I am still a relative newcomer to genealogy and family history. I have been tracing my family history in earnest for only 3 years and I have been surprised and often very excited at how much I have discovered in this seemingly short time.
When I first started my research I thought it would merely be a matter of obtaining all the Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates that were available. From these I would discover the names of my ancestors, where they were born, where they were married, where they died, and that would be that. How wrong I was! Of course, this is one way of doing it and that is quite OK if it is just the bare bones of your genealogy that you are looking for. However, I was totally unaware of how easily one can become completely hooked on the whole process and how interesting the search can become when one comes up against brick walls and the unexpected twists and turns of your family’s fortunes. New lives opened up before me and eras of history that I knew little about became areas of interest and research.
This widening interest was initially triggered by the many seminars offered by the Genealogical Society of QLD (GSQ). These sessions opened my eyes to the possibility that family research is made much more interesting and alive when one knows the social and political climate of the times. This can include fashion, customs, education, social and working conditions, discoveries and inventions, weather and climate and many more. There is scope for looking at the times in an overall holistic way or burrowing down into a specific area of interest and researching that in great detail.
Once I had discovered how broad my research could be I came to realise how valuable it is to use every available resource and to keep looking out for new avenues. There is always something that you may not have known about and there are always new areas becoming available online and in book form. Also, new topics are being offered at seminars and information sessions, and old topics are being revisited.
As I am a member of GSQ I am always notified of upcoming events and there are many throughout the year. There are also knowledgeable and helpful research volunteers at GSQ who are always able to help you with your research and suggest new possibilities when you feel you have gone as far as you can in one area or with one particular ancestor. However, in the last year or so I have also joined the State Library of Queenslandand the Queensland State Archives. As a result, I am now notified of upcoming events at these venues and I can register to attend. Mind you, you have to be quick to get a place at some of these sessions as they are very popular and seating is limited. Earlier this year I missed out on a seminar titled “Shackled: Queensland’s First Female Convicts”, at the Queensland State Archives. Apparently, it booked up within a few days. However, a video link to this presentation will soon be available. The State Archives has another useful video link (webinar) for family historians called “Family History Discoveries at the Archives”. There is a link to this from their Home Page.
Last week I attended a session at the State Library of Queensland called “ Finding British Ancestors Using the British 19thCentury Newspaper Database”. At this session the library staff demonstrated how to navigate the “British Library Newspapers” collection. This collection contains full runs of 48 newspapers which the British Library considered would best represent nineteenth century Britain. It includes national and regional newspapers as well as some from the manufacturing Midlands and Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This was an extremely informative session and has given me a whole new avenue of research for my English and Irish ancestors.
In the past few months, whenever I attend my local library – which is very regularly I must admit – I have acquired the habit of randomly choosing a couple of genealogy magazines to take home with me. They are the UK Family Treemagazine and the Australian Family Tree Connections. These magazines make for very interesting reading and also contain a lot of articles that can help with solving ongoing problems. Just recently I selected the December 2015 edition of the UK “Family Tree” magazine. When I opened it up and began to read it at home I was very happy to discover that there was a very informative article about UK Censuses titled “Making the most of the Census”. I found this extremely helpful as I had recently been researching some of my ancestors via the UK censuses and had been puzzled as to why I could not find some of them and why there seemed to be contradictions with the names and ages of others. This article explained in detail why this may have happened and what to do in such circumstances. Now I have another avenue to continue along. All is not lost! This same edition also had an article called “ How to get better database results”, which was full of helpful ideas for extending and refining searches on family history databases. Just one edition of one family history magazine has enabled me to search databases more efficiently and to also search UK censuses more knowledgeably. By pure chance, the Australian Family Tree Magazine that I selected at the same time, which is the March 2015 edition, has an article by Gary Dyson titled “When was the UK census taken? Are they a worthwhile resource?” It is a coincidence that I should randomly choose two magazines with topics about censuses at a time when our Census has just been held and is so much in the news this time for various reasons. Gary Dyson’s article is also very informative and filled with helpful research suggestions.
In my opinion there is always a different approach to take, something new to know and somewhere else to look. I hope these few examples have shown this. I will continue to be on the look out for every opportunity to attend seminars and watch webinars and I will look forward to every visit to the library to select another copy of a genealogy magazine. I hope you will feel encouraged to do the same.