By John Skinner
As I stated in Part One, in this two part article I will be mentioning certain software and websites. As is always the case with these articles, the software and websites are mentioned because they are what I use and I find useful. The software or website may not be so useful to you, but it hopefully will give you an idea of what you may want to look for, in order for you to find suitable software or websites for you. I urge you to research to find the software and websites that are best suited for you. Unfortunately most of the websites require a fee to use them.
Following a stroke my mother passed away. Whilst my sister and I were sorting our mother’s effects, the notebook I mentioned in Part One came to light again. More detail had been included in it since we first saw it. We read it avidly. There were not many pages of notes, but they filled in some family history. The note book also raised a lot more questions than it answered. One line entries with just a name we had never heard of for instance. These names were probably included to prompt our mother to flesh out the detail later. We were not able to ask her.
On the genealogy front my first priority on my return to Bermuda was to scan the notebook and email the scanned pages back to my sister. This was to ensure that there was more than one copy of this valuable family document.
Then I really started on the research to record our ancestors. My first resource was obviously the program which I had purchased – Family Tree Maker©. They have a system where they will place an icon beside a name to indicate to you where there is possibly information on line about the persons(s) you are looking at in your family tree. You are then able to review the information and if you wish, incorporate it into your own records.
One of the surprises I had was finding on line a picture of my paternal grandmother’s maternal grandparents. The following year I was even more surprised to find a shipping manifest which recorded our family’s relocation from East Africa back to the UK.
A word of caution at this point. It is very tempting to add family trees from other people’s research where that tree seems to fit with your family tree. Treat such trees with caution. They are created by people probably like you and me. That is someone with an interest in genealogy, but not necessarily an expert. Using such family trees I have traced ancestors back to France one hundred years before the Battle of Hastings in 1066. I am still trying to prove that line. I expect to have to discard several hundred years of it.
My wife was born in Scotland. A very useful website for tracing her ancestry is http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk. This Scottish government website gives access to facsimiles of Birth, Death, Marriage, Census and other life events gleaned from parish and official records going back several hundred years. Whilst a surname search is free, there are charges for other more specific charges and for images. In most cases these charges are quite small. Reading the original handwritten documents showed three entries from Family Tree Maker© needed correcting. Considering the number of entries that I was verifying, that was a very good ratio.
Another website that can be useful if you have family members who served in the British Military is https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk. Entities like the Imperial War Museum (http://www.iwm.org.uk) are also a good place to start research. Part of my family comes from Sussex in England. I found The Sussex Family History Group an interesting resource for background rather than specific information about my ancestors. Like a lot of these groups they have a links page (http://www.sfhg.org.uk/loc_gen_sites.html) which can lead you in all sorts of interesting directions.
If you have links to the United States https://familysearch.org would be a good site to consider. This is a large genealogy project of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Other sources for information I have used are school websites especially those dedicated to former pupils, old comrades associations, churches and museums.
Enjoy your research.
By John Skinner