Today I want to share with you 5 great tips on how to start your family history. I got inspiration for this blog post from a BBC article (here) to which I have added my personal experience in collecting family history and stories.
1)Write down everything you and your close ones know
Try to remember as much as you can about your family. Write down all the possible information you can easily and quickly gather: places, dates, and the stories important to your family that were shared with you. When you have done that, start asking your close ones that you can easily approach (parents, siblings, grandparents) what they know and the stories they can remember. This will help you validate the info and stories you remember, and learn new or forgotten ones. As the genealogist Sara Khan said, “If your grandparents can tell you about their grandparents then you will have access to a hundred years or more of family history”.
2)Record everything you can…but respect boundaries
It is important to record as much information as you can. If you are not used to interview people, it is better to use a voice recorder when talking with your relatives. Remember that a voice recorder might not be liked by everyone, so bring with you pen and paper every time. Finally, ALWAYS respect your relatives will if they want to keep something off the records. If you have never conducted interviews I strongly suggest you to read this post on how to do it to avoid the most common mistakes!
3)Gather physical clues
Documents such as certificates, letters, and photos can help you rebuild you family history and collect the most important stories. When digital cameras did not exist, pictures were taken only in special occasions. You can use those photos to elicit memories in your relatives and gather the stories of the events and people behind a photo.
Remember to research archives and the public registry, but keep in mind that you will be able to get certificates from the Register Office only back to 1837 (link to the Register Office here). For earlier documents, you might have to go to parishes and local municipalities.
4)Share with your relatives the stories you have collected…it will speed up you research!
Involve your relatives in collecting the stories of your family. This will be great to speed up the research and to make it very enjoyable and gratifying. Your relatives will be able to add their stories and collect memories from others relatives maybe distant from you. Internet has made this very easy, and you will be able to record memories of people living far away without virtually moving from you house! Read how I started with my relatives the story of my family in this post
5)Keep your family history updated
What is the present today becomes the past tomorrow. It is important that once you have recorded the events belonging to the past you continue with your relatives in keeping track of the important events of your family: marriages, big celebrations, births, family reuninons…This way the future generations will have a detailed story of their family…all thanks to you!