Why do family history?

Family history is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world. So why do you do family history?

Here are this week’s questions we discussed in the #ANZAncestryTime chat.

  1. What prompted you to start FH research and when? Any exciting, surprising, sad, or shocking discoveries?
  2. Have you researched offline as well as online? What do you treasure most about your research?
  3. Did you inherit any FH research, family stories or photos? Did you take the information as given or verify it? Have cousin connections expanded your research?
  4. Why is it important to you to learn about ancestors and their places? Has having immigrant ancestors been important to your quest? Does FH benefit to your family and/or the community?
Free-Photos / Pixabay

Starting research

  • Tara: I grew up with oral tradition of “tracing” ancestry. My uncle had done some research before on his paternal line. Conversation with friend got me started on all 4 lines. Discoveries, tragedy, royalty, murder, madness, adventure!
  • Pauleen: It’s easy to discount the oral histories people give you but conversely they actually knew these people so often the data would be accurate- just needed checking. LOl re the letters and no one escaping!
  • Karen: A distant cousin who had done extensive research on the family told me about an ancestor who sang in concerts on a ship to Australia. I wanted to find out more about her. Many exciting, surprising, sad and shocking discoveries on both sides of the family.
  • Jennifer: When I first started family history I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I would just do a little research for a couple of weeks and that would be it. Famous last words. As I said I had no idea!  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without family history to keep me busy
  • Pauleen: LOL! I doubt any of us foresaw how it would come to take over our lives. But how rewarding is it?! I didn’t even consider that 30+ years later I’d still be at – and people ask “Aren’t you finished yet?”
  • Margaret: I found my great aunt was a victim of bigamy in Williamstown, went off the rails and started drinking. Her children were “sentenced” to Industrial School for 7 years. She went to an asylum where she died of pulmonary consumption
  • Sharn: BIGGEST surprise for me was that my mother’s surname was made up by her grandfather. THAT took some research. he deserted a wife and child
  • Soc OPS: After years of saying to Mum that it would be easy to trace her family tree because of her uncommon maiden name (Atcherley), a particularly interesting episode of WDYTYA? in 2007 finally prompted me to find out if my assertion was true.
  • Sandra: The main discovery was finding who was my dad’s father was. Went from a missing branch to quite a tangled tree. Dad was a very quiet man and never really talked about family. You could sense sadness so never pushed it. He said he had a letter and photo but had lost it and once gave a very generic name to put us off. Not sure if mum knew. Have only told siblings.
  • Sue: Started in my teens in the 70s by asking questions to add to a tree for school work
  • Sharn: A most surprising discovery for me was that my g uncle from NZ living in England had an MI5 file on him. I have the thick file and he has proven to be a very interesting character
  • Pauleen: My first genimates were age-contemporaries of my mother’s and both had gone to the same secondary school mum & I had attended. I learned so much from how they documented research, especially narrative format. Didn’t always agree with conclusions though 😉
  • Jennifer: When I first started researching my family history it was only to find out about my fathers parents. He was an orphan and his parents were never discussed in our family. My father said his parents had no family. I found they both had a huge family.
  • Betsey: Great joy at finding some wonderful family links to Robert Burns who was not just a family friend but wrote Banks & Braes of Bonnie Doon and Young Peggy about my 3x Great Grand Aunt Margret ‘Peggy’ Kennedy of Daljarroch. Gavin Hamilton was married to her aunt
  • Sharn: All I started out looking for back in the 90’s was the age my g grandmother was when she came to Australia from Switzerland. Little did I know..
  • Jennifer: One of my earliest finds was that my father’s parents died within 6 weeks of each other. Causes of death not connected There were 12 children. My father was youngest. I wrote about my reaction to this news. There have been many surprises along the way, I found I had 50 first cousins from Dad’s family who were previously unknown to me
  • Pauleen: The absolute saddest story I’ve discovered was the tragic death of my great-grandmother Julia Gavin Kunkel. Her husband died 6 weeks later on Xmas Day.
  • Sharn: possibly the saddest discovery I made in Qld school records was that my g g grandfather was put in an orphanage at 9 after his mother remarried. At 12 he was ‘sentenced’ to 5 years on a hulk in the Brisbane River for being ‘neglected’.
  • Margaret: My mother started before I was born in the 1940s. I grew up with it. Always been interested in history (even though I did science)
christels / Pixabay
  • Sharn: After being told I had Welsh ancestry, a welsh castle in the family and family members who were Welsh Guards I named two of my four children with Welsh names, Surprise – DNA says differently.
  • Carmel: surprise was that I had lived in the house built by my ancestors until I was 9. They built the small farm dwelling in 1858 from local stone and mud from the creek, my father added a bathroom and sleepout
  • Sandra: I become interested in family history in year 5 at school. We had to do our family tree for a project and I only really had half a tree. Became a mission to find the other half
  • Daniel: Simultaneously getting my school set up ready for the day. I started my Family History journey back in 2017 as a way of hopefully getting the answers to questions that we couldn’t answer!
  • Pauleen: I think my main curiosity was about my Kunkel surname. I knew it was Germanic but nothing else. My research obsession started in Sept 1986 when I came across an info stand by @GSQPresident at a Heritage Show in Brisbane. Dad always said if they were Kunkels, then we were related – he wasn’t far wrong. There are more later immigrants now post WWII. Back in those days Qld BDM were very date-limited. Letters to people with the name gave an oral history
  • Jill: I learnt that I had indigenous ancestry. So proud that my connection to this land goes back tens of thousands of years.
  • Hilary: I think the trigger for me was finding some certificates in a case that had belonged to my husband’s grandfather
  • Mairead: I heard early on we had some Italian ancestors- was exciting to find out from a cousin that our ancestor was actually from southern Switzerland but spoke Italian- have been there since
  • Shauna: Watching Roots the television series in 1977.
  • Sue: Surprising was mums paper trail back to 1800s relates perfectly to DNA testing but dad’s paper trail completely incorrect since DNA testing.
  • Carmel: the death of my 101 yr old mother in 2013, finding her story dictated to a grandchild in 1992 and my retirement from paid work
  • Mairead: My parents died young (when I was 8 and 15) so I started some family history in my early 30s just to find out some basics.
  • Sharn: My grandmother was Irish and I grew up with her wonderful stories about her home in Ireland. That sparked my interest but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I began to ask her questions.
  • Fran: I started earnestly about 10 years ago when I decided it was a hobby that would combine my interest in blogging, technology and history. Plus be great for retirement.
  • Pauleen: Every story I discover about my family -ancestors and kin – is a treasure to me. It reveals them as real people with diverse life experiences. I’ve been hooked since Day 1.
  • Jennifer: I was introduced to family history when a relative asked me to help her organise a reunion for my inlaws’ family and then suggest I start to research my own family
  • Sharn: I was told my great grandparents were Swiss but a strange comment by an elderly great aunt in 1996 made me search online for my family. I discovered my ancestry was Swiss and German. and then I caught a serious genealogy bug
  • Brooke: I think I started doing #FamilyHistory research after my nan died. I’ve learned that starting #FamilyHistory BEFORE the oldies die is a much better idea.
  • Jill: In 1988 – Australia’s Bicentennial Year and the year my grandmother died I started thinking about and recording my personal and #familyhistory. So many exciting discoveries along the way. Finding that some of my ancestors were #convicts transported to #Australia wasn’t a surprise but I was surprised that there were ten of them
MemoryCatcher / Pixabay

Researching online and offline

  • Tara: Have researched in local and national archives here and abroad as well as online. I love challenge of problem-solving and the satisfaction of discovery and story-telling with family
  • Karen: Mainly online, but also at libraries (especially State Library of Queensland, and State Library of New South Wales) I treasure gaining a better understanding of history in general and how my ancestors fit into the picture. Things I learnt about at school (e.g. Eureka/Gold Rush) ended up being directly relevant to me. We had no idea of the connection previously. And then all the pieces of the puzzle come together. We start to understand why people behaved the way they did, why they kept secrets.
  • Margaret: I am lucky in that my nephew has caught the bug and will carry on my research when I can’t. He is getting all my papers, books, etc. We consult but work independently to verify what we are doing
  • Jennifer: When I first started there was no online research. It was all done by attending archives, societies etc. I loved in person research and still do on the rare occasion I get to do it.
  • Pauleen: I agree. I’m conflicted because I also like being able to do it from home and online, but my first love is going back to the primary documents and being able to hold them. I just don’t get to do it as often. Can’t believe how rarely I get to the archives now.
  • Fran: Even I like to go to archives, etc. I started doing both when I started. I find that “places” lead you down different paths compared to searching online. How can you not be impressed with seeing the original document?
  • Margaret: No online when I started helping my mother in the 1950s. When I travelled overseas in the 1980s I would drop into registries and buy certificates for her, spend time looking at records. Melbourne was a favourite one. Now it has to be online
  • Sharn: I began researching before the internet and everything was written in notebooks. In about 1996 I started researching online after a long illness. I recall the thrill of receiving certificates in the mail after a long wait
  • Pauleen: My instant reaction is “no”. I doubt they even realise so much of what Ancestry etc have online comes from Archives, societies etc. I’m so grateful to have started offline. As I started back in 1986 all my research was done offline in libraries, archives, books or microfilms. I learnt so much doing it this way. I was lucky to have some paternal family certificates to help me get started.
  • Hilary: going to the Archives has brought up some great records things like settlement examinations which are not digitised yet
  • Brooke: Offline research is increasing now, although I still treasure those early family trees I scribbled down listening to Grandma (maternal). My husband opened an Ancestry account about 15 years ago & I kind of took it over. As I keep learning, from you lovely folks, doing webinars, etc, I find more resources that are offline. Also, I see the gaps in my research can only be filled with offline info (eg, asylum records at State Archives)
kropekk_pl / Pixabay
  • Jennifer: Mostly I treasure my ancestors. I now understand the sacrifices they made many years ago in the hope of having a better life. These sacrifices have given me the great life that I have in Australia
  • Soc OPS: Yes, I’ve visited archives in Northampton, Stafford and Shrewsbury plus The National Archives, and obtained copies of documents from other places. I love the detective work, and the excitement of handling documents that are hundreds of years old!
  • Pauleen: I remember being so excited when I found a ?xgreatgrandfather’s signature back in the 1700s on an LDS microfilm. Offline research made you work harder think more, and appreciate it more IMO.
  • Hilary: whilst researching offline brings rewards I love online community for sharing discussion and discoveries
  • Jennifer: I treasure all the official documents and photos that I’ve come across through research or have been given. It distresses me that I have nobody to pass them on to. But that’s another subject for another week
  • Mairead: Thanks to a cousin, I had the info to go find our village in Ticino, and the old family home in Jersey.
  • Carmel: Have been to local history group in Riverton, SA , SA genealogy, SA State Library. Unfortunately I live in Qld so have to balance my interstate visits to 5 siblings in Sth Aust with offline research time
  • Fran: I treasure the little snippets I find. I am not a big brick wall destroyer. I like seeing the story between birth and death rather than adding another 100 people added to my tree. Another electoral roll record makes me happy
  • Sandra: I have and still research offline. The most interesting time was the first time looking at microfilm. The lower parts of the images were black. They were German church records from Litchefelde.
  • Sue: In the 80s I organized family reunions and wrote the tree out on butchers paper for people to add more info for me to then add to my basic computer program I had at home
  • Fran: Yes both off & online. I think that those new to family history, like me, are lucky that there is so much available. Without the big hunt at the archives I am sure I do not appreciate the material as much as totally offline researchers did
  • Pauleen: The thing I treasure more about my research is bringing the families “back to life” for current descendants and sharing something about their lives. It’s the stories that turn them into real people and Trove has revealed so many unexpected and hidden event
  • Sue: I used Tasmanian archives for years, microfilms and card catalogues including researching convicts for people overseas. Charged them the cost of stamps to send them the paperwork.
  • Shauna: yes so much so that I changed careers and became a librarian and an archivist. I had really good lunch hours
PourquoiPas / Pixabay

Connections, stories and cousins

  • Brooke:  Cousin & I were doing @utasfh Convict Ancestors at the same time. We debunked the “ancestor was a bushranger” myth as stated on Jen Willets site. It was almost disappointing.
  • Margaret: I have 32 family tree scrolls from my mother. I had papers, reports, albums, etc but they are gradually being taken to my nephew. He has got the 1805 New Testament in 2 volumes which I got from my aunt who got it from her father, etc. I question everything and try to find more than one source. The scrolls I am gradually checking with other sources as I enter them in my computer tree. One family story has not yet been verified, although DNA says it could be correct.
  • Soc OPS: Not from my immediate family, but early on I made contact with a distant cousin (with Atcherley as her third forename!) who’d been researching for 20 years and shared her gedcom. I used that as a reference but did my own research and shared my findings.
  • Mining the Past: I only have a few photos and the family tree I did with my mum in my teens. I researched just by following the records and have found a few children who died young that my mum clearly didn’t know about. Have found grains of truth in family stories.
  • Sharn: I was the first in my family that I know of to research our family history. I lost family photos in the 74 Brisbane floods so every photo someone sends me is very precious.
  • Hilary: my ONS (one name study) is a work in progress as I started with an Unsourced tree with the aim of verifying the information and building upon it always more to find
  • Sandra: We have a family tree book of my mum’s family but only from when they came to Australia to about 1983. I now have my mum and photos and documents. Over the years I have copied and scanned every old photo I could get my hands on.
  • Pauleen: Early in my research I got a great oral history from an elderly cousin who also put me in touch with other lines. I was able to verify the info via official records. The certificates I inherited certainly helped me get started, as did a very unusual surname. I had few stories even though I knew all my grandparents and two were immigrants – but they didn’t talk about it. I did meet some great-aunts, uncles & 2nd cousins.
  • Shauna: I was the first to be interested in the family history. Sadly hardly any photos on either side of my family. But I have managed to link up with cousins and share research and photos. Blogging is such wonderful cousin bait
  • Sharn: Through cousin connections I have pieced together the other half of family stories. Since 2015 each year I have been visiting a dear third cousin in Chicago who sadly passed away recently. We achieved so much in her ‘genealogy kitchen’
  • Shauna: The internet and digitised records has revolutionized genealogy and it’s wonderful to have friends all over the world #ANZAncestryTime But I think some have forgotten methodology and just use indexes and hunt names.
  • Sharn: I inherited a family history of my husband’s family that went back to William the Conqueror. Need I say more…. I have written a blog post about it
  • Daniel: I inherited quite a lot of dates and photos from my mum who got the info from my nan. I did try and verify because some bits were WAY off! My favourite things to have are old photos and I actually got a photo of my (very young at the time!) Paternal great grandparents. Little did I know it was actually their wedding photo! 😲
  • Jennifer: I’ve met many cousins mainly through my blog who have shared research, family search and photos. These new connections are very precious to me. I have ongoing relationships with many and with their families
jarmoluk / Pixabay
  • Mairead: I know that one of my nieces is interested. But I also know she is of the digital era, so I need to make sure I have as much info scanned as possible
  • Tara: I’m the custodian (by consent) of my uncle’s archive of audio recordings, photos, letters etc Verification is a slow process but ongoing. Cousin connections (e.g. NZ) definitely expanded research! (Photo of GGGF in Africa 1890s!)
  • Sandra: I have found some wonderful 2nd cousins and we have all shared generously. All info is taken as clues. Review, verify and check again with any information that is given to me.
  • Pauleen: Cousins share stories of their branches that I may not know as well as further cousin-links. The oral histories shared have been amazing. They also spot some research things I haven’t. Others are fabulous at the people connections and link us all together.
  • Jill: So much bounty. Cousin connections have added facts, given me photos and artefacts and new friendships have developed. I cannot understand why genies do not publish their basic tree in print or online
  • Jill: I rarely take information as given but use the proffered information a a clue. I like to check more than one source. One exception would be when a mother announces the birth of one of her children
  • Mairead: An oral story was that we had a convict relative. Someone gave me documents. But it was only last year I found a suitable train of evidence to be confident he really was ours.
  • Carmel: inherited a hand drawn Galvin family tree from father-in-law, but only found it in our files after I’d done the research, luckily it confirmed my research
  • Jill: No such inheritance for me. I think earlier generations on my Mother’s side didn’t want to share details of either their convict or indigenous backgrounds. Perhaps my Irish grandmother was interested as she told lost of stories
  • Sue: I inherited photos and some stories while relatives were still alive but a few stories were a bit fanciful and since proved incorrect
  • Mairead: When I started I was given photocopies of family groups by a cousin whose Dad had scribbled it down. Helped as a starting point, and also helped me find a war death. Others had forgotten this man who is buried in Florence.
  • Moderator: There really is an emotional moment when you realise you are looking at the handwriting of your great great grandparents in a government file. And then there is the smell of old documents
  • Jennifer: I have inherited no family history research, however along the way cousins who I’ve met have shared their information with me. I verify everything before adding it to my family tree or files.
shell_ghostcage / Pixabay

Ancestors and place

  • Margaret: I love the detective part of the search. Trying to find all the different people in my family and bringing them to life. Finding cousins all over the world has been great.
  • Tara: Much of my reading is to try and understand their lives and times, it provide clues to further research. Migration, internal and external features heavily so understanding (a) is essential. FH benefits family (entertainment) & community (collaboration/help)
  • Karen: Partly as the 1 ancestor who did write up some family history was not completely accurate/truthful (aware?). My in-press article discusses this. I also wanted to know why my ancestors came to Australia. I think only 2 were convicts. Others arrived later.
  • Fran: Having migrants in my family has become more important to me after starting #familyhistory research. I find it amazing how they came to NZ in sailing boats with little chance of returning, risk of death on the way and no shelter when they arrived.
  • Daniel: It’s important to know your family history because as the saying goes – “History is doomed to repeat itself if you don’t know about it”. It’s important as well as it adds a sense of life to those who left us long before us. When it comes to immigrant ancestors, I don’t have any but however there were siblings of direct ancestors that had emigrated and it’s nice knowing what happened to them as well. I had said to myself that I wouldn’t find many connections to America, little did I know that I found many more connections than I thought. Family History benefits everyone, as it tells their story and their ancestors story. If it’s put on things like @WikiTreers or @FamilySearch. it’s free for anyone to access and see, which helps a lot.
  • Jill: I hope that my endeavours will benefit my descendants now and in the future. They are already interested in the stories I post and several have willingly taken a #DNA test. I’m more interested in the people than a label
  • Jennifer: My family history research doesn’t really benefit my family as there is nobody in my family who has ever shown an interest. But family history led me to starting my One Place Study which will benefit my community. Through family history I’ve learnt much about the countries where my ancestors originated. Researching family history gives the opportunity to learn about the world
  • Mairead: The more I learn about my Irish ancestors the more I realise how the Famine led directly to so many of them leaving. My Burkes and Flynns and related families all ended up near Perth from Co Mayo. Five of my Arbuckle sisters came to Australia- three of them on a famine ship from the Workhouse. In my grandmother’s line, 3 came to NZ. I have been in contact with a 2nd cousin who had no idea we were such close relatives. The details of those who emigrated was largely lost.
  • Shauna: I have found siblings who came out to different states and there is no indication that they ever connected up – they just seem to have lost touch
  • Soc OPS: I feel that I have become the teller of my ancestors’ lost stories, and I love that role! Expanding my research into the places where they lived is giving me an even broader insight into the lives they led, as members of their local communities.
Capri23auto / Pixabay
  • Brooke: All my ancestors were immigrants: convicts, sailors who stayed, assisted/unassisted immigrants, child migrants. Researching when they arrived in Australia & where they came from is what I target. Why? I love the stories particularly of child migrants
  • Fran: it is good that a group people are saving our history. In particular the history of many females is not seen to be important so lost. Family Historians save history. I just think learning about people widens your own experiences. Gives you more empathic skills and this helps you through life.
  • Pauleen: Absolutely! Learning our ancestors’ stories reveal how they overcame challenges in their daily lives. Exploring their lives & that of their communities at a micro level reveals the nuances of settlement that is hidden by “big picture” history. It all goes back to learning more about them as individual people. As I’ve learned more, I’ve come to appreciate their hard work and the challenges they’ve faced. Visiting their places here or overseas has been an amazing privilege.
  • Sandra C: I’ve always wanted to know where my families came from. Immigration is a large part of the story. Who they were, what they looked like, their story. World history and geography has become more interesting and I love having a mystery to research.
  • Shauna: it is a personal search to know where I have come from and what those people experienced. My writing it up and leaving copies it adds to the collective history of Australia.
  • Hilary: discovering more about who your family were and what they did helps you to see how you fit in
  • Pauleen: I have no Indigenous ancestors so, of necessity, immigration is part of my own ancestral journey. Learning about their migration journeys has been important so I could understand their experience. They were courageous to make this massive leap of faith
  • Jill: I am just plain curious. I want to know who I am and where I came from, it’s my story. I feel such a connection when I visit ancestral towns and sites. It’s spinetingling stuff.
  • Sharn: Understanding my ancestors lives within context as well as the places where they lived helps me to understand my own identity. It is a very important part of researching family history for me

Posts 

Jennifer writes her responses to these questions tonight

Sharn writes about telling your immigrant’s stories

Quotes of the night:

Regardless of all I find out about my family it is the friendships you make along the way that make researching family history a most wonderful interest. Thanks all who joined me tonight. I enjoyed your tweets and look forward to next week.

Carmel: Family history makes me: Recognise the efforts of those who came before especially my migrant ancestors; challenges me to research and find new resources; learn new ways of searching and it challenges the ageing brain.

Pauleen: Offline research gave you the opportunity to do what I call “slow genealogy” and absorb your discoveries and plot your way forward. As fun as online research is, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

Shauna: I love the fact that so many genealogical societies have been established and led to great friendships as well as the thrill of ancestor hunting

Readers: When did you begin your journey into family history? What have you found that interested you the most?

Researching online

Pexels / Pixabay

During 2020, COVID19 shut down many of the record offices, archives and libraries where genealogists around the world would have gone to do some research. But many of these repositories thought outside the box and made some resources available online. Others had already had a great online digitized presence.

These were the questions tonight:

  1. Which main genealogy sites do you use in your research? (subscription & free) What features do you find helpful? ie hints, help sections, records, shaky leaves
  2. Do you have a family tree on any genealogy websites? What are the pros and cons of putting your tree online?
  3. Have you tested your DNA? Is your DNA attached to an online tree and has this been helpful in your research
  4. What genealogy gems have you found on a genealogy website?

Sites used

  • Judy: Links to some of my favourite online resources are in ‘40 of my favourite #genealogy indexes/sources’  Others are about using FindMyPast
  • Jill: I subscribe to the 3 big subscription databases and the Free Familysearch. Love to have the convenience of anywhere, anytime availability. Other than those my staples are Trove, the NAA, NSW State Records.  I forgot to mention the Ryerson index in my list of staples. It is always open in a tab when doing Australian research. I also love the Australian Cemeteries Index and any other online cemetery index.
  • Fran: I use @Ancestry and @MyHeritage as both have loads of records and useful DNA functionality including matches to review.
  • Maggie P: Papers Past here in NZ is free and has helped me find some really informative bits of family history, and has sorted out more than a few queries
  • Pauleen: which online sites I use depends on what type of research and which country I’m focused on. I also use them to complement and crosscheck each other
  • Sandra: The most helpful for me is Ancestry and FamilySearch websites and the church record images (German research)
  • Margaret: WikiTree, FamilySearch, Ancestry, Google, Internet Archive, Find my Past, Find a Grave, BDM Online, Archway, Papers Past, Scotlands People, FreeCen, FreeReg, FreeBMD, Irishgenealogy, GRO, Canadian records, USA records, Trove, etc. I forgot about Online Cenotaph for war records. Always look there for people of the right age group.
  • Pauleen: I find Council cemetery sites invaluable for tracing deceased relatives. You can search by Council /place + cemetery. So many are online now but Toowoomba led the field.
Skitterphoto / Pixabay
  • Jennifer: I Mainly use @Ancestry @findmypast @FamilySearch plus the Ancestry app. There are others I use from time to time depending on my area of research at the time
  • Shauna: Trove is my must go to website for Australian digitised newspapers. You can find some really great stories for your relatives. SA Genealogy is real value for money, have been a member for years
  • Fran: PapersPast is one of my favourites, probably 1st. I think it is because my GGF and GF were always there submitting articles and adverts. My favourites are papers past from NZ and the index search for Births, Deaths and Marriage in NZ. It covers the vital records and filling in the gaps between with Papers Past in just two sites. Always have a browser open for these 2
  • Brooke: I subscribe to Ancestry, FindMyPast, & British Newspaper Archives. My tree(s) are on Ancestry & my favourite feature is the record sets catalogue. I don’t use FamilySearch very much. I don’t know how to get the best out of it (& I don’t like the idea of the global tree). Tasmanian Names Index is brilliant for researching my husband’s family…& random convicts just for the fun of it
  • Maggie P: When I started researching it was hard to find much Irish info- but now a whole lot is available online eg civil registration, censuses, Griffiths land valuations
  • Maggie: I use mostly FamilySearch, FindmyPast and Ancestry, plus also ScotlandsPeople and irishgenealogy.ie. I love that they all have different strengths (and records!)  how could I forget about FreeBMD, and also GRO! Not to mention our very own bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz
  • Pauleen: The thing I love most about Trove (and Papers Past for NZers) is that you can find stories you’d never have been able to find any other way -unless scrolling through decades of papers is your thing.
  • Pauleen: Favourite sites include FindMyPast (Irish), Ancestry (DNA and general), ScotlandsPeople (Scotland), ScotlandsPlaces, Nat Lib Scotland, TROVE, FamilySearch, DNAPainter, MyHeritage etc. I’d place Trove & ScotlandsPeople ahead of all the rest except for DNA
  • Margaret: For DNA matching I use Ancestry, MyHeritage, FTDNA and Gedmatch. I belong to various Facebook groups. I research on my Legacy tree building my matches’ pedigrees to find our MRCA
  • Carmel: The familysearch wiki familysearch.org/wiki/en/Main_P… is always a good place to start but Trove has been my favourite for quite a while
  • Jane: Ancestry, FindMyPast etc. for records, DNAPainter for useful tools, Papers Past and Trove for newspapers etc. … lots of other places e.g., Lancashire Online Parish Clerk … depends what I am focused on.
  • Soc OPS: FMP has scans of Shropshire, Staffordshire & Cheshire PRs, invaluable to my #OnePlaceStudy research and otherwise only accessible at archives (currently closed), so in practical terms that’s as close to those sources as I can get. Ditto other PRs on Ancestry.
  • Pauleen: I much prefer to go direct to source when searching rather than through the “genealogy giants”. I use Qld BDM extensively and NSW as required
  • Dara: Main sites are Ancestry for trees & Findmypast for records, and where ever else the research goes. For DNA it’s Ancestry & MyHeritage. Tested at FTDNA but it’s sooo slow. May delete GEDmatch kits -concerned as users say deleted kits have reappeared. Watching!
  • Maggie ~scans: have had some great success with Ireland Reaching Out website- found a second cousin who was able to identify who was in a photo. And remain in contact.
  • Fiona: Beyond the main paid sites, I use a number of websites for my research. I have the main NZ ones listed on my website and others I have pinned on Pinterest.
  • Soc OPS: For my #OnePlaceStudy research I typically use Ancestry, FMP, FreeBMD, Shropshire BMD, GRO birth/death indexes, FamilySearch, British Newspaper Archive, GENUKI, National Library of Scotland Maps, Streetmap, Google / Google Books and others. From these sources I use records, newspaper notices and articles, parish / locality info, old and current maps, old books and whatever Google searches can bring me! And yes, Ancestry Hints and member trees too, evaluated before being accepted / rejected

    DariuszSankowski / Pixabay
  • Hilary: I mainly use @MyHeritage for DNA matches and doing more on updating my connection to global tree @WikiTreers and @FamilySearch
  • Maggie: great to double check the same record sets across the various sites. I get free access via our National Library when I need it.
  • Maggie: Quite a few digitised records now available from here too (including WW1 service records, some land indexes): archway.archives.govt.nz
  • Jane: The New Zealand Electronic Text Collection can be useful … nzetc.victoria.ac.nz I have found one or two gems there
  • Hilary: I am using more free to access sites now and my National library of Wales access to some subscription sites
  • Sue: For DNA stuff, definitely Ancestry, FTDNA, MyHeritage, LivingDNA – but as most of my research was Tasmanian based, then Libraries Tasmania Tasmanian Names Index
  • Pauleen: I am not happy with some Family Search databases now which comply with legal requirements but IMO don’t with ethics since they include full details of a person’s Birth and parents’ marriage, not to mention adoptions.
  • Pauleen: Do you use the catalogue to search what’s available for your area, irrespective of the site you’re using? It helps you to understand what one site offers compared to another.
  • Shauna: Archway is the NZ Archives online catalogue – similar to RecordSearch in NAA or any of the state archives catalogues. Names have been indexed and some digitisation too
  • Maggie: I’ve used The Genealogist for English tithe records – great resource – but I don’t find the search facility very intuitive. Need to spend more time on the site!
  • Pauleen: MyHeritage is a bit of an acquired skill to use I’ve found and I think it’s become more challenging rather than less. Conversely they have good German family trees that match mine.
  • Sandra G: top 5 are Trove, Ancestry, SA Genealogy (member), NSW State Archives, National Archives for War service records
  • Pauleen: Records are my main reason I use all the online sites. Hints and shaky leaves intermittently – Having researched for so long I can usually recognise a valid hint immediately. Other’s trees as clues to more recent info and cousin contact info.
  • Hilary: I use Ancestry and FMP mainly Family Search sometimes also The Genealogist I rarely use My Heritage as don’t like results
  • Pauleen: Do you know you can see the British (and Irish) newspapers online if you have a Nat Library of Australia card? Also JSTOR articles…was very excited when that was done!
  • Sharn: My most used sites are Familysearch, FindmyPast, Ancestry.com, The Genealogist, Roots Ireland, Emerald Ancestors, Scotlands People, Trove, British Newspaper Archives, DNA painter
  • Pauleen: And FindMyPast is the go to for Irish records as well as irishgenealogy.ie and registers.nli.ie Fingers crossed the GV will eventually be digitised online
fumingli / Pixabay

 

Trees: Where? Pros/Cons

  • Sharn: I have both public and private trees on Ancestry too. Trees I research for others are always private. My own extensive tree is public but if I’m researching actively and putting out feelers I set it to private. I have made contacts via my blog too but my best contacts have come from my Ancestry tree. A few from my My Heritage tree also. I uploaded my Ancestry Gedcom to FamilySearch specifically so I could participate in relatives around me at Rootstech. Someone changed something in my tree but it was easily fixed.
  • Sue: My main family tree online is with Ancestry but I have a basic one on MyHeritage and Family Search – find them difficult to make changes but I also have a much larger tree on home computer. In the profiles of people on my Ancestry tree, I include links to online records other than those from Ancestry databases – eg Trove, Tasmanian Names Index etc. Proves to readers you have done more research.
  • Sharn: I’ve been using the web links and the DNA tags but my tree is large so I’ll keep plodding away.
  • Maggie: I have a number of family trees online, but all are private except for skeleton ones connected to DNA accounts I manage. I think I need to flesh the latter ones out to make the most of the matching functionality.
  • Margaret: My Legacy tree on my computer is about 10,000 people. It goes everywhere including hypothetical people. I use that to get my GEDCOM but I limit that. I have lots of experimental trees too for DNA matches. I need to add more sources. I have put GEDCOMS of my Legacy tree on Ancestry, Gedmatch and FTDNA. I used to have a large MyHeritage tree, but I have deleted it back to the minimum size as I do not want to have to spend time updating that
  • Fiona: I have my main tree offline (great for creating reports for book skeletons) and only use my online trees for generating hints and DNA connections.
  • Gen X Alogy: I have a tree on Ancestry. Downside is keeping track of bits I may not wish to have uploaded, but that’s about it… so many upsides, particularly using it/having it used to connect with distant cousins. I’ve met so many great people!!
  • Shauna: Blaine Bettinger stressed complete trees when he was out here and I have been finding it really useful to trace all descendants of an ancestor couple where possible
  • Hilary: I have been updating my connections @WikiTreers with better citations and connected to @FamilySearch tree my Ancestry tree has always been private and needs updating get more connections on free sites. I like that I can write a biography for an individual @WikiTreers
  • Sandra G: I have my own website but I have not updated in a while. have public trees and some private trees on ancestry. Con for ancestry is people just copying without contacting or responding to messages.
  • Carmel: In my online tree at MyHeritage I include links to blog posts I have written about folks
  • Sandra G: So in saying that for messages on ancestry I did today receive a reply From a message I sent 13 years ago.
  • Sharn: I find having a tree online is an excellent way to find relatives providing their tree is correct. People copying my tree and popping it on to the wrong family is a downside. But the good outweighs the bad
  • Pauleen: Not to mention using photos that have a clear copyright symbol and name on them where I’ve taken them overseas. I’ve written to a few people who’ve used people photos that are incorrect – some reply and correct. I do find it frustrating when I get in touch with someone because of linked trees (& maybe DNA) and where I offer new info, only to find the next time they’ve made the tree private.
  • Brooke: But how do you decide what to leave out? Knock on wood, but I haven’t seen any negatives yet from having my full tree online.
  • Margaret: I have worked on my and many other families on FamilySearch, removing duplicates and confirming information from other records like BDM Online. I have put about 600 profiles on @WikiTreers which includes my pedigree line. I am checking these again to add any further information which will take some months. That is my best tree
  • Shauna: I have my tree online in a few places plus I have blogged about families too. It is definitely cousin bait as I have made connections I would not necessarily found. Sharing online seems to be one of the ways to make sure your research is findable in future
pixelcreatures / Pixabay
  • Pauleen: I agree that blogging brings all sorts of information to the fore, much completely unexpected. Similarly having a network of people who know your research interests can make a big difference
  • Maggie ~scans: I was able to put some of my Dad’s WW2 photos online there- he had named the people in them. They let me know one day that someone had found their father in one of my Dad’s photos
  • Jane: My main trees are on Ancestry and backed up to my computer using FamilyTreeMaker. Having trees online helps with connections and collaboration
  • Carmel: online @ MyHeritage and limited trees on Ancestry and FMP All good for finding rellies. My ancestors don’t belong to just me. Gradually adding some to FamilySearch and Wikitree
  • Jill: The biggest pro is making connections. I wouldn’t put everything online just enough to be effective cousin bait.
  • Pauleen: PROS: Online trees can help you identify cousins even if they only have basic trees. They may know how many living family members of a branch. You can use them to connect for DNA. They can also see your line for DNA and research.   CONS: The inevitable potential for errors to be made, the unreliability of the data recorded, the dead-ends in many US trees when they reach immigrants, the one or three person “trees” for DNA matches
  • Fran: Keeping multiple trees is time consuming so they do get out of date easily. Sometimes I just use branches. I like the hints however can turn them off to stay focused.
  • Brooke: Ancestry is where my online tree lives. I recently ‘upgraded’ it to contain all my family tree branches & I’ve been getting great cousin participation. I sync my Ancestry trees to Family Tree Maker.
  • Fran: One of my goals with the Ancestry Tree is to improve others trees. I always attached good sources so that others might review these and fix their trees. Mine is not perfect however I do use disclaimers, eg not verified
  • Jill: I believe that, if you want to make connections you must put your research out there in cyberspace. My main database is on my PC but I have my own website, and scaled down trees on the Big 4.

DNA – matches, searching


  • Jill: I have tested with the 5 main companies. The best results have come from Ancestry. My aboriginal ethnicity been confirmed – the family stories were right. I have made new connections and reconnected with other cousins
  • Dara: Sadly, my matches are rarely interested in collaborating. What is wrong with my family?!!!
  • Maggie: I was lucky my parents were happy to do it – I gave them as Christmas gifts one year. Only took them nine months to actually do them!
  • Fiona: @patientgenie and I have done two Ancestry Facebook videos on DNA.
  • Sharn: I visited a third cousin in Chicago who found me on Ancestry. I arrived there in 2015 with DNA kits. We spat together in her kitchen the morning after I arrived and all I could think was – what if we aren’t related….. we were!
  • Sandra G: DNA on Ancestry. This has helped to confirm actual research. Also for my great great grandfather, I am sure I have worked from matches that he is not who he says he was. I need to write up my research to post it to my blog to
  • Maggie: Quite a few matches coming through on MyHeritage, but they seem to have less useful trees on there, sometimes difficult to identify where they fit in. I have a basic pedigree public for each of my parents, but it’s useful to go wide and include more than just direct ancestors – easier to identify where matches fit in. I tend to do that part offline at the moment.
  • Sue: tested with Ancestry and Living DNA but also uploaded to MyHeritage, FTDNA and Gedmatch. Attached to trees on each site where possible and been very helpful especially my dad’s DNA tests – I look after about 8 DNA tests for relatives. Many I asked to prove or disprove NPE with Dad’s DNA – found he now only has half relations except for my brother and I
  • Jennifer: I was planning on learning more about DNA at DNA Down Under but was sick and couldnt go. Still don’t know much. I have had my DNA tested by @Ancestry As yet I have only attached it to my basic outline tree on Ancestry My only excuse for this is slackness. I haven’t done anything useful to my research with my DNA results. They are just sitting there waiting for me to learn more about DNA.
  • Shauna: My grandmother always refused to talk to me about the family and told me not to trace back. I always thought it was about the skeletons in her family – little did I know she was hiding her own skeleton. Truth will out
Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay
  • Soc OPS: Ancestry DNA (for myself, my father, my brothers and several cousins, linked to my Ancestry tree) which has helped confirm much of my paper trail research; no breakthroughs on my brickwall born-out-of-wedlock ancestors yet though. Plus yDNA.
  • Margaret: Parents and all 1st cousins on my father’s side dead. Two siblings have not tested. I’m the oldest, so my DNA is the best available. It seems to go back to early 1700s. I’ve done two and a third is on its way to me. Both attached to trees, one private one not. Without DNA matching I would have had no chance to find my father’s family which seems to have missed most records. I spend much time going through a list of kits. I have about 200,000 DNA matches within my close family and various cousins at various distances. I found my 2xgreat grandfather’s family by DNA matching combines with research. Now I am on the trail of the generation before,
  • Maggie ~scans: With a combo of IrelandReachingOUt website, my DNA matches, and FB- I had organised to meet a knowledgeable cousin in Ireland last year- but with COVid the trip never happened. Having my DNA attached to a tree has helped me clarify more about my Scettrini matches who emigrated to the US. Helpful as some in Oz have gone up the wrong tree!
  • Shauna: Testing my DNA revealed a very close family secret which was a shock. But then DNA helped me find my father’s biological family. No regrets because I prefer the truth.
  • Sharn: I have my DNA linked to trees on Ancestry and My Heritage. I love the moment when I click on a tree match and find the DNA also matches. The paper trail is confirmed
  • Brooke: my DNA test is connected to my Ancestry tree. So is Dad’s test. There’s some real potential there to break down the brick wall that is the mystery of Dad’s maternal grandfather
  • Jill: Haven’t found a close NPE yet but I think my large match with Mr Smith might be one. I can see that he has read my last message. Just wish he would answer!
  • Sandra C: I did an Ancestry DNA test and uploaded those results to MyHeritage and FTDNA. Two of those are attached to a tree. Very helpful. Trees are private though while I try to push back further in time and until I can find documents to further prove things.
  • Hilary: I tested with @myheritagedna but not had much success matches are distant and other trees non existent
  • Maggie: I’ve had mine and my parents’ DNA tested, and attached trees to theirs. It has been wonderful to use the results to help back up research I’ve done over the years and confirm hypotheses
  • Fran: DNA attached to my tree in @Ancestry and @MyHeritage. Does help you locate branches for DNA matches.
  • Jane: I have tested with 3 companies and have uploaded to a number of others … I always link my DNA to myself … it helps to make connections so that I can build in collateral lines
  • Pauleen: Yes I’ve tested with most of the big companies or uploaded. I’ve connected DNA to my online tree. It’s much more helpful now more people have tested and I can more readily assign them to my lines. None of the DNA companies have shown my German ethnicity, and Irish is haphazard. Cousins testing has been helpful in confirming paper trails and distant connections.

    cattu / Pixabay

Genealogy gems

  • Pauleen: I think what you get with NLA is the same as the subscription sites. Keep planning to do a full comparison, but haven’t. I use my FMP subs for newspaper searching mostly. I was doing cartwheels when I learned about JSTOR via NLA.
  • Maggie: I did a lot of my NZ research from England while I was living there – plenty of online resources available, and easy to order certs/printouts. Enjoy!
  • Society for OPS: I’ve found gems for others too, including a friend & former work colleague who was adopted as a baby. Traditional research on her maternal side (one ancestor was a stage magician!), DNA eventually unravelled her paternal side and revealed half-siblings!
  • Maggie: The most significant gem would have to be John Burke’s baptism in Aughagower parish, Co Mayo – found on RootsIreland. Was the beginning of identifying extended family all in one townland.
  • Fiona: Everyday brings genealogy gems – some happy, some not. This week has included a young family of girls emigrating from Aust to NZ in 1883 and finding out what happened to them; and today it was a murder. Each adds to the wider family story.
  • Hilary: I find the GRO indexes have helped me find missing relatives and prove a family story regarding a child who died young. Premature birth found inquest in newspaper
  • Sharn: Thanks to a passenger record for a Pan Clipper I am trying to work out why my g uncle was flying between England and New York during WW2. Was he a spy?
  • SocOPS: So many, for my own tree, and for my #OnePlaceStudy and one-name study research, it’s difficult to know where to start! Photos, records, newspaper reports . . . online resources have been a treasure trove (just as well during a pandemic-induced lockdown!)
  • Sue: Researching my direct relatives wills, I found out who gave me my piano that I used to play as a child. Didn’t know it then though.  Then I found out my GGgrandmothers brother-in-law was a piano maker in Hobart – I now wonder if the piano had come down through the family from then in the 1860s
Tama66 / Pixabay
  • Sharn: Last year through a DNA match on Ancestry.com and building a tree I linked an adoptee to my family tree. He was adopted in the 1940’s and has now met his half siblings in the US. Quite a Gem
  • Hilary: my gems have got to be newspaper finds on @findmypast things such as obituaries, Marriages and inquests various court reports and even properly sale pointing to a Burial date
  • Margaret: I found by DNA matching and research that my great grandmother’s sister had emigrated to Invercargill and was buried in the local cemetery. She had my two forenames.
  • Sandra C: My genealogy gems are when looking through the German church records and being able to find the whole family. Sad though when you find a brother or sister only to find they died at age 2.
  • Shauna: A fantastic find was a sketch of my GG grandfather in a digitised newspaper. With no photos, this was really good
  • Carmel: on Trove wonderful description of my parents wedding and extensive reporting of gt-grandparents golden wedding celebrations, on FS will of gt grandfather giving his land to daughter, my grandmother
  • Pauleen: Trove discoveries include the extent of an ancestors confectionery skills, fires, floods & near-death experiences. Another great grandfather was a bandmaster in Longreach -lost to the family memory. Recently that a great aunt had briefly joined the convent.
  • Brooke: Can’t go past Aunty Joy who found me using Ancestry messaging. She really was a gem.
  • Pauleen: Finding a news story about my great-grandfather’s anti-vax stand and with wonderful assistance from a genimate, proving a family story & learning more about my ancestor’s experience
  • Pauleen: My genealogy gems have mainly been found offline in libraries and archives. Trove however is gold for revealing all sorts of real-life stories about my ancestors that would otherwise never be known.

Love this quote:

Carmel and Fran: Love that comment that your ancestors don’t just belong to you. Sometimes people seem to be a bit territorial with their research.

Readers: What are your three favourite places to research online? Why those three?