county, parish and other administrative borders have changed over time. A family recorded in three counties may have just lived within a 5 mile circle where the borders meet each other.
- Create a timeline for each key individual you are researching.
- Remember that spellings of surnames and places over the centuries have changed. Add to that illiteracy, accents, nicknames, poor writing and mis-transcriptions, and you will see that you have to be quite flexible in your thinking. Surnames placed as middle names were often the maiden name of the mother or grandmother, and can be a useful clue to family ties. An unusually named sibling may also be easier to identify in records.
- On various research websites you will find that people have enthusiastically added their family tree. These often include mistakes, but they have entered the guessed details as facts. Then, you find that other people have copied them and they appear on multiple internet sites. Make a note of what they have written, but check against proper resources.
- Review the social circumstances for the family, for example, the area where they lived, their occupations, their wealth or lack of, etc. Be realistic – don’t romanticise them.
- Employ a professional researcher like myself to help you.