10 COMMON SENSE RULES WHEN STARTING TO TRACE YOUR FAMILY TREE
Don't try to trace your connection down from some historical figure you may
be told you are related to. (Like I did...fool)
Always start with yourself and work backwards. Interview EVERYONE in the
family and see what documents and photos you can obtain or copy. Be careful
with family stories, they tend to be sugar coated and sometimes connect the
wrong event to the wrong person or generation. Interviewing Relatives is
cross-referenced with Lies and Date Discrepancies!
Economies with the truth are rampart.
(Surprise! surprise! Paternal Great Granny and Great Grandpa weren't quite
the paragons of virtue that I was led to believe. And Maternal Great Grandad
wasn't an "English Emigrant". He won an all expenses paid trip to Australia
courtesy of the Old Bailey which he repaid with 14 faithful years in
Government service! Oh, and Maternal Great Granny won one too! Some
favouritism shown with her...she only gave 7 years of faithful Government
Remember to record all women as who they are when they are born, not by
their married name or known by in later life.
Don't be a chauvinist - your father's line is only a twig, not a tree. The
name you are born with falls either way of the wedding ring. Many babies
born before marriage are recorded under their mother's maiden name. Always
remember your mother's line is more accurate than your father's. Think
"Mother's baby! Father's maybe?" After all, your father's line is only as
good as your mother tells you.
Trace the lines of least resistance, those that are not German if you can't
sprechen zie deutsch, those that are not Irish if you want instant success.
Do the easy ones first, i.e. those who are born where they said they were
Don't look for a marriage date nine months before the birth of the first
child. Many children were born within a few weeks, months or hours after
and before the parents were married or if ever married.
You will need to check the indexes to Births, Deaths and Marriages for the
appropriate State and look up your ancestors' entries. In some States the
reference numbers means cheaper certificates. Death certificates may be
informative in Australia but they are the least correct.
Never rely on a death certificate to be accurate.
For NSW use a transcription agent rather than the NSW BDM's site
for copies of certificates.... They are a helleva lot cheaper and are typed
out for ease of reading. They can also be 'cut and pasted' into your notes
file in your computer program or just put in your family history files.
And if they stuff up the details you have no trouble getting a replacement.
Get organized from day one. You'll be killing a lot of trees with the paper
trail you'll be gathering. Get the correct stationery or computer program
to handle recording the data you will be collecting.
Make sure you take good notes stating what you read, when you read it and
whether it held any information crucial to your search. This will save
duplication of genealogy and keep you organized.
Rule 9 (Mine)
Check to make sure someone hasn't already traced your family tree. You can
search through a series of books called the Genealogical Research Directory
(GRD). These are annual publications showing who is tracing whom in the
family tree. They can be found at most genealogical libraries, LDS Centres
and major council libraries. The Internet also provides a wealth of sites
for free advertisement of names you are researching.
Use Roots web's World Connect but remember that there is a lot of 'fantasy'
there purporting to be 'factual family trees'. Same goes especially for
The first rule of genealogy research should be applied to all data from
'Accept all data...Believe none until you have checked it for veracity
Lots of ego trippers lurk on those sites.
Occasionally revise your work.
Your mantra should be ...Revision...Revision..Revision.
You will be surprised how often you pick up obvious clues that you missed
the first time around. And then kick yourself for suffering from tunnel
Rule 10 (Mine)
Lastly, invest in TV dinners and take away, you won't have the time or
inclination to cook, garden or do anything but dig up your roots. As one
husband bemused, "I used to have a wife until she started genealogy." Or as
my wife was heard to mutter, quite often, "He's disturbing the dead and
irritating the living, again."
"Shake any family tree and a few nuts will fall out"