Genealogy - Unlock Your Family's Past
You must always start with the last known generation, and then work
backwards. At the beginning this is you, and so write down what you already
know about the family. Include approximate dates were possible and find any
family photographs or records such as birth, death or marriage certificates
that you have. Carefully file these away as they will soon be added to. When
this is completed, do the same thing with your immediate family, and repeat
the process with your other relatives. It will be particularly interesting
when talking to the older family members, their memories will give you an
insight into a nearly forgotten way of life which you can now record to pass
on to younger generations. At this stage you may come across some extremely
interesting photographs of relatives that you didn't even know existed. Its
also worth looking at a family Bible, letters or diaries which may contain
useful notes. Family wills can be another good source of information.
||Old photographs are extremely
useful, they not only breathe new life into long-gone
people, but can help to jog people's memories and provide
one of the few family resources that can easily be copied.
Everyone in the family likes to have a collection of old
The family Tree
Now is a good time to draw the start of your family
tree using the information so far obtained. If you managed to get copies of
most of the birth, marriage and death certificates within the family, this
should be a simple matter, as you have all of the information required to
hand. If you did not however, you can add this information later. If you
haven't already done so, now may be a good time to read some of the general
reference books on the subject, before delving into the various records that
are available. You must now decide which family branch to follow first; your
mother's or father's.
Although not as useful as census returns, electoral registers can be worth
consulting. In Staffordshire there are two types of register, the County
Register and the Borough Register. They only contain the names of people
eligible to vote, and some people may be found in one and not the other.
|A cemetery is not only a
fascinating place to explore, but also a valuable resource
for your research. Much can be found in cemetery records.
These are an extremely useful source for locating people and finding when
and where they were buried. In the 1840's and early 1850's church graveyards
were becoming dangerously overcrowded and some posed a health risk. This led
to the Burial Act of 1853 which allowed local authorities to open public
cemeteries. Most local history archives include cemetery records for
municipal cemeteries, many of which were built in the mid to late 1850's.
Before this most people were buried in Parish graveyards, many of which
adjoined the local Parish Church. Some of these records are available in
local history archives, and some in the county records office at Stafford.
Others can only be viewed at the local Parish Church, and many have not
When you start exploring beyond July 1837, before statutory
certification of births, marriages and deaths, there are
only a few sources of information, the main one being Parish
Registers. Copies of these are available at the local
history archive, or if not at the County Records office.
They vary a great deal from Parish to Parish, as they are
hand written, and often the handwriting is hard to read.
Similarly the amount of information given varies, and
sometimes abbreviations are used which can be difficult to
follow. If the family was church-going and all of their
children were baptised, it can be an extremely useful
source. Other churches also had registers which can be
equally helpful. There are Methodist registers, Presbyterian
registers, Nonconformist registers and Unitarian registers.