Finding and solving gaps in our research.

Remembering that stories are important in family history, not just the birth, death, marriage dates and places. So how do we find information to fill in the gaps in the stories was what was discussed at this #ANZAncestryTime chat.

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How do we identify gaps in our research? Is it important to do so?

I use timelines to work out where I need to look for more info eg school records, employment records etc

If you use good desktop software it may have a way to let you know what is missing

I am currently redoing my database and have queries to help find what is missing.

I have two ways of identifying gaps: (1) is writing up my research which makes clear where I’m missing information. (2) checking against my preferred sources to ensure I’ve included them.

To find gaps in knowledge/evidence about an individual … start writing up what you know about them as a sourced biographical narrative. This soon highlights the gaps which you can then set about trying to fill

Starting with what you know is a great tip Jane @Chapja It’s much easier then to see the gaps

Yes, Jane, I can get on board with this method, because my goal is a story, not a full database.

I like to try to fill in the gaps in my research. Often when traditional family history records leave gaps you can fill them using newspapers. DNA has helped me also

Love me a good timeline! Plus checklists, making sure I’ve covered at least all the basics.

For brickwalls I use mindmaps (from FreeMind) to review and identify what I might have missed

I love creating mind maps. I picked up that tip at Rootstech a few years ago. It’s amazing what can jump out at you as missing

Mindmapping – you could do this with pencil and paper I’ve also used Freemind Mindmaps for preparing museum exhibitions What’s really nice is that you can collapse sections or open then up

Using a research log or prompt sheet can help to identify gaps


To visualise gaps in tree … the DNAPainter ‘Ancestral Trees’ function enables you to visualise tree completeness so you can decide where in your tree you may want to focus next – dnapainter.com/#trees

I create detailed timelines for individuals and families – it’s a great way of spotting both gaps and connections I hadn’t noticed before. Creating bios for Wikitree also made me go back and look for things I’d missed, so I could tell a coherent story

As Australia doesn’t have its census records available, we have to utilise different record sets and not get caught in the decennial gap trap.

Identifying gaps in our research is important if we’re to gain a full view of the lives of our ancestors. Learning what records are available for place and time, and using them, is critical.

I find using a spreadsheet to set down timelines of each person useful. Columns represent list of possible records they would be in, when I locate I tick it in the column. Records BMD parish records and census.

As with so much in family history, it’s finding what is most intuitive for each of us that helps productivity.

When looking at gaps in our research we need to look at regional, national and world events to see how they affected our families.

Ancestry’s DNA match colour coding and DNA Painter’s chromosome mapping have filled gaps for me

When new records become available work through them to ensure you have not missed someone GRO site helped me

I use timelines. I include place as well as dates. For example, is it possible that my research people were in e.g. New York for 1910 census and then enumerated in England a few months later in 1911? (Yes, it is, but confirming it opened new avenues)

Yeah Sophie’s “negative space” is basically the same idea, although her approach is more colourful. I’d like to be able to do a 3-D version that layers people on top of time/place. Best I can do for that is Visio/process maps

Visio is a lovely little microsoft package – very easy to use. I also use it for presenting smaller family trees – extracts

It was inspiration from the talk given by @ScientistSoph on Negative Space that really started me thinking more about this topic, including mapping events. Read her blog post here. parchmentrustler.com/family-history…

timelines are really helpful, as is writing up a person’s life. Often realise I’m missing something crucial.

Interesting how many of us find narratives helpful to identify missing research.

I tag my Legacy trees as I find supporting sources so I know which ones I need to find.

i do a timeline sheet in my Research Log (Excel). I add date in first column then age, event and place for each person in the family with a diff colour for each person. Then i can scroll and see where each family member was on a date.

Different formats for diff research questions, but usually just a table in a Word document – year in one column, date in next, then a text field with whatever info I want to record. I find that little bit of visual organisation just enough to work for me

Ancestry’s DNA match colour coding and DNA Painter’s chromosome mapping have filled gaps for me

Yes … Delay no further! DNAPainter has so many useful tools and functions to help find and fill gaps in our research

I have loved DNA painter since Jonny Perl first introduced it at a RootsTech conference. He is brilliant

something I do with my students often is get them to fill out a blank direct ancestor tree just to see where they’re missing bits.

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Do you use a timeline to identify research gaps? Do you use your genealogy program, Excel or another program?

I use mainly Legacy but sometimes go with spread sheet

Funny you mention it, because I created one today about a great grandfather, using a table in WORD. I’m including citations from the many sources I have found about him. He never seemed to stay in one place for long – trying to put all the pieces together.

Those wanderers can be a lot of work to trace. I have a few of those. Timelines do help to see where they’ve been

I have a bigamist who disappears after he serves time in Victoria. Not found anywhere yet.

I suspect some bigamy with my American born Adams 2xgt gddad too. Disappears from Grafton & NSW. Then emerged close & shared DNA matches descended from Tassie man of same name who appeared in Tassie little after Grafton man disappeared. Same man or close family?

I find that now I am writing up the family histories (part of my downsizing project) I am finding gaps and then I just fill them as I go. If I can

Yes writing narratives is a great way to find gaps in information … it also helps to spot inconsistencies in the information you have too

I can be in the middle of a blog post about an ancestor and realise I have a gap. Then it’s off down a rabbit hole before I finish the blog post. That’s where I am now

Writing is the best way to spot gaps! Writing seems to trigger all sorts of analytical processes in your brain that regular research does not.

Yes, and why it takes me so long to finish a blog post, let alone a research report for myself (loved your presentation on that!)

I found an infant death in Ireland following naming patterns and a gap in the births.

Tracing 19th century Aussie wanderers, it’s helpful to put the gold rushes on the timeline. A ‘missing’ person may have gone to try their luck. Check other colonies.

Good tip Brooke to add to the timeline. Also perhaps expansion of an occupation eg railway construction?

Gold rushes impacted just about everybody’s family – follow the gold. One of mine moved from Sydney to Victorian goldfields then up to the Gympie rushes in Queensland and finally over to the Western Australian gold rush. Over generations and not all moved.

Yes, my West Coast NZ gold rush ancestors all started mining life in Victoria. Most of them left family there, though contact has been mostly lost. I hope to re-establish some one day!

Another one of my mining families ducked across to Reefton for a while then back to Queensland. Have to look both sides of the Tasman

I realised one of mine did when I mapped the births of all his (many) children. Another way of spotting gaps. Map the babies.


This timeline was created for a specific research question: where was she living when she got pregnant with her children who were born out of wedlock? The timeline helped me formulate a hypothesis about the probable father, later confirmed with DNA.

My genealogy program allows you to export any query to a spreadsheet so you can work on it outside the program


Freemind is what I use for MindMaps thewindowsclub.com/freemind-free-…

Timeline but also my online tree with Ancestry where I can see on their facts or story what might be missing

Also when I write my biographies I have particular sections of their life to include which means I might need to do more research with newspapers etc to find that info

combination of Excel for checklist and offline family tree program for timeline. This then helps with writing up in more details in a blog.

If I’m looking at a timeline, I will use Excel to analyse what I have and what I’m missing. I always use date, month, year in separate columns. Alternatively I use Word document gaps. I don’t use my genealogy program for this.

my genealogy program is good for seeing gaps in the research plus you can add notes and reminders. I used to have lots of sticky yellow notes but using a program helps keep me focused.

I will write or look for other queries to identify other gaps once I have added census information

While I don’t always use a timeline I do identify gaps as I write up my research. I am using a timeline for my troublesome McSherry family. I also compare my checklist of record sources to see what I might have missed.

I’m constantly using timelines and use Legacy family history software. Occasionally I use excel for timelines

I look at my genealogy software & files for reference, but I create it in MS Word.

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What key facts do you include in your timeline? What records do you use to fill the gaps?

vital records (including addresses/occupations on children’s births), the census, any known migrations.

after looking at all possible records I then look at newspapers and overseas records. Sometimes the ancestor could be a witness or informant in a record.

BDM, children, grave or cremation, residences, any info from Rolls or Census records, newspaper stories

It depends on time period – early 19c Irish ag lab/working class leave very little trace in records so there are often big gaps, especially if they never married/had kids. Newspapers/migration/institutional records may fill gaps but often have to accept gaps

If I could just fill in the gaps in my lots of Irish ancestry I would be very happy. Wills have been useful

If you can find them, if they survive – I’ve yet to find more than a calendar entry and that for only a handful of people. The swines!

So inconsiderate of them! 🙂 I got my English 4GGF’s will. One line sums it up: “to my beloved wife, executor of this will, all my assets” – thanks Grandpa!! 😀

I like to record as many facts as possible in my timelines from cradle to the grave. I also include major events like war, famine, depression, pandemics. These events can trigger ideas for more records to search

If I am trying to find someone who is missing I will search in Newspapers or look for them travelling

Censuses and BDMs are the anchor points. Otherwise it could be anything – church records, entries in the street directory, newspaper reports, appearances as witnesses/registrants on other BDMs, court records – as long as it can be tied to a date

I like to track my ancestors’ locations, and kin, where possible to get a full picture of their lives. For immigrant ancestors I also want their immigration records – where available.

At the moment I’m including day, month, year, event, location, notes and citation. I’ve used newspaper articles, police records/gazettes, BMD certificates, electoral rolls. The guy I am researching went interstate and overseas enough to confuse us all!

Birth, Deaths Marriages, other key events in the life of the person. Also historical events at a certain time, for context

Trove is great for filling gaps we didn’t know we had – totally unexpected events and activities. I like to use Education, land, occupation, military records, immigration, clubs/societies inter alia.

I include every event for which I know a time and place for that ancestor. So vital events, military service, prison time, births of children, etc.

My excel sheet columns include for the names such First & Mid Name, Last Name, Full Name then vital record dates. The ID for the person. I split the dates to a columns for date, month and year. Finally the columns for the specific data I’m working with

vital records (including addresses/occupations on children’s births), the census, any known migrations

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Can you give examples where you or others have successfully plugged research gaps?

One thing that timelines can hide is contradictory activities. eg An ancestor is recorded being in one place for his child’s birth, & having a business. a legal case showed he was also working on the gold fields a distance away: there were regular coaches.

lots of those for my Dickson family. Currently working on Rev Dr David Dickson’s children A few more than in official bios

I used timelines to disprove a family legend (two men) but extending the FAN (family, associates, neighbours) research actually demonstrated there was a foundation for the legend – multiple timelines.

another TL piece: sometimes, not often, RC priests recorded both birth and baptismal dates. RC baptisms usually took place ASAP but there was a 6 week gap. Made me look more closely at godparents. They’d travelled quite a distance, another chink in brickwall

I used timelines to disprove a family legend (two men) but extending the FAN (family, associates, neighbours) research actually demonstrated there was a foundation for the legend – multiple timelines.

Our genimate @luvviealex wrote recently about her life in 12 censuses. It made me think more closely about my own presence in the records and how I wish I’d been able to see my parents’ and grandparents’ census returns.

Tried this today in a timeline but discovered it left out great chunks of our lives even our overseas postings, seems we were always in Aus. Made me think of ancestors gaps

Exactly! I don’t want to share all the nitty gritty but I think it can help highlight the challenge for the next couple of generations while privacy rules apply.

How cool! I have never been enumerated in a census in my life. The Netherlands stopped taking them in 1971 since we have a continuous population registration and they know where we live. 👀

Using DNA Trove BDMs to help adoptees to find their bio families and Collins Leeds method too

My longest running project is the collection of Electoral Data from NZers in my tree. Add another cousin to my tree creates gaps for Electoral Roll entries. Having such a large collection of addresses helps with a diverse range of other research questions

Trying to find out what happened to a woman from when she returned to Scotland in 1868 until her death. For that time period looked at censuses, deaths in her family & mapped them in time & space. Found her. Went to live with her son in England & she died there.

Timelines have been very useful me to find out where ancestors were fighting during WW1. I start with enlistment date and place and then do a timeline of their war service

I hadn’t thought do to a wartime timeline. what a great idea @SharnWhite I intend to do it

It helps to know what battles to research Jennifer and what war diaries to look for

It is always worth looking to see if there were births before a marriage one turned up this week not a relative but the person they married was

I have been trying to find out how a man in Bathurst met a woman in Hill End and how she had 4 children to him. There were no family connections between the places. Today I found on Trove his license to drive a coach from Bathurst to Hill End.  Yes unfortunately he never married her. I must do a timeline to see if his coach trips coincide with the births! I expect they did

Doing a timeline of where members of a family were in census records helped me to find a missing person

I find researching between the census records for missing children has turned up a few who died young

using census records – when I can’t find them I try all variants – Price was indexed as Grice – sometimes gaps are caused by indexing errors, bad handwriting or human error

Or search by a family member with the most distinctive first name. That worked for me.

All of my ancestors start in UK. When they emigrated to New Zealand, I found them passenger lists and rest of the information in the newspapers, even when they then moved to North America, especially the journalist ancestor, which was the subject of my blog

I’ve set up web pages with blog post sections for all my ancestral lines- sometimes cousins read these and make suggestions that I’ve missed something or drawn a wrong conclusion

My ancestors lived in a place in the Netherlands that kept mill tax records in 1700s that listed everyone in the household. I used these to see when children entered the household and prove that one child was baptized under a different name than used later.

I’m using a spreadsheet of every single event I can find for my McSherry family in the hope of breaking down my mysteries. Very clear for a 25 year block, then nada.

Timelines + checklists = winner!

Blog posts relating to the topic

Kerrie Anne – using mindmaps,

Alex – my life in censuses,

Legacy – mindmaps webinar,

Sue – examples of biographies written,

Readers: How do you find the gaps in your research? How do you find the info to fill those gaps?

Discussing births, marriages and deaths

This #ANZAncestryTime chat from June gave lots of tips about birth, death and marriage certificates as well as other sources to help prove the information found on these certificates.

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Have you an interesting story to tell about searching for births, deaths or marriages (BDM)?

I couldn’t find my GGGPs c. 1880 marriage anywhere in the Irish civil records. Eventually found it through local archive and broke chunk through a brick wall on that line. Names and addresses of 3 GGFs and from there to 3 GGMs. Also a birth around the same time – every other family birth registered – this one found registered FIFTEEN years after actual birth. I’m not sure what the delay was. I knew it was unlikely the birth hadn’t been registered since they were business owner/upwardly mobile. Baptismal record contained parents’ names so I just searched all civil until I found it.

Have one Irish family who seemed to be allergic to both baptisms and registrations. A big range between about 1860 to late 1870s. Strange thing is the younger ones were “done” and I could accept the lack of rego near 1864 but the lack of baptisms bothers me. Illiterate and a fisherman.

Tara, I’ve also searched for them in England/Wales as being at sea, that might be possible. No marriage, no births…sigh!!! And David is not a common Irish name as far as I’ve seen. Think I may have a mental block/rut now.

DM me later Pauleen (bed time here) and maybe two heads will solve your conundrum. It might be due to the region they were from. E.G. Some Donegal parishes I’ve searched only have parish records from 1860s – after civil reg. And in marginal areas civil records not always solid

Also got 2 birth certificates within the 100 year time frame via a probate claim where a separated wife suddenly reappeared to claim ex husband’s estate, had to include her girls birth certificates

I have an ancestor whose mother’s name was different on all three certificates – birth, marriage, and death. I *think* I’ve worked out who his mother was, but really need DNA to confirm it. On the #ToDoList

#research for my uncle whose #ancestors were married x2 4 yrs apart. Same #church #priest #bride #groom Different addresses #marital status for groom 😲Parish #archivist chqd orig Church records-nothing helpful. Using #Facebook to chq local knowledge

One of my GGGrandfather’s was summoned before the Balranald bench almost 10 years after the birth of his last child ‘for making wilfully false statements respecting his marriage to… for the purpose of insertion in a Register of Births (two charges)’!

He was a bigamist to boot. I never found any birth certificates for his children except the two he was summoned for. When his first wife divorced him their was WONDERFUL information in the newspaper reports!

Sometimes makes for an more interesting story when they do not register BDM events.

I discovered my mothers first christian name was not what she thought it was. She probably never even knew she had the spelling wrong. Shows you that you do need to see the original records when possible to discover more of the story.

I have new questions courtesy of a cousin on Ancestry chat today. She asked why/how our GGGF remarried my GGGM when there is no evidence of his 1st wife’s death (her ancestor). Realised I’d never looked closely at the 1st marriage

2 children from 1st marriage, 1850 & 1853 8 children from 2nd marriage 1870-1889 All born around Yass NSW. There are a number of possible deaths for the 1st wife, 1866 registered Yass a particularly interesting one.

I have a suspicious one like that. My GGF remarried my GGM about 6 months after the previous wife registered their child. I’ve not found a death anywhere in England where they were living. Maybe Ireland. Where are the children?

I’m searching for great aunt’s husband, Robert Hargreaves. Had 2 bigamous marriages in Victoria – see Trove. Disappeared after his jail time in 1871. Where did he die? One of the colonies, New Zealand, England? Did he change his name? 2 of us are hunting him!

I knew nothing about my father’s family. His parents died within a few weeks of each other when my father was 6yo. I wrote about bursting into tears at Vic Births Deaths and Marriages

it really hits you doesn’t it when you are in those record offices – life is a precious fleeting things sometimes.

I have found several births and deaths between the census records now we have MMN on the indexes in England and Wales – Mothers Maiden Name

I was told by an aunt that there was a child who had died young not sure which generation. New indexes with MMN led me to discover my grandfather’s older brother

Witness on my great great grandmothers marriage certificate ended up being her brother in law – proving who her sister married then allowed me to find them arriving in Tasmania in 1860’s

Great reminder @tasteach to spend the time looking into the witnesses. They were often family

A friend at QFHS had always banged on about the value of searching the microfiche index to BDM that we have in the library. A friend’s mother was trying to find her grandmother’s birth but could not find it on the Registry Office website.  She knew she had the right date. Off we went to look at the microfiche at the QFHS library.There it was. No spelling mistakes. Just not in the online index. Human error I guess in the process of transferring. She was just missed. Check everything!

one marriage in 1866 bride registered under her mother’s maiden name as she was marrying a cousin with same surname, she had arrived in Australia under her father’s surname

I am probably the odd one out however I cannot think of any interesting stories related to my research of births, deaths and marriages. Perhaps it’s been too long since I had time to research to the memories have faded.

Searching for German names is always fun and games. The surname Zöller becomes Zeller, Zoller and, the best one, Tiller. Similarly McCorkindale has infinite spelling variations so I search for M*or*dale which gets most.

I spent 40 years looking for dad’s fathers birth. 20 years collaborating with half siblings of dad. Then finally DNA solved it. We were looking for wrong surname – he was a bigamist.

A story of not being able to find someone for a long time & then finding him under a different name entirely.

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Primary sources for BDM can vary in the information they contain. Tell us about the great and not so great ones and what they contain, accessibility, cost, etc.

Irish historical records with data protection parameters are freely available on irishgenealogy.ie but they only start in 1864 (except non-RC marriages from 1845).

But always worth checking for pre-1864 marriage registered even if couple were Catholic – you can sometimes strike it lucky.

Yes, one of them might have been Catholic & they got married in the COI to give themselves legal status. In practice, it’s a very limited number of marriages in this early civil registration period.

And not make assumptions about “everyone” being Catholic…a trap I nearly fell into with Mr Cassmob’s ancestors.

Even if they had converted prior to marriage, if one of the couple was ever Protestant, a RC marriage was illegal then, unless carried out in COI/RO

Yes, very good point, Pauleen! I had assumed, then found a CoI possibility, now back to Catholic again. Wishing for a Quaker!

It pays to look in other states for births. I unexpectedly found the birth of one child in Victoria to my NSW g g grandparents. They lived there for a year apparently

I have only researched in England and our BMD records are not the best. They start earlier than many but don’t have as much useful information

The baptism of an ancestor in Cornwall which showed he was baptised at his mother’s funeral. She had committed suicide. Thanks to the clerk who made those notes. I often wonder if she had post natal depression. It wouldn’t have been understood in the 1800’s.  Her death certificate states “ took her own life” verifying the note on the baptism. I’d probably not have looked at the cause but for the baptism.

Yeah, I can understand that. I’d probably have assumed it was death in childbirth if the death record wasn’t readily available.

It’s an evocative phrase. At first I didn’t get the new push to favour the phrase ‘died by suicide’, but it makes a lot of sense re understanding the mental pathology of suicide

Love Graham Jaunay webpage with what is on BDMs in each Aussie state jaunay.com/bdm.html

Irish RC parish records vary re info quality/detail. Freely available images via @NLIreland & indexed search for some Dublin/Cork/Kerry www.irishgenealogy. Dublin parish template unusually detailed wrt country: parents’ (& marriage witnesses) names addresses

In England I search with FreeBMD as bigger range, then check on GRO. NZ BDM has lots of errors in names, so you have to guess what it might be and narrow down the date

I use very many sources as I seem to research in a lot of places. FamilySearch has lots of them. England both GRO and FreeBMD, NZ BDM, Aussie States, ScotlandsPeople, Irish, Canadian, American sources. I go everywhere!

I love the NZ certificates as they hold a pile of useful information. I love their website bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/search. You can figure out the actual date if you keep reducing the search date fields. Great for the distant branches when delaying cert. purchases.

Yes I use this trick on NSW BDM too, narrowing down date when I don’t want to buy the certificate for far distant spouses etc., works for births deaths and marriages

one of my husband’s ancestors appeared in latest Lost Cousins newsletter about to marry for the 5th time

I love the Tasmanian BDM from 1803 to 1900 – all digitized, online and cost nothing. Can also get many BDM till 1930 from CDROM for free as well

Click on Tasmanian names index then put name in search area, use the filters and then you can download copies etc or use that snipping tool libraries.tas.gov.au/family-history…

I have been redoing my tree in FH7 and looking at certificates there are so many errors some are intentional to hide illegitimacy but others may be not

Love Queensland BDMs with so much information. Scottish records also have a lot of content but I do wish death records included burial information. English Records so mediocre it’s frustrating. I like being able to order online @ minimal cost.

oh yes I hear you re the English death certificates. I wonder why they bothered really. It just about says – they died – and that’s it. Next to useless.

Especially when they were born a long time ago as clearly they will have died. While there is little family details compared to other places the place & cause of death can be interesting.

Even using Scotlands People without buying the records can give so much information. I found a family 3 days ago for a distant cousin – followed my nose and there they were in Cadder

I love that the indexes in Qld & Vic have maiden surnames unlike NSW where it’s the most expensive to order a certificate & the index has only Christian names for parents

Scottish BDM’s have so much information on them. Norwegian records are fabulous too as long as you understand the naming systems (plural)

Remember the bad old days in Queensland when you used to have to request the marriage date of the parent’s when ordering a birth certificate. So pleased the UK registry office now seems to have seen the light regarding including mother’s maiden name.

I find the easiest BDMs to access are Victorian, but most of my Australian research has been in Vic, so I’m more familiar with Vic records. Vic BDMs do contain lot of info and are easily accessed online with immediate download

I have only researched in England and our BMD records are not the best. They start earlier than many but don’t have as much useful information

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What secondary sources have helped you with BDM records? How do you resolve any data conflicts?

@PRO_Vic metadata for probate/will files include date of death, so just searching their catalogue is very helpful (thanks PROV volunteers!). Early ones are digitised too. They can be very interesting (or boring) and fill in family blanks. I’ve also viewed more recent probate files @PRO_Vic in person and often a copy of the official death certificate is included.

my mother’s birthday books across the years she had added many births and deaths

Great tip! Another tip: don’t throw out those books or address books.

Using christening/baptism records you need to be careful sometimes several children were baptised on the same day.

accessing Vic teacher records through Ancestry often reveals full birth date; this helped me with my GGrandmother’s birth year, for which I’ve not been able to locate birth certificate

yes excellent advice Helen. I have teachers in my family and much of the biographical information was originally obtained via Inspectors Reports in Archives and then confirmed through certificates.

Ryerson Index, Newspaper BDMs, Free BDM and genealogy sites

Ryerson index excellent but also Savill index for South Aust. Secondary Sources for BDM – Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices.  See story here slsa.sa.gov.au/news/story/202…

We have the Wilson Collection  wilsoncollection.co.nz

I use Trove & Papers Past to find those more recent than BDM sources. I love Papers Past. Wish there were more of them available

Newspapers of course, many Catholics in SA in early years did not register births, but they nearly always added death notices to newspapers. Today I’ve just found 2 more children of one family without birth registration

Some great tips from Judy – also see links to website pages at end of this post

Tip1: Before buying certificates, check whether they’re available (FREE) in files at the Archives. Record series where I’ve found certificates are listed at bit.ly/3cJUdLj.

Tip2: Biographical data in Hospital Admission Registers is often more complete and/or more accurate than data in death certificates

Tip3: If you can’t find a death certificate, look for an inquest. There are inquest files for many deaths that weren’t registered. This definitely happened in QLD & Victoria, & probably elsewhere. I’ve also seen (in Queensland) inquests for some stillbirths, which at that time weren’t registered as either a birth or a death

Tip4: On the FreeBMD Website (civil registration indexes for England/Wales BDMs), add Postems to entries for people you’re researching.

Tip5: Check the names on the Web page for the Miscellaneous Australian Certificates Index: bit.ly/3cI1YBk. For certificates mentioned there, a copy only costs $5.

This is a terrific tip! Didn’t know it. What I like about FreeBMD is the ability to search marriages easily, & when I’m being specific to a family, to return more that 5 years of results at a time (as with GRO)

I check on Cemetery records in NZ & Find A Grave – look at the photo if there is one. Often correct information from other sources. Did 2 today, 1 yesterday. I state in my @WikiTreers profiles any conflicts – had 1 today, gravestone versus someone’s memory!

great #records to help put peeps in time&space generally & find children’s birthdates are #school admission registers. #blessed in #Queensland many for #Government #schools #digitised avail #Online @QSArchives

Re transcriptions – search all available! Example: Rootsireland which has helped me with so much research (generally more accurate and more complete transcriptions than e.g. FS, FMP, Ancestry) doesn’t contain the transcripts of two baptisms for GGUs.

Newspapers, Calendar of Wills, Burials (1) A marriage notice confirmed father’s residence and death bef. 1877. (2) A Calendar of Wills entry gave DoD (not found in civil) (3) Auctioneer’s ad verified relationship between two men (4) burial = clues ->breakthrough

Military records were fantastic for me. I had an Irish soldier marry a Welsh woman but we didn’t know from where. His service record gave marriage date in UK & I was able to go back 4 generations from her on the Welsh line thereafter.

employment records will often provide a date of birth and probably a place of birth. School enrolment registers will also give a child’s approximate age so if you can’t find them anywhere else this is helpful.

remember those local histories or family histories written by your relatives might also be secondary sources

other places to find BDM information include military service records which provide a place of birth & parent’s name. A death certificate might be included with a will & sometimes a marriage certificate or an inquest provide provide additional information.

PapersPast, Trove & British Newspaper Archive are regular haunts for me. Then a time on Google searching for odd indexes. Hints from online trees – though these need to be verified.

Using christening/baptism records you need to be careful sometimes several children were baptised on the same day

… sometimes at the same time #parents were #married

Yes – I’ve found 3 batches x 2 kids each time in 1840’s in Windsor & Sydney – concluded that the family weren’t regular church goers

That’s true. I found the first five siblings born in Australia were baptised on one day

I’m guessing baptismal records and anything like birth dates on tombstones et al. I would resolve by trusting the record closest in time to the event, if that makes sense.

Agree. Looking at marriage and death certs re. age I lean towards the marriage date, but there are always exceptions!

where there’s a conflict-of-interest between a civil registration and a parish baptism event, I generally opt for the baptism, but will note the difference. This is because if the parents were late registering they may have had to pay a fine.

my favourite alternative to civil certificates Is parish registers which can give you some of the same information. This applies even in Australia and has helped me solve missing information from early Queensland records.

Wills, and newspapers! Both full of detail, and especially helpful with women’s married names.

I have not encountered any major conflict in the newspapers using indexes you need to be aware of possible delay in registering births and even deaths

the best secondary source has to be the newspapers the person I just mentioned was in the newspaper and led to searching for further marriages than those known

Family reunions can help with living or just passed relatives, but still need proving eventually. Trove has also helped up to the 1950s.

MichaelGaida / Pixabay

What are some of the factors that might create a challenge finding the correct person? Any suggestions on how to overcome finding a difficult BDM record?

A GGM & GGF put a notice in the WGTN newspaper about their marriage. No registration or church records found. One child’s birth cert has marriage in MELB. No MELB records. No passenger. No records either divorcing their first partners or deaths yet found

Could this be a good one for another pair of eyes?

Or actually getting serious and working through it with a plan and timelines, etc rather than just random checking.

Checked at Archives in Wellington years ago when I just started however never recorded what I checked as I did not know about recording negative results. Or even if I got the right records to check. That’s why I need to do it properly this time around.

With Irish ancestors: unofficial name changes, dodgy ages. Best advice I can give is keep an open mind, think outside the box, check the period covered by records, and use FAN!

Oh yes on the Irish dodgy ages, husbands 3x gt grandparents emigrated claiming to be 10 years younger than they were! Could not have been married in 1832 at age 8 and 12😂 Found their ages on deaths, both in Adelaide hospital register.

And even those ages may not have been correct unless someone went back to the original parish records to confirm year of birth.

Yes, I agree but probably as close as I’ll get with the births likely to have been 1808-1812 pre the Galway birth registers currently available

For me, the biggest challenge is common names. Byrne was the most common surname in Dublin, at 1 in 10. AND, the Irish used the same given names in every family. AND two grandparents were Byrne. Solution = Time + line-by-line searches. Maybe!

if I knew the answer to this question I’d have all my brick walls knocked down! I think some of my ancestors just weren’t registered.

Bought a NZ printout of a birth for an Aussie cousin (too hard to buy from overseas). Solved the mystery of her DNA matches. Brief marriage that produced one child. Built her tree in a few minutes


Surname changes are the thing I find most challenging. My g grandmother was registered with the German family name but for younger siblings the name was different.

I recommend buying certificates rather than a transcription agent if you have non-English ancestors. As a family member you are more likely to recognise names and places.

Photographs in this collection from the New Zealand Tung Jung Association, a Chinese county association of people from or descended from people from the counties of Jung Seng & Tung Goon (Zheng Sheng, Dong Guan), east of provincial capital Guangzhou. tungjung.nz/portraits/

a frequently mis-spelt name (even with fuzzy matching). I think I have about a dozen spellings for Farish, various cousins have different surnames now

My Jones’ and Taylors’ are hugely challenging along with their ever repeating christian names

Common names, i.e. NINE William Browns died in Victoria in 1921, several close in age; death notice placed by his sister, sourced via Trove, helped me find him, then an inquest record (alas) too

 I highly recommend enlisting the help of other genie friends. Fresh eyes are always amazing 🙂

I agree with this tip Alex. Two sets of eyes can often solve a long standing brick wall. I’ve had experience of this a couple of times

if you know the exact date of birth and the first name sometimes it pays to not include the surname in your search

I have a James Smith who died in 1901 there are 2 of them died that year same age and district so burial record helps to confirm which is correct along with census

Bigamy, name changes – ways to solve now include DNA

Spelling variations always cause a challenge when you’re trying to find someone with an unusual name. The information on the certificate may include big gaps which happens with the earlier Qld records.

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Blog posts relating to topic

Judy – Postems on FreeBMD, Webpage tips searching in Queensland, Webpage hospital admission records, Genealogy advice and indexes, Miscellaneous Australian certificates index, Queensland genealogy blog

Pauleen – certificates,

Jennifer – at the record office,

Claire – results in unexpected places

Sue – using certificates and censuses