Tag Archives: Tracing Your Family Tree

Some Do’s and Don’ts in Genealogy

We have been researching British ancestry since the 1970s.  Our starting point is often the research already carried out by the family.  From the thousands of cases we have worked on, here are a few hints for those just starting out…

DO Talk to your relatives

Your own family members are your most precious resource, so if you can, ask them as much as possible.   Our Recollections book is designed to help in this process.

Recollections: A Personal Record

DO Plan your system of recording

You are probably going to amass a large volume of detail.  Before you begin, think how you are going to record what you find.  In a database, online, by hand, or in a  format of your own devising?  All of these options are valid, but make sure that they will last, and that they will be understood not only by yourself but by anyone else you might want to share them with.

DO Record your sources

Be meticulous.  Every time you record a fact, or a theory, make a note of where you found it.

DO Record full details

To avoid having to revisit records, make sure that you capture everything the record says, the first time, by saving an image or transcribing it in full, with its source.

DO Label family photographs

Using full names and dates if possible: not just ‘Mum and Dad’!

Uncle Sam & A. Gladwys (Morris)DO Consider the context

Find out about places and occupations; as well as making the research more interesting, it might explain where an ancestor might have come from or where they worshipped.

DO Work back from the known to the unknown

Avoid the temptation to leap to a more interesting family of the same name.   If anyone tells you they have a family tree with a gap in it, consider whether you have ever seen a real tree with a gap…

DON’T Trust family trees or entries submitted to websites

… unless they are supported at each stage with clear evidence, such as an image, citation or link to a primary historical record.

DON’T Jump to conclusions

It may not always be possible to establish clear-cut evidence of a link, particularly in a period or location where records are sparse, but avoid gung-ho or wishful thinking genealogy.

DON’T Assume printed sources are always correct

To err is human.  Transcriptions and indexes are never completely accurate.  Early genealogical works such as Burke’s Landed Gentry relied on family information that was often wildly inaccurate.

DON’T Restrict your search to what is easily available

If you hit a problem: be logical.  Don’t be tempted to just search what is online, on the shelf in front of you, or indexed.  The answer may be quietly sitting in an unindexed record from the  parish next door.

And finally, keep an open mind.  Your ancestors may have some surprises to spring on you…