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For a number of years we have thought about tracing our family tree and havent done much about it.
With another generation arriving in the family we decided that now was the time to do it.
I would like to tell you how we did it and some of the "mistakes" we made just incase you are thinking of doing your family tree.
We decided to do the male side of my Husbands family. So although I have a 97 year old Mum in Law she didn't have all the details so we basically started from scratch.
The first thing to know is that the census' run from 1841 to 1911 although 1911 is not quite complete. These census' are on the internet. Type in Google.co.uk free census and it will come up with them whether they are free or you have to pay.
This was our first mistake - paying. I bought £6.75 worth of credits. For most searches you need 3 which works out to about 75p. you can get it cheaper.
So easy we thought. Well we were lucky in the fact that Johns (husband) Dad was born before 1911 so therefore we could look him up although we did not have his birthdate or year only roughly.
What to do next
When you go to the census it will ask you things like name, surname, date of birth and birthplace. Birthplace does seem to be the most important. For birthdate you can put it from - or + 1 to 10 years. This will come up with a lot of suitables and where the money goes as if you are not sure you might have to pay to see if they are the right ones.
We knew Johns Uncles names. We were positive we had the right Grandfather but some of the childrens names were different to what we knew! Second mistake coming up. Luckily Johns Mum was able to tell us that one like Uncle Don, his real name was Louis. Louis wasn't even a middle name. So dont presume what you knew them as was the name on their birth certificate. If you have the correct one it will tell you the head of the family, his age at the time of the census, who he married, how many children he had, if any died, what job he was doing at the time of the census and birthplace. The very last column which I have not found any comments in yet is marked Infirmity and numbered 1-4. 1 Totally deaf, 2 totally blind, 3 Lunacy, 4 Imbecile or feeble minded.
The 1881 census is free.
By typing in the name, age roughly and the birthplace you can then doing it this way go right back to 1841.
When you get to before 1837 this all dries up on the internet and no more birth certificates. So it is then necessary to go another route.
Here you start going through the Parish records. I can only tell you how I did ours. We knew our furthest back ancestor came from Leigh in Wiltshire. Here I go off thread a little and tell you that when we got married Johns family said we were taking his surname to another county (Glos) miles from any others. So what did we find? The furthest back one lived about 8 miles from us!!! Back to where I was. We then telephoned Swindon, Wiltshire to see if they could send us a birth certificate from 1806. This is how we found out they dont do them and you get on to the parish records. The woman there was so helpful and gave me the number in Chippenham to ring.
I would advise against going to the Parish where they were born to search the registers as most do charge but the council hq should hold all the records and you can search them for free.
We telephoned and just gave the name, birthplace, year 1806 and she said wait while I look on our records. Literally 2 minutes later she came back she had a copy could send us for £5 posting it with a bill, and there was the names of his Mum and Dad so we had gone back another generation.
When this certificate comes we are thinking there will be their dates of birth on it as we think they came from Ireland. If they did we have to go back from over there.
What else did we learn.
On Thursday we went to the Archives in Kew thinking we would get a lot of information but we did not get any more than we did on the internet.
We also found an American site where you can trace your English ancestors and would you believe that it is better than our census ones and it is free. We went on here to find our if the Mum and dad of the 1806 family were on there as they were not on our English sites and would you believe that they were and it listed all 14 of their children.
The American site is http://www.familysearch.org.- better than any of our sites and free.
I enjoyed tracing back and hoping to go back even further.
I must admit when you try and trace children and see them young in one census and no trace of them 10 years later you do find it upsetting.
I do hope that this has been of some help to someone.
Good review - covers a lot of the basics of how to research your family tree and stresses the importance of double-checking information from family members.
Word of warning regarding FamilySearch - be wary of any records that look a bit vague ie. John Jenkins, born "about 1734" with a wife named "Mrs Mary Jenkins" and that say they are "submitted", rather than "extracted". Extracted ones are usually taken from real records, submitted ones can be sent to the site by anyone and can vary from very accurate to sheer fantasy.
I find that family history costs one of two things - money or time. I've spent hours in records offices and never found a thing, other times I've come home with pages of notes. It does get very addictive, too.
Great review - I hope it helps people get an idea of where to start.
stillclueless 14.05.2009 10:40
my mum and her hubby are very into their family history but have the use of facilities through the church they're members of so it doesn't actually cost them anything to learn about their ancestors - very well reviewed - Catherine x :)