Late last year, a group of people at work were discussing their family origins. Someone asked where my family is from, and I told them I wasn’t really sure. I knew my ancestors had come from England and Ireland at some point, but I didn’t know when or exactly where they were from. After listening to one of the guys telling me about his various family connections, and his annual family reunion, I decided it’s time for me to do some research and find out more about my family history.
So over the summer holidays I kicked it off with two Birth Certificates, two Death Certificates and a Marriage Certificate from my aunt. Now, two months on, I’ve managed to document eight generations going back to 1819 with ancestors coming to Australia from Ireland, England, San Francisco and New Zealand! Recently I also discovered a few generations further back on Ancestry.com, but I’m still in the process of verifying the sources before I update my tree.
It’s amazing the amount of information that’s freely available on the internet, and I’ve decided to start documenting my progress here in the hopes that the sources I’m uncovering will be useful to other people researching their family trees. I’ve started to compile a full listing of the resources I’ve used on my Family Research page, and will also write about new sources on this blog as I encounter them.
So far I’ve done most of my research using the various state Birth, Death and Marriage registries. The search results are free to view for WA and NSW (the only states other than Victoria where I’ve tracked down ancestors) and for WA in particular there’s quite a lot of information in the search results alone. For Victoria there’s a $0.99 fee per page of results you view, but a few weeks ago I made a trip to the State Library of Victoria where the Victorian Birth, Death and Marriage registries are available for searching on CD-ROM. From there I was able to get the registration numbers and purchased two marriage certificates which revealed a lot of information – most importantly the names of the parents of the bride and groom take me back another two generations!
In terms of documenting my family tree, I’ve set up a Webtrees site to store the information. Before starting I looked around at a number of other pieces of software, but what I liked most about Webtrees is that my research is available online, making it easy to share with family and friends, and I can host it on my own server, ensuring I have control over the data. The data is stored in the GEDCOM format which is a standard developed for storing genealogy data. Being in a standard format makes it easy to extract the data and load it into another program, or pull it into an app on my phone or tablet.
I was reluctant to store my information in an online service such as Ancestry.com due to the fact that they would then be in control of my information. In addition, there are subscription costs involved in using Ancestry.com and similar sites. It’s taken me a little while to get used to Webtrees, but there’s plenty of information available in their support wiki and once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite straight forward. A feature I’m particularly keen on is the ability to link every fact to a source, and also attach media items, such as photos and PDFs, to sources for future reference. Once I’ve become more familiar with the software, I might come back and post a proper review of it here.
To wrap up this first post in my Family Tree series, here are some stats on my research to date:
- I’ve documented a total of 106 individuals
- The earliest birth I’ve found is in 1819 (Richard Carver from Somerset, England)
- A total of 29 unique surnames
- Ancestors from England, Ireland, San Francisco and New Zealand
From definite indifference four months ago, I’m becoming increasingly interested in my family history, and am finding the adventure to be very interesting! Looking forward to uncovering more ancestors and sharing my findings again soon!