3rd Dec, 2016

Who do you think you are? Top tips to tracking your family history listed

Shaun Reynolds 12th Apr, 2016 Updated: 21st Oct, 2016

WHO DO You Think You Are? A survey has revealed that 71 per cent of people could only name two or fewer of their great grandparents – and only 11 per cent could name all eight of them.

This year, instead of an Easter trail, families are being encouraged to trace back their family archives.

Despite temptation to hop online, a Coventry expert has advised families to contact living relatives to see what gaps they can fill in.

Tony Doughty, from the Family History Society, said: “Although it’s tempting to hop online and start googling your surname straightaway it really isn’t a good way to kick off your research and you could end up wasting a lot of time.

“It’s best to start with a targeted approach – write down what you know already and get in touch with family members to see what gaps they can fill in.”

Here are the top five tips for delving into your past:

1. CONTACT LIVING RELATIVES

Some of the best material you will come across as a family historian will be in the possession of other family members. #

Start with the oldest members of your family but don’t ignore cousins or your parents’ cousins.

Even experienced family historians can benefit from looking at lines of descent and contacting more distant cousins.

2. WORK BACKWARDS

It’s important in family history to begin with yourself and work backwards.

Your research needs to be built on solid foundations or you could waste a lot of time researching people who aren’t your ancestors!

3. DOCUMENT YOUR SOURCES

You need to be really organised in family history to keep track of everything.

Most online family tree builders allow you to attach digital copies of records to facts or at least a clear note as to how you came by the information.

It’s also worth recording where you have looked for documents you haven’t found so you don’t waste time repeating searches.

4. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH

It has become easy to benefit from the research of others, but be sensible.

With just one click you can attach ‘facts’ you have found on other people’s family trees to your own, but make sure you record where this ‘fact’ has come from.

Either contact the other person and ask them if they can share their evidence, or search for it yourself.

5. KEEP AN OPEN MIND

There are millions of records online, but it’s not always easy to pinpoint the one you want.

If you can’t find a document you are sure should exist, then try different spellings, different record sets or look for other family members.

The important thing is to know the extent of the record set you are searching. The hunt is all part of the fun of family history!

Who Do You Think You Are live is running at the NEC between Thursday (April 7) and Saturday (April 9).

To book tickets, visit www.whodoyouthinkyouarelive.com