Last week we looked at the different websites available to help you locate your relatives. Now I’d like to share some practical examples and experiences from researching my own family tree on Ancestry.com.

Ancestry offers a free trial, which can then be cancelled or upgraded to one of their subscription packages. The cheapest of these subscriptions offers you the ability to look up birth/death/marriage details, census records and the ability to connect with others. Then you can unlock military and parish records. Their most expensive and premium subscription opens up their entire library, including newspapers and worldwide records as well, which is essential for finding relatives overseas.

Putting a family tree together with or without the aid of a website can be pretty daunting, but Ancestry makes it easy, with simple-to-navigate layout, and online help.

Begin by clicking on Family Trees and a drop down box appears, you will need to ‘start a new tree’ You can add as many trees as you like, which means you can search for your own family or your partners and even a friends if you wanted to. Adding your family is as simple as it sounds, starting with yourself and going up a generation at a time, depending on the information you have or wish to trace. For my own research I wanted to find out more about my mothers side so we followed that side only. The website will prompt you as you go.

family treeEach person you add will automatically gain their own profile, which you can then click on and add events to, (eg marriage). You can also add a spouse or child by clicking on the add family member button. Adding a photo not only makes it more personal, but it will visually aid a search for that person. Once you have entered all the known information on your family it is time to begin searching. Its is important to only add confirmed facts at this point, as something as simple as an incorrect initial can make a huge difference when searching.

Searching can be a minefield. Sometimes less can be more… For example if you have a first and last name that is usually enough to find certain records, adding middle names can actually prevent you from finding someone as some records contain only initials and many people transposed their names back in the day without bothering with the legalities like deed-poll. Add to that spelling mistakes and/or bad handwriting and its enough to throw you way off… Start simple with a simply, then add to it bit by bit. If the search brings back thousands of people, refine it slightly and search again. Once you are happy you have found the right record you can add this to your tree or save it to your shoebox for later.

The shoebox can be found on your home page and stores everything you want to download but either aren’t sure of, or don’t have time to add, or things that may not fit directly to your tree in the moment. Its very easy to end up with lots of information very quickly as the site will suggest new searches to you all the time. It will also automatically add a little green leaf to your tree if it detects the same or similar information elsewhere on the site – you can view these at your leisure and either add them to your tree or delete them if they are unconnected.

Also on your homepage are links to your recent activity, a ‘To do list’ so you can keep vital notes and links to the most recent records that have been added to the ancestry site.

Another way to find out more is via the message boards, which you will find in the ‘Collaborate’ drop down menu. Here you can find tips and guides to creating your family tree and searches, and also messages from members seeking others by area or name. You can also ask a specific question here or try and find a link to other family members

If you get stuck there is also a learning section, where you can pick up tips on how to get the results you need, there also are video presentations and step by step guides on every part of genealogy. There are even links to hire an expert, to publish your findings or buy a subscription as a gift for a loved one.

I hope this has taken some of the mystery and confusion out of genealogy for you and you feel you can now take those first steps into documenting your family history. Once you take that leap you will find it becomes so much easier, and the things you will find out as you go along will spur you on to finding the next generation.

Looking into my own past has brought out so many different feelings, happiness at finding that distant relative with very little information. Stifled giggles when we discovered both bigamy and an over-friendly maid who ended up with child to a lord. Then a moment of sadness and humility when I discovered a twelve year old boy, named William, “owned” by another family member, it certainly opens your eyes.

As I mentioned last week, time is the one thing you will need by the bucket load as once the door to the past is open, addiction soon follows!

Guest author: Connie Cook

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, February 13th 2015,© Casslar Consulting SL

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