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  1. #1

    Default Organising Your Family History

    It's taken me a long long time to get myself organised, no system is perfect, believe me! Mine has evolved and been adapted over the years, normally when I have been unable to find something when I needed it most, or I have downloaded or ordered a certificate twice!

    I have added pictures and written up how my system works. I use a lot of templates and sheets that I have made for myself, if anybody wants a copy of any of these, don't hesitate to give me a shout.
    Last edited by Lesley Robertson; 30-01-2020 at 2:57 PM. Reason: Url inactivated as per TOC and previous requests from Mods to do it

  2. #2
    Newcomer to Brit-Gen
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Southend on Sea


    Good Morning Chiddicks

    I have just started researching my family, unfortunately both my parents are no longer with me, and all my grandparents died before I was born. Although I think I have made a good start I seem to be jumping around quite a lot with no real direction, any tips you could provide would be much appreciated, also I would love to look and probably use you templates, at the moment I just have a note book which is not really organised.
    My email is Steve DOT mutch359 AT icloud DOT com

    At the moment I am using Ancestry and am searching the Mutch, Addy and Styles family. My family tree is Stephen Jhn Mutch


    Steve M
    Last edited by Pam Downes; 31-03-2020 at 6:50 AM. Reason: Email address disguised to deter spammers

  3. #3
    Super Moderator - Completely bonkers and will never change.
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Hello Steve,

    Welcome to British-Genealogy.

    As chiddicks correctly says, it can take a long while to find a way of recording your family history that suits you.

    I found the key was to make four spreadsheets, one for each grandparent's family name. Going down the page I added people in that family, and then going across there's the 1841-1911 census, 1939 Register, birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial columns. In recent years, as more records have become available online I've added columns for military service, wills, electoral registers, school records, and newspapers.

    On the spreadsheets I record the dates of the BMD plus baptisms and deaths, and mark the census columns with an O (for original document) once I have downloaded the census image.

    I then have a page for each person (mine's online, rather than a notebook) and I then expand the information. So for a birth it will include details of the quarter, years, registration district, volume and page numbers. And obviously, if I have the actual birth certificate, then details from it. Baptism will say the church, page and entry numbers, and the details from the entry. On the spreadsheet, as well as entering the baptism date, I will use a background colour to differentiate whether I have that information from a copy of the parish register or whether it was from a transcript. Transcripts can be wrong, so by checking the spreadsheet I can easily see which documents I (ideally) still need to actually see to make sure the details are correct.
    A tip: you should always transcribe what is written in the record. If the baptism register for instance spells the name as Fredrick Woodle, that's how you record it, even though every other record you have says Frederick Woodhall.

    It is recommended that you obtain the BMD certificates for your direct ancestors. Even with the less common names it's surprising how many times you can find say, a Downes marrying a Buckenham. This is the site you need for ordering certificates.
    With what are classed as 'historical' births (1837-1919) and deaths (1837-1957) you have the option of ordering a black-and-white PDF copy of the certificate for seven quid, as opposed to eleven quid for a fancy, full-colour, one.
    The GRO site also has the advantage of giving the mother's maiden name for births prior to September quarter 1911, and age at death prior to 1866, details missing from the original GRO Index. Always use in conjunction with FreeBMD which has wider and better options for searching using wild cards.
    FreeBMD is not yet a complete transcription of the GRO Index 1837-1983, but it is mostly complete, and is now being extended to 1992.

    Try to be methodical in your work. I like to work on one person at a time, completing as many details about them as possible.

    None of the subscription sites (Ancestry, Findmypast, The Genealogist) will have all the records you need. Ancestry and/or FMP may be available for free at your local library. You can take out a fourteen-day free trial with both of them but make sure you untick the auto-renew box otherwise your bank account will get a rude awakening.

    Other sites will could be useful are
    Again, none of them will have all the records you want, and you have to create a (free) account on FamilySearch before you can start looking.

    Happy searching, and if you get stuck, just come back and yell.

    Vulcan XH558 - “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”


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