Genealogy is addictive. You have been warned! If you do decide to have a go, these points will help you get started:-
- Record what you can remember.
I’m a great believer in LISTS. Begin with yourself and write down the basics about relatives. Begin with your parents e.g. Sarah Smith (b.1950) married Daniel Jones (b.1951) in 1973. If you can, chose one side of the family. Decide where to start – are you going to look at your mother’s side or your father’s side first? If your mother, put in her dates, maiden name and so on then go back to her parents adding similar information. If there are facts you don’t know, put in a question mark to show you need to fill it in later: Eva Smith (b.1894 – d. ?) If you feel confident about handling more information you may like to enlarge your list by adding your parents’ siblings with their birthdates. And if you know about their marriage dates and children add those.
- Talk to relatives.
If possible, start with oldest relatives and visit them. You should take notes or even record the interview. Ask for birth names, maiden names, birth and death dates, memorable stories. Ask questions which your relatives can expand upon rather than just yes or no answers! They may have things you can borrow to photocopy or use for research purposes. It’s amazing what clues are in old photographs, for example. Documents are also extremely useful to the genealogist, especially newspaper clippings which may give clues about the life of a relative e.g. sports achievements. Finally you could ask them to suggest other relatives who might be useful to talk to.
- Gather materials.
The sorts of materials which are useful are various documents, photos, letters, diaries, journals, certificates, obituaries, a family bible, wills and school records.
Make photocopies wherever possible and keep the originals very safe. These will mount up and you may even have to file them under a variety of headings such as birth certificates, newspaper obituaries, letters and so on. The photocopies could be kept online in a specially earmarked folder in your ‘Pictures’.
- What resources are you going to use?
Obviously you will use your family members wherever possible and also the Internet is extremely useful. Some websites based on a single family surname can give you a great deal of information. You can also look up the type of clothing worn at certain times through history to give you more of an idea of what your ancestors might have worn. The Powys archives will be able to help a great deal. You can get in touch via their website https://customer.powys.gov.uk/article/1930/Research-family-history )
- Have a look around!
There are lots of excellent free resources used by genealogists – here is a small selection:
www.freebmd.org.uk for some birth, marriage and death indexes for England and Wales.
www.familysearch.org for the vast international genealogy website run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
www.cyndislist.com – a genealogical gateway, containing a wealth of information and links to hundreds of websites.