How to get started with family history

Think of your family’s history as one big jigsaw puzzle. You may have a couple or even several pieces of the puzzle but you don’t know what the picture is. Blacktown City Libraries has put together this guide for beginners, like yourself, to give you a starting point with your research into your family history.

Work backwards

The first thing you should do is write down everything you know about your family, starting with yourself and your parents, and working backwards to your grandparents, then great grandparents and so on.

Collect and arrange

Collect all family records at home, remember to include dates and places of births, marriages and deaths and any other information you can find. Analyse what you have collected and arrange it in some logical form.

Using a pedigree chart will help to organise your information, you can print or download one from many internet sites.

If you find gaps in your research start talking to other family members like grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, they may be able to fill in some of those gaps.When interviewing relatives it is a good idea to tape the conversation, with their permission, this way you will not miss any information.

Find a focus

Choose a family or ancestor you need more information about. Check what pieces of information are missing from the information you already have and focus your search on those missing bits.

Check for existing sources

See if someone else has already found the information. Check the library catalogues and the internet to see if there is a published history of your family. Check registers of towns you know your ancestors lived in.

Conduct your search

Births, Deaths, and Marriage indexes are the primary base of records and a good starting point.

In Australia, civil registration (the requirement to notify government authorities of births, deaths and marriages) only started in the mid 1800s. Prior to this time you may have to rely on church records.

When searching Australian BD&M indexes it is important to know when a particular colony was proclaimed or separated from NSW, and the date on which civil registration began.