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Beginning Your Family History

Part One: Record everything you already know

User Avatar Penelope Lovesy 23/04/2020 23:47:13

Discovering your family history must begin with what you already know.  Do you have any photographs or documents?  Can you remember any family stories?  Do you have any older relatives who you can speak to?

Use this time to record what you can.  If you’re able, video call or telephone your older relatives, ask them questions and write down their answers.  Memories, stories and what seem like odd remarks may be useful later.

For example, when my own grandparents were alive, they used to tell me so many stories from their past.  My nana used to tell a story that her grandfather won a medal in the First World War for his bravery – he went beyond enemy lines to find water for the others in his trench. She told how in doing this he had a finger shot off.  We had never seen the medal but later, when I was much older, and researching my family, I was able to find evidence to prove that this story was true.

So, to begin:

  • What do you already know? Write down names, dates, family groups and locations.Begin with the most recent and work backwards. There is a useful template to record this information from the BBC; First Information Sheet http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/familyhistory/get_started/record_sheets.shtml
  • Do you have any documents or photos? Log what you have and, where you can, link them to the family members you have already recorded.
  • Video call or telephone relatives and note down their knowledge.
  • Write down any family stories and memories.
  • Decide which branch of your family tree you want to focus on first and create your research strategy.

Think about:

  1. Who to focus on?
  2. How far back do you want to go?
  3. What do you want to find? Names and dates only or locations, occupations and the social context.

Now you’re ready to begin. Next time we’ll explore some of the online resources you can use to start your research.

Let us know if you’re going to join us on this journey and get in touch if you uncover any interesting stories or photographs localhistory@bcpcouncil.gov.uk

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