Family History Research

Getting started

There are lots of beginner's guides to researching your family history, but this one is aimed at people researching their roots in Tameside and describes resources and information available locally.

It is a good idea to decide how much you want to get out of your new interest, some people may only have a passing interest, others a desire to get as far back in time as they can, some want to collect as many names as they can that are linked to their family and others may only want to research one line only because a family myth has sparked their curiosity. Genealogy as a study is an altogether more serious undertaking and is a step by step process of working backwards in time, with properly annotated sources to build up a direct blood-line of ancestors. Sooner of later when you have gone as far back in time as is conceivable, you will probably find yourself spreading out sideways along the branches of your family to discover as much as you can about the various twiglets that make up your tree. Having got this far you are likely to be addicted by now and want to put some flesh on the bones of your family (including discovering the odd skeleton or two), and now find yourself in the realms of true Family History.

You will probably want to start with a photograph of the church they married in, an old map of the area they lived, what their house used to be like, the kind of jobs they did, where the local shops were, what medical care might have been available, health and hygiene problems, what kind of social life they had (if they had time), and all the other many aspects, that make our ancestors into people, like ourselves, with hopes and aspirations for the future. You may also want to build an Historical Timeline to gain an understanding of how local and historical events impinged upon their daily lives.

As a newcomer to Family History don't make the mistake of thinking that all the information you need is available on the internet, and that after a few hours research you will be back to your orignal ancestor who came over with William the Conqueror. The internet is a marvelous tool and will provide you with lots of shortcuts to sources and background information, but this will have to be backed up by hours of research, trawling through microfilms of original records and old reference materials at a record office or local studies library.

Start by gathering together old photographs, documents and certificates and touting these round your relatives in the hope of exchanging information, but remember that older relatives may have imperfect memories of distorted family myths. Nevertheless don't dismiss anything you are told out of hand, since most myths contain an kernel of truth. Visit younger relatives as well since they may hold a stock of papers and information passed down the family.

Once you have gathered your information it is a good idea to plot out some sort of embryonic family tree to decide where you want to go from here. Later you might want to invest in a Family Tree software programme and start to input your details into the database. The most important thing to remember is to be methodical and document your sources properly . If you start making assumptions on a few dodgy bits of material here and there you could quite easily find yourself barking up the wrong tree!

Most people are doing well if they can get back five or six generations, and to get back in an unbroken line to the time of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare is excellent (and not impossible), but unless your ancesters were Royalty or Landed Gentry any earlier than this is pure conjecture.

Read at least one good book on the subject, they have a good range at most local libraries, get to know the geography of the area and make yourself familiar with historical civil and parish boundaries:

Checkout more detailed information at Genuki Cheshire Towns and Parishes and Genuki Lancashire Towns and Parishes.

You could also find that someone else is researching the same family. Family History Societies have lists of member's interests, and if you join you will be invited to submit your list of interests.

There is a website (covering Tameside) that list people's surname interests without your having to be a member of a society:

It is a good idea to join a Family History Society covering the geographical area you are researching. The Tameside Group of the Family History Society of Cheshire covers the whole of the Tameside area and is engaged in project work straddling the Lancashire and Cheshire boundaries. Click Here to go to their website to find out more.

For details of other local societies go to my History Links page.

For people just starting out on their Family History volunteers from our Tameside Group run an advice session at Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre on the first and third Tuesdays of each month between 2-00pm and 4.00pm. Please come along everyone welcome!



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