Here I will be suggesting a few resources and tips that I have found useful, to help you in researching your own family history.
One of the first sites that I ever used is run by the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They attach much importance to their family and as a result they have immense resources relating to geneology. They have done a considerable amount of work copying old records from all over the world and originally producing microfilm and microfich copies. Much of this material has now been re-copied and made available on line over the internet. It is made freely available to anyone, and they make you most welcome at their Family History Centers. It is well worth going to your local one. There is a wealth of information on how to tackle your research on their website and the volunteers at their Family History Centers I have always found really very helpful. They also offer a free download of quite a good piece of software which you can use to create your personal family tree records on. There are some facilities on it which are specially for Mormons to use, but you can ignore these. There is a bonus because when you have it up and running you can select one of your family relatives and it will automatically search their massive website enabling you to quickly check to see if there are more details that you would like to know.
There is now a very useful facility for research at many of our local libraries. Members can use the library computers to access www.ancestry.com, usually free of charge. This widens your scope as you can access the census returns on line and even view facsimile copies of the actual handwritten pages of the original returns. This is a fascinating step back into history, especially when you are viewing a page relating to your own relatives. If you pay the annual subscription then Ancestry.com can be fully viewed on your own computer.
Finding my grandfathers's grave listed on www.cwgc.org was what really started me off on my research, it was a very poignant moment. It was the 90th Anniversary of his death this in 2008 and we had an amazing visit to his grave. It was very emotional but exceedingly satisfying.
There are many Family History Centres run by local authorities, just to give you some ideas, this link gives information on one in Walsall, but you will probably use Google to find your local one. I have spent many hours at one in Worcester and come away with masses of new information about relatives I previously did not know anything about at all.
A fantastic resource on the internet is Cyndi's List. You could spend months following all the links on this site, but it could give you a special link to help you in your quest. Every time I get stuck there is usually something I can find there to get me going again.
It is esential that you have a program to help you record your research, one useful one is Brother's Keeper which can print out useful copies of your reserch in various formats, and these are essential to take with you when visiting various record offices. It is also able to import and export GEDCOM files. These are the standard format geneology files which make it easy to transfer information from one program to another. This can be used to share your results with the rest of your family and some websites let you upload them so they can be viewed by everyone.
It often pays to go over material periodically again that you have previously examined and collected, as with the latest information you will often find that you glean more from the original items and perhaps see things from a different perspective. As you find out more information it is interesting how you can weave a picture of how your ancesters lived their lives and what they had to endure.
We have visited many graveyards, some of the inscriptions are so weathered that it is impossible to read them. I have found on occasions that using a sheet of paper and then rubbing over it with a soft pencil or a crayon will bring an inscription to life. So be prepared. A digital camera is useful as well to make permanent records, and add to your computer software to give your records more useful information especially when you share it with your family.
Which leads onto yet another facet of family trees. It really pays to keep a selection of important family photographs with or linked to your tree. By scanning old photos to get a digital copy you can then use various image software programs to repair or clean them up. They will then add another dimension to your family tree especially for your children and granchildren who will be able to literally get a better picture of how their ancesters looked, and what they got up to and the styles of clothing, furniture etc.
Another facet of tree making that I am considering at the present time is to produce a digital map with the locations of various generations of my family, to help visualise how far apart they lived. A lot of my relatives only married somebody from the next village, one even married the girl next door, this fact jumped out when I was examing a copy of a census record. It again paints another visual picture to help us contemplate how life was for our ancestors. One also has to bear in mind that transport might be a horse and cart if you were lucky, many of our ancestors literally walked wherever they needed to go.
I have recently joined a local group, the Burntwood Family History Group, and one of their members recommended that I should try www.myheritage.com so I did, I downloaded a free piece of software to build a family tree and entered into it all the names of our living family and the main ones of our deceased family. Then after a few days the site had compared my tree with lots of others on the site and came up with links to two other people who I think are distant relatives. As I am writing this I am waiting for replies to my emails as it looks as though we will be able to compare and share our research. You do have the useful option to keep your treetotally or partially private and you then can select who you will allow to access your tree on the internet. These usually would be members of your family and they will be able to add information or other relatives whilst they are on line. A really useful bonus is that you and your family will get reminders of living family birthdays and anniversaries.
The Burntwood Family History Group has a lot of useful links on their website www.bfhg.org.uk
WARNINGBeware of some internet sites that are offering copies of Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates, one such site I came across was charging around £60 for JUST ONE certificate. They were obviously putting a really hefty mark-up on just a piece of paper. When this was written in June 2007 the charge from official sources was a maximum of £7 for a full copy birth certificate, short ones are even less. So go direct to the original registry offices for the area where the certificates were originally produced, you will save a lot of money. Try this site HERE there is lots of useful information and there are links for you to find where to get the certificates from that you might require.
Sometimes putting a Surname into Google can throw up new leads to follow or searching for 'NAME FAMILY TREE' where you replace NAME with the relevant Surname you are currently researching. A good way of using Google, and this applies to all types research, is to enter a short question. This very often will give you the answer you are looking for as these sort of queries link in with various user groups and blogs. If the first question you put in does not get you an answer then try slightly changing the question by changing one or two of the words or the order that you type them in this can result in a different set of results. Have Fun!
The Internet keeps changing, lots of new resources and also new information are appearing all the time, so it pays to periodically retrace your steps and searches.
As I find new information it will get posted here
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