What is family history? The alternative guide – review, review and review again
What if missing family history information is already at your fingertips? In the latest in our blog series, Paul Chiddicks takes a look at how going over information already in your possession might just yield some valuable clues.
Welcome back to this month’s blog and I hope that you are enjoying the slightly different approach to family history that I am taking and that you are finding my blogs both interesting and useful.
Today we are looking at the purpose of regularly reviewing your work. We will also look at generally reviewing your family history material, such as old photographs, which can lead to unexpected benefits.
So why do we constantly need to review things? So let’s assume that you have followed my advice from September’s blog and carried out the suggested Google searches.The suggestions here will help you before you progress onto this month’s blog and the ideas we will pursue here and the benefits this can bring.
Repeat your searches
New content is always being added online, so it therefore makes sense to periodically carry out the same repeated online searches again. I recently reviewed the British Newspaper Archives website and was thrilled to find new material had been added about my grandfather Horace Chiddicks.
Can you remember what searches you carried out last month? If not, keep a log or list somewhere of the searches that you used previously. That way you can regularly carry out your checks and not miss any updates or changes.
All of the well-known genealogy sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past are constantly adding new material, normally on a weekly basis, so it makes perfect sense for you to also review this new material with your tree, because your tree is a growing project. Find My Past alone claims to add thousand of new records every single week.
Old documents… new clues
Also consider the anonymous visitor listed on that census return, at the time you had no idea who it was. Is this visitor now a new addition to your tree? I had one anonymous visitor on a census return that several years later was found to be married into my direct line, so the clues might already be there.
Go back and take a look at the information on your BMD certificates, In particular, the marriage certificates and death certificates. The mystery informant on that death certificate that you ordered two years ago might actually be somebody that you have recently added to your tree. Those unknown witnesses to your ancestor’s marriage might actually be related, by marriage, to your family, so go and grab those certificates and re-check those names just in case.
We can sometimes overlook these witnesses or informants in our eagerness to pursue the main detail in a certificate, so try to get into the habit of carrying out a regular review of what’s in your tree, census and certificates. You might just find something that you had overlooked before.
Target your searches
Print out a genealogy report in your family history program, if you use one, look at any gaps and make out a “to do” list to try and fill those gaps. This list will help you focus and prioritise the gaps you need to fill. This list will help you concentrate your efforts in the right areas. However, don’t be frightened of diving off following an ancestor that grabs your imagination, as long as you know where the gaps are, you can follow whoever you want too!
Take a look at the old photographs in your family history collection; do you know who everyone is? Have the pictures been clearly labelled who’s who? If not, why not set aside a cold wet afternoon and give yourself the task of labelling your photographs, to preserve the information for future generations. If you can, encourage younger members of your family to join you in the task, it’s a great way to introduce family history to your children, or grand children.
I will be looking at forums in more detail in next month’s blog, but regularly check any forums that you are a member of, for regular updates and the latest news, these forums will keep you up to date with what’s happening in the genealogy world and also the specific areas of special interest that they cover.
Social media such as facebook or twitter can be a goldmine for information, so a regular check on your social media “feeds” is a must. Social media has a big part to play in the future of our hobby, use it wisely and it can help you immensely. I will cover the benefits of using social media in more detail in a future blog.
Finally, one last review… why not review your old copies of Family Tree magazine, there are always stacks of info packed in each copy, so as your tree grows and you discover new information about your ancestors, take a trip down memory lane and have a look through your old magazines. You just never know what you might find.
Let me know how you get on…
Researching the names: Chiddicks in Essex; Daniels in Dublin; Keyes in Prittlewell; Wootton in Herefordshire and London; Jack in Scotland.
(pen image copyright Antonia Litterio)