Tuesday's Tip: Introduction to family history

Genealogy is a study of pedigrees, a collection of names and dates, which trace a family line back through the past. 

  • When were they born? 
  • Who and when did they marry? 
  • How many children did they have and when were they born? 
  • When and where did they die? 
It's about establishing and proving relationships.

For some people genealogy is enough, their challenge is to go back as far as they can, but they know comparatively little about the people they are researching other than the facts.

Family history is a continuation of genealogy, in that it is also the research into the social history of the family. 

  • What did they do for a living? What was involved in their job?
  • What schooling did they have, and where? 
  • What events were happening around them during various periods of their lives? 
  • Why, when and how did they emigrate? 
  • Where are they buried?
- Its all about social, political, military, religious and cultural history.

Family history is about the stories.

Your library will have copies of “how to guides” that can get you started.

Genealogy is the skeleton
Family history is the flesh on the bones

Setting up your research

Note what you know in a pedigree chart - download our free Pedigree chart from our Resources page. 

Charting what you know allows you to spot the gaps.

Choose a genealogical software program that suits you.

Genealogy software programmes are complex database software programs that use a language called GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication). 

Because genealogical programs use a common language, this makes sharing of information really easy.

Choices depend on budget and circumstance.
No computer? Try an online one, via a website.


  • Portable, you can access where ever you have internet access
  • Other people can usually search your Family Trees to see if you have common ancestors (but don’t forget to verify other people’s research)
  • Usually free, with upgradeable options if you decide to spend money later
  • Uses GEDCOM so if you later decide to download your family tree to your own software program you can
  • Its the internet, so things like privacy and control of your own info could be an issue
  • You need to be sure that the website you are going with is one that is going to be around for a while, and what will it mean to you if they start charging for access or decide not to run their site any more
However, people wanting to undertake this hobby seriously, will need a computer.

For your own software, whether free or purchased, you will need to do your own research to decide what’s right for you.

Read some reviews and decide which to invest your time (and maybe money) into. Remember, though the old “you get what you pay for” is often true. Although you don’t need to spend big bucks necessarily, it would do to remember that “free” products are usually limited in some way.

Cyndislist.com is a good resource for all things genealogical, so try this page for software reviews: 
http://www.cyndislist.com/software.htm or

Keep a research notebook, note the person you are researching, where you have looked, and what information you found. Transfer this into your genealogical database.
Filing your paperwork is immensely important. Number your subjects:-

• your most recent subject is number 1,

father = no.2, mother = 3,

• fraternal grandfather = no. 4, fraternal grandmother = no.5;

• maternal grandfather = no. 6, maternal grandmother = no. 7
Keep a master folder for each branch with family group sheets inside, to act as your index.

Create another folder for each family member once they get married, and start collecting their info as they create their own family groups.

Colour code your stationery (folders, document wallets, boxes etc) for each branch so you can tell which line they belong to at a glance (blue, red, green, yellow for example).

Keep very good notes, and make sure you record where you got the information from, recording volume number and page/folio numbers etc.

If its anecdotal information, cite who that person is and how they say they came across the info. Try to prove or disprove the story.

What to do with the information?

Share your research with your family.

Consider publishing your family tree online.

Even if you’d decided not to assemble the information online via a website when starting out, consider uploading the GEDCOM information when you are a bit more experienced.

There are many websites out there that encourage you to share your data.
If you are comfortable enough with this idea, then it is a splendid way of finding relatives, by having them find you.

Consider also sharing via Facebook. Which is a whole other session by itself.

Consider publishing your research in a book. - Remember to donate a copy to your library!

Happy hunting


This entry was posted on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 and is filed under ,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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