Friday, 28 February 2014

New to family history?

I am often asked how to get started. Often people have heard they are related to someone well known. There are no short cuts to family history. Here are my two top tips:-

1   Start with what you know and work backwards in time. Ask your oldest relations what they know.
You may need to get some certificates to get started eg
Your grandparents' marriage certificates. If they married in Scotland, both sets of parents will or should be on it and fathers' occupations. If they married in England you will just get the fathers' names and occupations.
Once you get back to people born before 1911 (UK) you will find them in the censuses.

Keep an open mind, especially re the spelling of names. Before about 1900 there was a lot of illiteracy. People signed their marriage certificates with a X mark. So their surname was open to interpretation by the registrar. If the person (being married) was not a local, which happened more than you might imagine, the registrar may have struggled with the unfamiliar name in an unfamiliar accent. Generally the consonants would be the same eg mcmeekin was recorded as mcmeikan, mcmackine, mcmeeking and countless variations.  In some search engines it is possible to search with "wildcards", so I would search Mcm*k* which would return all of these. Strangely nowaways McMeekin is often mispelt as McMeechan but not once on historical records have I seen CH instead of K.
Ages are often misrecorded for various reasons but usually in my experience from not knowing their birthdate or being able to do the subtraction. Sometimes they made themselves younger. On s death certificate of an older person, the age is much older than the actual age, an estimate by perhaps their grandchild who thought they were much older!

More tips next time!

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