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F2 Family Tree

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Aim: To give young people an introduction into tracing their family history. Taken from the BB Company Section Discoverer Pro Pack F2, Skills - Interests


Activity 1
Researching Your Family Tree template


Activity 1 - First Steps

Aim: To collate oral family facts.

Give the following instructions to The young people:

• Using the Researching Your Family Tree’ template, write down everything known about yourself and your family! Focus on full names, dates of birth, marriage and death, and where these events occurred — geography will play an important part in your research as you attempt to locate relatives who may not be familiar to you.
• Next it’s time to talk to the family. Start with parents, uncles and aunts and then work back a generation if you can. The aim is always to find out names, dates and places, and you should be able to compile a fair amount of information about your grandparents’ grandparents, people you are unlikely to have met. You may find some of your relatives are reluctant to talk about aspects of their lives, and this is when you have to remember that there are some things that will be off limits.
• An important part of the research process will be to verify’ what you have heard. Dates and events can often get muddled with the passing of time. For example, Uncle Jack Smith may well have been born Michael John Smith; and non-relatives are often accorded uncle’ or aunt status, so be prepared to do a bit of pruning of your family tree.

Tips / Advice:
Allow young people to take a copy of the template home. This will act as an aid in building the foundations of their Family Tree.

Activity 2 - Look for Physical Clues

Aim: To research physical objects and data.

Give the following instructions to the young people:
Once you have obtained as much oral history about your family as you can, it’s time to widen the search to include physical objects. You will be amazed at the amount of documentation you can uncover simply by asking if you can look through drawers, boxes and files (one person’s ‘rubbish’ is another’s treasure trove!). In particular, keep an eye out for personal documents, e.g. certificates of birth, marriage and death, wills, employment records, pension payments, military service papers and other miscellanea. These items will allow you to piece together the outline of your ancestors’ lives, as well as provide clues as to what they did and where they did it!

Birth and death certificates are particularly important, as they are essentially the building blocks’ of your family tree. Since 1837, every birth, marriage and death has to be registered, although many people didn’t bother until the law was tightened up in 1875, and a copy of each certificate was handed to the informant. This means that all your ancestors who were born, married and died would have generated this paperwork, and the documents are often retained in families, alongside other official papers such as wills. These are particularly poignant, as they reveal what your ancestors’ last wishes were, how their possessions were to be distributed and who their closest friends and family were.

Photographs can also hold vital clues. If they exist, it is worth talking to your relatives to see if they can name any of the people, and make sure you then note down who the people are either on the back of a copy in pencil, or by photocopying or scanning the photo into your computer and labelling it. Letters are another incredibly personal source of information, so be tactful when asking about family correspondence. Keep an eye out for other objects of interest — family heirlooms such as bibles often have entire family trees inscribed inside the cover. All of these items are part of your personal heritage, and will have their own story to tell about their former owners.

Activity 3 - Organise the Data

Aim: To create a family tree record.

Give the following instructions to The young people:

Once you have gathered together as much information as you can, it’s time to arrange it into a family tree. Essentially, this is a map of your roots, a diagram that shows at a glance how your family are related to one another. Start with a large, blank sheet of paper and write your name, including all relevant biographical details, such as date of birth. Above you go the names and relevant dates of your parents, and above them, your grandparents. As you work up the tree, you are going back in time, generation by generation, and doubling the number of direct ancestors you find. Therefore you have four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great grandparents, and so on. You maybe surprised how little information you know about some of these people, and may simply know a name and possibly a date of death (marked ‘d’). This is the whole point of drawing up a family tree, as it makes you realise where the gaps in your knowledge lie, and this will help you to develop a research plan.

It is important to keep an accurate master copy of your family tree, on which you update all research results at the end of each trip to the archives, library or online search. Date the tree each time you amend it, and keep previous copies, just in case you make a mistake in your research — that way you can go back to an accurate version and start again, It’s also useful to make copies of sections of your family tree to take with you when you venture on a research trip — it’s easy to get confused when you start working in archives for the first time, or even to look at the wrong family, so your family tree can help focus your mind on the task in hand.

Activity 4 - Develop a Research Strategy

Aim: To start to find the missing Information.

Give the following instructions to the young people:

Its up to you to decide what you do next, but most people concentrate on filling some of The gaps in their family tree. First, though, it is always sensible to double check the information you’ve already been given, so you should ensure that all the names, dates and places are correct by checking the information against official records — particularly The indexes to birth, marriage and death certificates.

• Many of these can be found online at websites such as w,w.findmypast.com or w’ww.ancestry.co.uk, though you can usually find copies at your nearest county archive, local studies centre or at the Family Records Centre, London. The next step is to work back in time and use The information contained in certificates and census returns (1841-1911) to discover new and previously unknown relatives. However, this is not the only way to proceed; you may have heard an interesting story about a particular ancestor, or want to concentrate on only a couple of people in more detail. This may mean a trip to a more specialist archive or institution. Either way, both routes will keep you busy and you will soon see why family history is so addictive.

There are plenty of ways to get assistance with researching a family tree. For a start, there are numerous books, magazines and trade journals in circulation that offer advice and practical tips about all aspects of family history. Most can be bought in major bookstores and newsagents. You can also access the research library of the Society of Genealogists in London, where you may even discover that someone has already done some research on a branch of your family !

• Finally, many archives provide lists of independent researchers, who can save you time and money by undertaking specialist research for a fee. This is particularly useful if the collections are hard to understand, or are a long way from where you live.

For full details see the BB Discoverer Pro Pack Skills F2


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