As you progress with your research, recording family history should become an integral part of your process, and you should choose a system that is easy for you, and others, to understand. There are many different ways you can document and organise the information you have collected, making it easier to tell what research you have already undertaken to avoid duplicating your research, and you can easily show your research to someone else if you wish.
It is important to keep records safe, and not have too many loose sheets of paper that could be inadvertently lost or destroyed. You could divide your file into different sections, and have a section for each type of resource.
For example you may have birth, marriage and death certificates in one section, extracts from census returns in a second, church records of baptisms, marriages and burials in a third, and then any other sections for other types of documents you may discover, such as military records.
You could use one file per family, so you know where to find your information regarding each family. Each file may contain family group sheets, pedigree charts or bow-tie family trees, research logs and photocopies of documents, and could be organised alphabetically or by the number you have allocated to each ancestor - how you choose to begin recording your family history is really just a matter of discovering which process works best for you.
Using an alphabetical system could be problematic, however, because you could find that several of your ancestors have the same name, making it that much more difficult to distinguish between them.
If, when recording family history, you choose to allocate a number to each ancestor, you could place a list in the front of your file, adding more numbers as you find your ancestors. It may be best to start with yourself as number 1, and then work backwards allocating your parents numbers 2 and 3, your grandparents 4, 5, 6 and 7 and so on.
This will make it easier to allocate your ancestors numbers as you find them. If you find you do not have some information about your ancestors, do not worry; you can always add them in at a later date by leaving that number blank to be filled in later.
If you wish to include the siblings of your direct ancestors, you could issue each of them a number and a letter, such as 2a, 2b etc for your male ancestors siblings, and 3a, 3b etc for your female ancestors brothers and sisters. Each male ancestor is allocated an even number, and each female ancestor is allocated an odd number.
Whichever way you choose to begin recording family history, organising your data makes it easier to transport all your relevant information when you take a research trip to a Record Office.
When recording family history, you should always remember that if you have collected the information contained on your tree from a specific source, you should always include full details of this source for future reference, including the title of the source, its location, and when and where you obtained the information. I have created a research log you can use for this purpose. It is always prudent to have separate research logs for each family you are researching to avoid confusion.
Keeping a note of all your sources might be a time-consuming process, but it will save time in the future because you will know precisely where you have found each piece of information, making it easier to explain to third parties where your information originated, and for you to find the document again should you need to. You should also make a note of where a specific document is located in your collection.
If you have looked for differing spellings of a surname such as Minton, Mintorn or Minter etc it is best to write this information down to save you from looking for the same information again.
It is always prudent to take a photocopy of each source you look at, adding how you obtained the copy. This will make it easier to transfer the information from the source to your own records, and to see clues in the source you may have missed when looking at the original.
You should always attempt to look at the original source if you can, because you may find that some alterations have been made that have been missed from the copy for some reason, especially if it has been transcribed rather than being photocopied.
It is always better to take a photocopy of a source than write it out by hand because transcription errors may be made while transcribing. If you are using the document for personal use, you may make copies of any source useful to your research, but cannot take a copy of a whole book.
When recording family history, you could also use a software program such as Microsoft Excel to enter each relative as you find them, allocating each of the same number as in your file, so you know where to look for information regarding them.
Another idea is to use family tree software, of which there are many different programs available.
It is not uncommon for people to use an online family tree when recording family history, sometimes making it publicly accessible. Some people, however, have made their tree private, and you must contact them for permission to peruse their tree.
Please remember that if you choose to publish your family tree online, living individuals must have their identities protected because of data protection and privacy laws.
You may also wish to use a card index system when recording family history, using a card for each ancestor you discover detailing key events in their lives, again allocating each ancestor and their siblings the same number as described above. You could also include cross references to other important documents so they are easier to access.
It may appear clear, but it is best to keep all your genealogical information together, and not to have it in many different places around the house. This way you will always know where all your information is stored.
Another great way to document your research is by scrapbooking your family history photos and information.
You can also go to Memories and Nostalgia, who offer a Genealogy Box in order to protect your documents and artefacts for generations to come.
It is also possible you have long lost relatives - please try using this Interactive People Finder.
TWR Computing also offer a selection of Family Tree Book Pages (and much more!!!) which will also help you to document your research.
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Family Tree Resources > Recording Family History