Friday, January 6, 2012

Growing your family tree - Filtering information

     Another post about my experiences building the family trees that are here. A bit about some of the things that tripped me up at first that may help others in their searches.

     You have harassed, annoyed asked your relatives for information. How to use that start to build your tree further?

     I was lucky, I have living relatives who could take my tree back to my great great grandparents, my grandparents grandparents. I got some names, children, siblings etc, a few dates and some places.

     I assumed names would be the most important. Not so. It is surprising how many records list people with nick names rather than proper names. Surnames go through some wild spelling variations. The further back, the less formally information was collected, especially in rural areas. My great great grandparents tombstone lists their nick names not their proper names. Hard to find if you don't know both. This lack of formality varies from place to place, type of record to type of record. It goes back to  a time when communities were smaller and most people knew each other.

     Dates then, those have to be important. Again not so much. The further back the less important. Travelling clergy would baptise an entire family of children at a time when they were through an area. It would depend on how often they visited. People weren't very concerned about age. It didn't have a lot of bearing on how they lived their lives. The advent of labour laws and operating licenses changed that to our modern obsession with accurate dating of everything.

     The one thing I thought wouldn't be important, places, turned out to be very important. If you don't know where your ancestors lived, you don't know where to start looking for records. That makes a huge difference. I have spent many hours looking for people in the wrong places.

     Places also has a challenge. Boundaries changed, a lot. I'm speaking of Canada because that is where 80 percent of my research has been. You have to do a little digging to find what the place was at the time your ancestors were there. Canada West became Ontario, district boundaries changed then became provincial, new townships formed, then reformed, counties changed names, boundaries then amalgamated. There are layers and layers of records to look through.

     Places and surnames, the two places to start further digging. Throw in some given names and a few dates and you are on your way. Next up, I'll go through some of the records that were of the most help to me.

     Ever dug into your family's past? Any tips to share?


  1. I've done a bit of digging in my time. I suspect that we may be related. My Craigs settled in Dalhousie, Lanark, Ontario but if we connect I think it was back in Scotland around 1770 or so. And if not? It's always fun to discover new to me blogs.


Thanks for your comment, I hope you enjoyed your time in the "Kitchen".