Week 3 of our genealogy bootcamp - rev up your family history research
Discover new research ideas and tips for finding your ancestors fast in week 3 of our genealogy bootcamp.
Day 14 Super-charge your search results
Ensure that you maximize your online research by learning some family history hacks for online research. Don’t always go for a global search, which could return hundreds of results. Check whether the site you’re using allows wildcard searches, such as typing the start of a name, eg ‘Smi’ and then putting an asterisk, to enable a search of various spellings of a name.
Find out whether the website has a category for search tips, which might be unique to that database, and consider searching within a single category or collection, which can often return better results than a global search.
Day 15 See the streets where your ancestors lived
Don’t just content yourself with finding your forebears on the census, enliven your research by looking for old maps of the street or village where they lived. Not only might you find their actual house, you can also explore what places were nearby during the time your ancestor lived in the area, and how it changed over time, for example, starting as a small hamlet and expanding with the coming of the railways.
There are several subscription websites that offer old maps from around the UK, and excellent free-of-charge resources including the National Library of Scotland which covers the whole of the UK. Local history libraries and record offices will also hold historic maps of the areas they cover.
Day 16 Family history and YouTube
Not just for videos of cats doing acrobatics, YouTube is used as a communication method by many well-known family history organisations. Visit the homepage to get exploring, experimenting with different keywords. If you find a video you like, click subscribe for updates when new content is added from that YouTuber. The site also shows suggestions for similar videos you might enjoy.
Day 17 Safeguard the future of our hobby
Share the joy of family history by introducing someone to tracing their roots, or helping out by answering a query on an online forum or query board. If your enthusiasm for tracing your ancestors has piqued the interest of a family member or friend, get involved in helping them draw up a basic tree and find that first generation of ancestors.
Day 18 Collaborate
Is someone else tracing your family line? You may have distant relatives somewhere out there who are researching the same ancestors as you. But how would you ever know this? Consider uploading your family tree to one of the major family history websites and anyone else with the same ancestors will be able to find and contact you.
You could also consider the field of one-name studies, so that when you submit details of the family you’re tracing, you’ll be put in touch with other researchers with the same interests. The Guild of One Name Studies has a database of 10,000 surnames.
Most family history societies offer a research interests service to their members, whereby you submit your surnames and dates of interest, which will then be cross-referenced against the society’s file of other researchers.
Day 19 Find some living relatives
Instead of looking backwards in time, move your research in a new direction by looking for new relatives who may have information about your ancestors. If you’ve subscribed to a family tree website such as Ancestry or Findmypast you’ll be able to sign up for a tree match service where you can be put in touch with people tracing the same family line. Alternatively, a DNA family history could put you in touch with living kin.
Day 20 Plan a genealogy road trip
Give yourself a treat to look forward to by planning your very own genealogy road trip. This could be anything from a trip overseas to the land where your ancestors were born, to a visit to a village in another county which has family history connections. Before you go, study local maps, identify historic buildings and check on the whereabouts of local museums and libraries for research possibilities.
Day 21 Create a memory box
Distill the essence of your family’s story into a memory box for you and your family to enjoy, and to benefit your descendants. Choose an acid-free box which will protect the precious contents and then have fun choosing old photos, treasured pieces of jewellery, war service records, and so on, to sum up the memorable moments of family members over the years. Leave some room for future treasures from the present day.
Day 22 Research an heirloom
Do you have a family treasure that you’d love to know more about? Whether it’s a pottery vase of a piece of gold jewellery, the item should have clues that you can follow up. You could begin by asking older family members if they know anything of the item’s provenance. Then hit the books, using an antiques price guide, to see what you can discover.
Some local history museums offer an advisory service for old items, or keep an eye out for antiques TV or radio shows filming near you and take them item along – you could literally have a real treasure on your hands.
Love learning new family history skills? Book your tickets for Family Tree Live and come and learn a whole lot more!
(image shows Alnwick Marketplace and is copyright Tuck DB Postcards)