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I started doing the Family Tree about 8 years ago as something to do for hubby Pete. He is the fourth of six children. His mother had died when he was 10 and his Dad had died when he was 4 so the only relatives he knew were his three brothers and two sisters and thier children. I don't come from a very big family and my dad had started ours. I didn't want to step on any toes so decided to do Pete's
So where did I start? Well at first I kept all the details on paper in separate folders for each section of the family. I got all the details of his brothers and sisters from them and worked backwards. This was the easy part as all were still alive then.
The next bit was his father - James William Burns. There were stories of him being Scottish and others of him being English. Some remembered his date of death but not his birthdate. Where could I go from there? Then his eldest sister told me she had his birth certificate (big surprise to everyone) and she would get me the details from it. It turned out she also had the mothers birth certificate so I got details from that as well.
So there was the start of a very long journey along the Internet and Library roads. I had his father's date of birth and area which turned out to be Northumberland (close enough to Scotland I suppose!) I then went on Family Search Web Site which belongs to The Church of the Latter Day Saints. Very helpful if you have births before 1900 and if you want to check the 1881 census. This is a free site which saves you loads of money.
I knew the parents of James were Peter Burns and Catherine Turnbull so I tried looking for them and found both births complete with dates, places and parents names - Fantastic. This is so easy - so I thought! I found that there were at least two other children but there was 16 between the youngest of them and James so I thought there must have been more. One I already knew from memories of his eldest brother so i found her through the library birth records. I had to book this session though and I just took paper and pens with me. No cost there either.
The hardest part was finding out the surname of James' grandmother as all I had was jane. I couldn't find her marriage or birth anywhere. Hugh, the grandfather of James was also hard to find so this was when I spent my first bit of money. I sent for the birth certificate of Peter Burns - the father of James and there was all the details I needed about her surname. I also sent for the marriage certificate of Hugh and Jane and this helped with her parents names. So far I had James William born to Peter Burns and Catherine Turnbull. Peter was the son of Hugh Burns and Jane Horsburgh. Now while I waited (impatiently may I add) for the marriage certificate to arrive I decided to check the records on LDS site again. I knew that Hugh and jane were Scottish and guessed that Hugh's father was called Peter (old thing about naming the eldest son after the fathers father). I found loads of records for Peter Burns born in Yester East Lothian and his ancestors. I got all the records to go back 14 generations! I was ecstatic as you can imagine. I was so proud of myself - all that work in about 4 hours.
Then the marriage certificate came and showed that Peter was the name of Hugh's father but his mother was Agnes Nielson. So I checked through all I had just found and could not find one Agnes Nielson! All that work went in the bin. Useless is the word for all of it and I was not as happy with myself as I had been.
So onto the census' I went. I found the families in the 1881 and 1901 census. Then a mystery - Agnes Burns lived in 1881 with her son William Wallace (no not THE William Wallace) and the niece who was living with him was the daughter of Hugh Burns - I later found that Agnes had a child - William - before she married Peter. I found an entry in the 1861 census thanks to a good friend in Scotland and it turns out Peter was Irish and Agnes was Scottish. So my search had to stop there for the Burns side.
I decided then to try Pete's mothers side - Great fun as she was born in Burma. I was given a piece of paper by the eldest sister with the family names and details. I got back three generations before I had to stop there as well.
By this time I was beginning to think that this family did not want to be found at all! I went back to the Burns side to look for other siblings of James. I had found four altogether but there was 16 years between the eldest and James. So I decided to send a letter to the local newspaper explaining what I was doing. I didn't hear anything for nearly 2 months and then a letter arrived from a lovely lady named Rita. She was the daughter of james other brother who we didn't know about. She told me there were only five of them altogether though she suspects that there were more - possibly stillborn or miscarriages
So after 8 years we have gone from a family of approximatly 50 people to a family tree of approx 1900 people. With certificates and pay to view web sites it has cost me approximately £300 but when I now look at all the photographs and information I have accumulated I feel it is well worth the money. My children and nephews and nieces now know where they come from and have definite stories of their Grandparents as well as Great Grandparents and even further back. My Grandchildren each have a small booklet showing their family tree right back to the 1400's Thanks to a 3rd cousin that I found through the Internet we have managed to trace the Horsburgh side of the family back to 1459. The rest of the family are still in the 1700 and 1800's
The websites which I found the biggest help are as follows:
Family search - Latter day Saints - free Rootsweb. com - free Genesconnected - approx £7.50 per year 1901 census online - pay to view Free Birth Marriage and Death - freebmd- free to view 1837online.com - pay to view
If you want an interesting hobby (which can lead to an obsession by the way) this is the one for you. You need plenty of patience as it can take you down the wrong road if you aren't careful. You also need a good Computer programme to record all the details. I use Family tree Maker 2005. This allows you to save details as well as photographs and certificates. You can print Family Trees as well as Reports showing all the Ancestors and their details
I hope you are still reading this and hope it has been some help to someone