Five easy steps to trace your family ancestry
WHERE did I come from? What secrets are locked behind my family name? What is my ancestry?
These are the questions that run through the mind when contemplating tracking your family history, and with National Family History Month upon us, the questions are more prevalent than ever!
But where do you start?
Seniors News asked Queensland Family History Society education officer Sue Reid for a simple five step guide in tracking your ancestry. And she didn't disappoint!
- Start with what you know
Document everything you know about your family. Make a list of your parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents. Record dates and places of significant events such as births, deaths, and marriages. Seek out information that may be in your home or your relatives' homes that tells you something about the family: bibles, photographs, certificates, and newspaper clippings. Note the places where you found your information. Always work from the known information to the unknown information-that is, start with yourself and work upwards and outwards. Do not pick a famous person who shares your family name and try to prove a relationship to him or her.
- Go online
A wealth of family history information is available online. Many states of Australia have indexes to births, deaths, and marriages freely accessible. Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages provides historical records. Note that a closure period applies for more recent events. City and regional councils have cemetery listing available. Brisbane City Council Grave Location has a comprehensive listing of burials in the council's cemeteries. Subscription websites are continually adding new records to their vast collection of sources. Two of these, Ancestry and findmypast, are available to search at most public libraries. Family history and genealogy societies often offer free access to these and other subscription websites to members at the society's premises.
- Use newspapers
Newspapers can provide a wealth of information including birth, marriage, death, and funeral announcements. You may be lucky enough to find a photograph of a family member getting married. Advertisements provide information about the family's business involvement. Older newspapers are being digitised and made available. Those online in Australia and New Zealand are free to use. (Australia-Trove Digitised Newspapers, New Zealand-Papers Past) Some council, state, and national libraries offer free remote access to other newspaper databases. Check their e-resources. Other newspapers are available on microfilm at state and national libraries.
- Consult archives
Each state and territory in Australia has an official archive. State and territory archives are repositories for government records. At the Queensland State Archives you can find records of land holdings, wills, publicans' licence applications, and more. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) holds records relating to all of the country. Here you might find records of twentieth century passenger arrivals and naturalisation records. One popular series of records digitised by the NAA is the service records of WWI soldiers. Users can view these at no charge. Other organisations such as schools, businesses, and churches may hold archival collections of their records.
- Work with others
Locate another family member and work together. Other researchers can be found via social media, through family history or genealogical societies, or contacted through subscription websites. A popular and emerging tool in ancestry research is DNA. People have their DNA tested and can link with others who share some of their genetic material. Join a family history or genealogical society. In Brisbane, the Queensland Family History Society and the Genealogical Society of Queensland provide friendly meeting places for like-minded people, have extensive libraries of electronic and print resources, and hold regular seminars, workshops, meetings, and classes to assist researchers with their ancestry.
Sue Reid is the Education Officer with the Queensland Family History Society