• Sources of UK Records

    Most of the records hat we have had to access in tracing our ancestors have come from England, Scotland and ireland. 
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    The Secrets under grandma's bed

    Family documents are an important source of information.  They may be well filed and organised, or you may come across them in shoeboxes, in cases on top of wardrobes or buried in old chests of drawers.
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    Bringing old photos back to life

    Old photographs are delicate objects. If they haven't been preserved properly, it is likely that they will have incurred some damage between the time they were taken and now.
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    Network of family members

    Use a Family and Home Information Sources Checklist as a guide to sources of information you might find in your home or the home of a relative.
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  • Scottish Records

    If you’ve got Scottish ancestors then you’re in luck because Scotland is a world-leader in providing family history information online.
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    Irish records

    If your ancestors are Irish, you might need to become a good detective.  Better still, if you can, talk to your Granny! She'll start you off in the right place.
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    Genealogy for Beginners

    DIY for you to trace your own family tree.
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    Locate your first primary source

    The most important sources are eye-witness and official documents.  The best first Primary Source is your grandparent's death certificate. It's a Gold Mine!!
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  • How to trace your ancestors

    Getting started is the biggest hurdle. Here's an easy guide to get you going.
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    Collecting evidence

    The best place to start collecting evidence is with the family. Especially the elders.
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    Bigger than you think

    Be warned. Once you start you'll be hooked forever! I had to learn to eat the elephant one toenail at a time.
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    Record keeping

    It's important to have some sort of order and indexing method for keeping your family records.  If not, you'll never be able to out the pieces of the puzzle together.
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To learn more about climbing your family tree use the DIY Family History menu item above.

The word genealogy is derived from the Greek, and means the study of family history and descent. Genealogies, or the recorded histories of the descent of a person or family from their ancestors, are also often referred to as family trees or sometimes as lineages or pedigrees. 

The basic objectives of genealogical research are to identify ancestors and their family relationships. At a basic level you will identify and record the following for each individual in your family tree:

  •  date and place of birth
  •  names of parents
  •  date and place of marriage
  •  names of children
  •  date and place of death

From here you will, through your genealogical research, learn more about the lives and times of your ancestors and be able to flesh out those facts into a family history.

Who are my ancestors?

A maternal ancestor is an ancestor on your mother's side of the family. A paternal ancestor is from your father's side.

Perhaps by now you are wondering which of your many relatives are your "ancestors." An ancestor is a person from whom you are descended - parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and so on. The term is most commonly used to describe someone earlier than your grandparents in your family tree.

If you think of a family tree as being in the shape of an upside-down pyramid (triangle), you would be the the point at the bottom. Not counting second marriages, an individual will usually have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents and so on. From you (at the bottom of the triangle) working upward, these form the ancestral pyramid. By the time you have gone back ten generations you have an impressive 1,024 ancestors - more than enough to keep you busy researching for a lifetime!

If you take this pyramid and turn it right-side-up then you are now at the point at the top. Stretching down from you are your descendants - your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. If you trace your family tree down from a single ancestor, then it is called a descendant tree. If you trace your family tree back through the generations from a single individual, then it is know as an ancestor tree. The relationship between you and your ancestors and descendants are known as lineal relationships.

Collateral relationships are relationships between individuals who descend from common ancestors but are not related to each other in a direct (or lineal) line. These relationships include your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins. While it is not necessary to trace these collateral lines when researching your family tree, they can often lead you to clues about your ancestors when you have reached a brick wall.

Kissin' Cousins

If someone walked up to you and said "Hi, I'm your third cousin, once removed," would you know what they meant? Most of us don't think about our relationships in such exact terms ("cousin" seems good enough), so most of us aren't familiar with what these words mean. When working on your family history, however, it's more important to understand the various types of cousin relationships.

  • First cousins are the people in your family who have two of the same grandparents as you.
  • Second cousins have the same great-grandparents as you, but not the same grandparents.
  • Third cousins have in common two great-great-grandparents and their ancestors.
  • When cousins descend from common ancestors by a different number of generations they are called 'removed'.

Once removed means there is a difference of one generation. Your mother's first cousin would be your first cousin, once removed. She is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents.

Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. Your grandmother's first cousin would be your first cousin, twice removed because you are separated by two generations.

Half and Step Relationships

Half relationships exist between individuals who have a common ancestor but descend from different spouses of that ancestor. For example, half-brothers may have the same father but different mothers or the same mother but different fathers. The children of these half-brothers would be half-cousins, because they share only one of the grandparents. Half-relationships are still considered consanguineous (blood) relationships along the line which the two individuals share.

Step relationships (including "in-law" relationships) are relationships which occur through marriage. Your relationships with your step-relatives are not consanguineous as they are only related to you through marriage, not blood. They are not considered a part of your direct or lineal lines, but they can still be an important part of your family tree.

Relationships Made Easy

There are several types of charts to help you determine family relationships. You should also be aware, especially when you are working with older records, that the meaning of the word "cousin," along with the meanings of other relationship terms, have changed over time.

There is a purpose to our research

    "You are our living link to the past. Tell your grandchildren the story of the struggles waged, at home and abroad. Of sacrifices made for freedom's sake. And tell them your own story as well — because[everybody] has a story to tell." George H.W. Bush
In a complex, mobile society like ours, life's tapestry gets shredded. The continuity of our lives is ripped by transience and fragmentation. Community is fragile, torn, scattered. Our need to examine and to share our stories is vital--for our own mental health, for our relationships and our cohesiveness in community, and for the good of a future that can learn from our past.Dolly Bertholot

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