I have become trying to build a my family tree on the Ancestry website and it’s sucked me in somewhat. It’s a two-week free membership so that’s probably how long my interest will last but it’s been quite entertaining so far.
I started with a basic tree that my Nana drew for my Mum (most first and last names plus year of birth for a few generations) and using that I’ve already managed to go back one or two more generations in a few places as well. I’ve also been working with a basic tree that R’s Gran drew for him from memory and that’s been a lot harder simply by virtue of his family originating in Scotland and lots of common names but very few dates.
So, if I were able to give my ancestors (and R’s) a bit of advice to help me (because of course it’s all about me…) find and catalogue them it would definitely include:
- use middle names, the more the better – this especially applies when you are naming your child something like ‘Ann Brown’, she won’t be the only one! Unusual middle names are great too – ‘Christmas’ as one of two middle names certainly narrows the field;
- have loads of children who themselves have lots of children, this will ensure lots of people looking for information on the same ancestors so more chance of finding something out;
- don’t live in Scotland – so much harder to find people in the records, or maybe it’s just that R’s relatives didn’t follow either step above…
- why not give your children the name you plan to call them as a first name rather than a middle name (my Mum’s only just found out through me that her aunt was known by her middle name and had a first name she’s not even sure her cousins know about as did her husband!);
- living in the same place for generations is helpful – calling that place by three different names in the census returns is a little more confusing.
So I’ve got back to the 1700s in some cases but still no famous or royal relatives – I suppose somebody has to have a bog standard family tree.