For the time being, I’ll be posting regularly with ideas for building your family tree at home – still with the emphasis on money-saving, of course.
Years ago, I heard some sound advice on how to go about starting to build your family tree.
Step 1: It involves a shoebox, so if you have one, go and get it now.
Then, go around the house collecting those photographs, letters, certificates, postcards, and any other family mementos that you've kept or inherited over the years – specifically those with information on them that will give you clues as to the identity or activities of your ancestors.
This could turn into a treasure hunt. Found a school report card? That might have some hints about the pupil’s age. Medical card? It should have a date of birth on it. A wedding anniversary party invite will let you calculate the year someone was married.
Once you have a reasonable amount of material to go on, draw up a family tree chart and add the details from your box of memories. Use pencil and paper, a computer program, or a marker and some wallpaper - whether you choose a spare roll or something already in use is up to you.
Step 2: It’s a basic principle of family history to begin with what you have at home, including your own recollections and knowledge as well as those of your immediate family. Jot down what you know or remember about your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then move on to talk to the rest of the family. Make notes or recordings of what they say, then follow up by comparing what you've learned with official records (either the ones in your box, or online).
Old photos can be a great memory-jogger, for yourself and for the elderly relatives. If you’re really lucky, somebody was an amateur movie-maker and made loads of Super 8 film or camcorder footage which has ended up in your loft – ideal for a family cinema night, complete with popcorn and ice cream.
☙ Next time, I’ll be sharing some suggestions for free websites that you can use to build on what you’ve found at home, and to verify what you’ve been told about the family. ☙