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How to Research Your Family Tree

Learn how to research your ancestry and build a family tree as author Hazel Edwards shares her tips for writing an entirely non-boring family history.

How To Research Your Family History

Genealogy, the study or investigation of ancestry and family histories, has become one of the fastest growing hobbies in the western world, almost as popular as gardening. Television shows such as “Who Do You Think You Are” have encouraged an interest in tracing family trees and digital databases have made records far more accessible. In fact, family history is now the second most commonly searched category of websites online! If you are interested in discovering more about your heritage, read on….

Where do I start?

According to Lauren Bourke the Community Archives Coordinator from Public Records Victoria, it is best to “begin with what you know”. Lauren suggests talking to relatives and writing down names and the dates of births, deaths and marriages as starting points. “Details such as the name of a ship or year and military service can also help flesh out the rest of the family tree” she explains.

Record Searches

The digital revolution means that many records are now electronic and available online. You can access these and hard copy records via local, state and national libraries, Public Records Offices and the National Archives. Their reading rooms provide access to passenger lists, wills, property deeds, inquests, criminal justice, education, adoption records and more.

Adding Narrative

Once you have the biographical and biological facts in place, you can add narrative with other resources. In some cases you may not be able to specifically identify your ancestor, but you can paint a picture of their life and lifestyle with secondary documents such as social or city histories from the same place and time. Ship diaries, maps and manuscripts can also provide rich detail and descriptions.

How To Research a non boring family history

Making it Non-Boring

Hazel Edwards, author of “Writing a Non Boring Family History” encourages family historians to structure their story in a logical and well organised fashion with “idea threads” to link the content. Hazel suggests the use of story techniques such as:

• A Quest – a journey to find a truth or goal

• Chronological order (but be careful not to just list dates)

• Location and Geographical settings – (for example, “The Old Country, The Journey Out and The New Country")

• Themes (eg. Entrepreneurship, Rebels, Black Sheep, Family Mottos, Religion, Politics, Mateship, Vocation or Genetic Inheritance)

• Memorabilia (Sentimental items that evoke memories)

Publishing and Sharing your Story

There are many different and creative ways to showcase and present your family history. Depending on your intended audience, possible mediums include:

• Photo Book with captions, photographs, scanned records and a family tree

• Podcast (audio) or video package including interviews with relatives

• Patchwork Quilt

• Online blog or website that can allow for comments

• Self published novel or book of letters


Want to discover your family history? Our Home Care Experts are here to help! To discover how our services can help you achieve you goals, call 1300 66 00 22

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