‘Begin with what you know’

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up while working at findmypast, it’s definitely this tip! Honestly, ask absolutely anybody involved in genealogy and they’ll all tell you the same thing, “start with what you know”. It’s very easy to try to run before you can walk when starting family history research (particularly if you have any juicy family rumours doing the rounds!) but the advice I’ve been given has been very clear; don’t try to work forwards from a rumoured famous ancestor, always work backwards from yourself.

So, what exactly do I know? While I’d love to pretend that this blog’s bound to unearth all sorts of illustrious relatives, the truth is that I know very little about my ancestors and, sadly, am yet to hear any rumours of blue blood! What I do know are the names and some birth, marriage and death dates of the family members I’ve grown up with (and have needed to buy birthday presents for!). These include my parents, paternal grandparents and great-grandparents, though my memory of birthdays, marriages and maiden names gets progressively hazier the further back I try to remember.

I don’t really know anything about my mum’s family aside from my maternal grandparents’ names so will need to speak to her to gather further information about them. Likewise, the next step I’ll take to trace my paternal family is to speak to my nan. She should be able to tell me about the family she grew up with, plus fill in the blanks in my own memory. I suspect that she may also have a few photos and birth, marriage and death certificates lurking around – if I flutter my eyelashes, I’m sure she’d let me take copies of them.

In the meantime, I’ve set up a couple of family trees online to help keep track of the information I’m starting to gather – I can just imagine how confused I’m going to get if I don’t keep everything together! I’ve set myself up with one using findmypast’s family tree software, family tree explorer, and have also registered with Genes Reunited.

Starting my family tree using family tree explorer

Starting my family tree with family tree explorer

3 Responses to “‘Begin with what you know’”

  1. Terry Vale Says:

    I do not know what program you are using to get your tree but i use a free one from LDS (latter Day Saints Mormons) it is very easy to use & will do every thing you need including making connections between people so you can see if its a 1st cousin or 2ND etc i did a trace some while back after i found a message board asking for details of grandfather from a lady in Vancouver BC
    After the trace it turned out we are cousins once removed by a second marriage of my 3 x grandfather, as a result of this we kept in touch , then in 2003 i went over to Vancouver to pay her & her husband a visit
    ps beware of family rumors they can send you all over the place in the wrong direction

  2. Florian Barker Says:

    Begin with what you know – I’m not casting any aspersions on your parentage, but did you start with your own birth certificate? People have had nasty surprises when looking at their own birth certificate!
    Don’t totally discount family stories – they may have a grain of truth but have been distorted, exaggererated or censored over the years. Don’t use them as a basis for research but don’t be surprised when you see how the rumour originated.
    Good luck!

  3. Amy Says:

    Thanks for your tips!

    @Florian Barker: Good point! I’d completely bypassed taking copies of the more recent records like my own birth certificate and my parents’ marriage certificate. Such an obvious starting point too!

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