Relatively speaking: tips and tricks for family history

Newbury Branch meeting Wed 13th September 2016

Speaker: Susan Ellis

Susan Ellis, who formerly worked at Newbury Library, began her research at an early age, prompted by her grandfather’s family history studies. She has rectified several errors during her own research.

         Her talk dealt with sources that are mainly free, and not online. Her advice was basic, so family historians at any level could make use of it.

         Start by establishing what you know to be correct, and moving forward, or more probably backwards, from those known facts. Memorabilia within the family can be used to expand your history. Libraries offer information about the area our ancestors lived in, their housing and surroundings, to raise your history from just a series of names and dates. Items belonging to your ancestors are especially useful, such as certificates, ID cards, medals, badges, or anything else belonging to them.

         It is also useful to talk to older relatives, and note down their anecdotes. Often they will be mistaken, but sometimes not. Sue recommended using Excel to draw up a simple family history chart. Later, you may wish to use a computer programme for this.

         She covered the basic on line data of census, BMD records, and the 1939 register as relevant sources, noting that many records were free to access, Freecen, and Freebmd for instance. Later it might be worth a visit to The National Archives and record offices, and to consult directories in libraries or elsewhere.

         It was a captivating talk giving much food for thought, particularly about some of the more neglected resources.


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