Notes on Family History Research

A few qualifications about Family History Research:

In the past knowing about personal details such as year and place of birth was not thought so important and even around the turn between the 19th into 20th centuries it was not unknown for individuals to be uncertain about their exact year of birth. Also recording of details was not so meticulous. Even now it relies on an individual registering a birth, death, etc, but in the past things such as the ten yearly census were done by an official calling door-to-door and recording what they were told by whoever was there at the time. Thus earlier records rely somewhat on what people thought, rather than what was true. So an aural tradition applies. Add to which spelling was not so precise so possible different spellings have to be born in mind.

Whilst researching we have found disparities between stated ages and dates, variability in places of birth, not to mention my great-great-great grandmother's death certificate recording she was a widow whereas her husband actually survived her by almost four years!

The further back you go, the more difficult it is to trace records. Central recording of births, marriages of deaths only started in 1837. Prior to that such things were recorded at parish level. The storing of such records may not have been meticulous, plus where there was dissent - such as in Ireland - records were prone to being destroyed during civil unrest. Of course with records at parish level one needs to know the parish, so if you do not even know the town or village it becomes much more difficult!


This page was last updated on 5th August 2010.