Researching family history is one of the most popular pastimes in this country, with thousands enjoying the challenge of tracing their family roots. You are never too young or too old to start.
Searching for your ancestors can be hugely rewarding, but at times it can be frustrating. We can offer advice on how to obtain the documents that are available (birth, marriage and death certificates) and where to find the records that can be searched (parish records and censuses}.
The first thing is to draw up a family tree of your immediate family showing how you are related. Talk to the members of your family and gather as much information as you can about each person, their dates of birth, marriage and death. Where possible, talk to parents and grandparents who will have vital knowledge of the generation before them. Add the information that you find to your family tree and watch it grow.
All families have stories and myths, many sound far-fetched. Do not discount them, equally do not accept them at face value. Make a note of the details and investigate further as and when you can.
How much detail you include in your family history is up to you, and will depend on how much time you can devote to your research. In addition to the dates of birth, marriage and death, try to find out where your ancestors lived, their education, what schools they went to, their jobs or careers. See how your family's position in society has changed over the years. Your ancestors may have been very rich or so poor they spent time in the workhouse. They may have served in the armed forces and fought in wars abroad. They may have been awarded medals for bravery; they may have been recognised for their public service.
Important information can often be found in family heirlooms, such as the family Bible, or in diaries, mementos, photographs, letters, certificates and newspaper cuttings.
Good record keeping is essential. Make a note of the source of each item. Whether you record the details on paper or on a computer, create a system that is accurate and easy to access. Record unsuccessful searches too, this will save you time in the future as you won't revisit matters you've already investigated.