Love the research!

Maybe I should have been a detective!

Since retiring from teaching eight years ago, I have started to organize my family history research more carefully. This is mainly because of the DNA tests I have requested from members of my family. I am having to keep better records of what I have done and who are matches to all the people I have had tested. Thanks to UTAS for the Diploma of Family History which I have completed since retirement. They helped with the organizing and planning for my research.

At the moment I am working with an as yet unknown 4th cousin with username wollen100. She matches my mother, my brother and me with DNA . It is only  a small amount about 21cMs for each of us. But we think it might come down through the BOYD side of the tree.

Me, daughter of my mother, daughter of Hannah DAVEY, daughter of Martha COLGRAVE, daughter of Susan BOYD, daughter of John Henry or Holliday BOYD and Martha BOYD , was Virco/Vico nee HEARN.

Birth certificate of Harriet where father is noted as John Holliday Boyd

On two birth certificates for John’s children he is mentioned as John Holliday Boyd. Looking on Ancestry, most public trees have his parents as William and Ann Boyd from Ireland. But I think that name Holliday must be significant. Also I noted that John had no children with the name of William. Perhaps a clue that William is not his father.

John was a convict tried at the Central Criminal Court in London and sent to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) in the 1830s. But on the convict conduct record it says his native place was Plymouth which is in Devon in England. I have found a John Holliday Boyd born in 1809 in Maker, Cornwall which is across the river from Plymouth. Parents were Robert Boyd and Nancy Holliday and their marriage was in 1797 in Devon. Maybe these are the couple I need to concentrate on to find that connection to my 4th cousin.

She has a lot of ancestors in the Plymouth area of Devon with surnames VEALE, WYATT, ELLIOTT, PRIDEUX, WEST, SWAIN and WICKETT. So more research needed to connect my Boyds to one of these names on my cousins tree.   I have found an Ann Boyd marrying a Richard Wyatt in 1793 at Ivybridge in Devon. Maybe Ann and Robert are siblings!

Come on Sue, get on with that research!!

Conducting your research

Dadaw 'n Me
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Miss Shari via Compfight

In the family history course this week, Dianne Snowden spoke to us about how to conduct our research. Here are the notes I made while listening to the video. I have also included a few links to sites on the net which might be helpful.

Remember to follow the basic principles for family history

Steps for conducting your researchElwell[1]

  1. Write down what you know
  2. Decide what you want to learn
  3. Choose a record or source of info
  4. Obtain and search the record
  5. Use and record what you have learned

Look for online finding aids to help with your research. Familysearch has many aids for helping with handwriting

Have an aim for each research task

  1. What do you hope to find out?
  2. Where are you going to look? – Repositories and records – Primary/secondary sources

Document your sources

  • Any statement of fact must have its own source
  • Sources will record location of the fact and also record details that might impact your evaluation of the fact

Tips for researching

  1. When searching, often better to put in less information
  2. Too many results, then refine search by adding more words
  3. Spellings in early records is flexible
  4. Names can be spelt many different ways
  5. Names can be changed
  6. Reading difficult handwriting, compare with sequence of letters you know.  Familysearch online help
  7. Never assume family relationship with person of same name
  8. Many records have similar info eg birth registration/church records, address in electoral roll/post office directory
  9. Children registered in Tasmania with f or m


Start with Chapman Codes but also keep your own list

Once you have info, you must then evaluate it.

  • Original source material generally more reliable
  • What processing has the source material undergone – eg transcribing which might not be accurate, re-copied from tree to tree
  • Truthfulness of record will depend on purpose and motivation of creators eg ages on marriage certificates, obituaries especially to cover convict records
  • Most reliable informants have first hand knowledge of events
  • Veracity and skill of record’s creator will have shaped content
  • Timeliness adds to a document’s credibility
  • All known records should be used
  • Case never closed on a genealogical conclusion.

When searching don’t just rely on Google as your search engine. You can also use customised search engines – often Google based. Try out some of these others: I put in Francis Colgrave (my gggrandfather) and found many resources I had never seen before

Genealogy in time

Cyndislist which has search engines for many countries of the world

Genealogy search help based on Google has nine search engines to suggest

Digital trends gives some great sites to search

My readers: Which search engine or genealogy site have you used that gave lots of great information?

[1] Barry J Elwell Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering Your Family (Cedar Fort Publishing, 2012)

My William SMITH research plan

Davo the Tassie Devil tours Albany whaling station

As part of this family history course we have to come up with a research plan. Here is what I have added to our discussion area.

As I have already completed a lot of my family history over the last 40 years, I want to try to find out more about my great great grandfather who was given the name William SMITH. I would love to find out his actual Samoan name.

So the following is my research aim:

To create historical timeline of Captain William SMITH’s life as a whaler. To do this:

  • find out the names of the ships he was on and the dates (PS2) (PS1) (PS4)
  • where the ships voyages were (PS1)
  • his role on each ship (PS1)
  • life on board the ship (PS3) (SS1) (SS2)

Hopefully find his Samoan name by finding out when he was given the name William SMITH.

Primary Sources:

  1. Marine Board records of ship’s voyages – government record
  2. Application for master of foreign vessel certificate – government record
  3. Newspapers of the time – shipping news and articles about voyages – newspaper record
  4. Images of ships he served on

Secondary sources

  1. Susan Chamberlain thesis about early whaling in Hobart Town – public record
  2. Books about whaling around Tasmania from the 1850’s to the 1890’s – public record
  3. My relatives including Glenn (who I will be interviewing) and Kim – great grandsons of William
  4. I am wondering if there might be records at the Australian Maritime Museum?

Once I find his Samoan name, then Missionary records held at the Mitchell Library – might need to visit Sydney at some time in the future.

I have lots of records once he became a master mariner in the 1870’s but don’t have much prior to this.

 Readers: Can you think of any other primary or secondary sources I could use? Which repository would I find them in?



Convict record of Rebecca Jackson
Convict record of Rebecca Jackson

One of the most important things to do when finding out about your family history is to research thoroughly.

Don’t believe everything you see online.

If it is a digitized copy of the original document that you can decipher on your own, then that is OK. But many people add their family tree to online websites without having first verified the data. This can then be added to other people’s trees and so the problem or inaccurate data is passed on.

Always check and double check from original or primary sources as historians call them.

What can primary sources include:

  • digitized documents like newspapers, convict records, diaries, ships logs that were written at the time of the event
  • photos, videos taken at the time of the event
  • government records such as census, immigration records taken at the time of the event
  • quilts, paintings, sculptures etc made at the time of the event
  • interviews with locals at the time of the event

So in general, anything written, taken or made by an eyewitness or participant in the actual event.

Where to find primary sources:

  • local libraries
  • family history centres
  • online digitized documents
  • microfilms of documents – many now being digitized
  • parish or county record centres

You will find links on my sidebar to some of the places I use when researching my family history. Many relate to Tasmania, UK and Ireland as these are the places my ancestors came from or lived in.