Tools of the Trade

Up Census Dates Old Occupations First Name Abbrevations


Other than sheer enthusiasm, I assume you have gathered as much detail from your parents & relatives to start your tree,
and have come to a grinding halt.


Either you do not know where next to look, or you have the information and are unable to decide in which direction to go.


Help for those just starting with very few relatives listed.   Click here.

For those who have there relatives information by cannot make that decision in which direction to go.
Click Here.










Just starting out.

    Looking for the birth of your earliest relative is a difficult job unless your family lived in the same parish over many years.

            If the name you are searching for is a common name such as John, Mary, William, Ann  or Thomas, then you will have a job to prove that he/she is yours.

            Before civil registration the only evidence of events are in parish registers. These record baptisms & rarely give birth dates, marriages & burials, (not death dates).

It is a good plan to mark in red on a map all the parishes searched starting with the marriage place continuing outwards in ever increasing circles.

Before c 1840 there were no railways. Journeys were made by foot, horse, horse & cart or stagecoach.

By convention most marriages took place in the brides parish but there are always exceptions.

Look on the map for roads radiating from the marriage place & start by searching those parishes along these routes. Mark all these parishes searched in red & continue with parishes further out along these routes.

This is a time consuming task but made easier now with so much information on the web.

Census returns from 1851 onwards will also be very helpful. These give the parish of birth against every entry. Beware, though as some people didnít know where they were born & made a guess.

The earliest census of any use taken in 1841 does not show the place of birth. It only records Yes if they were born in the county or No if outside the county.

If you have a marriage certificate or the parish marriage entry look at the witnesses. These may be relatives & may give you a clue to fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers. Many witnesses were paid by the parish to do this job & were not related. Early parish marriages do not have witnesses though it might mention where one or both came from if neither were resident in that parish.

Most people with land, farms, trades, working tools & live stock left wills. These give much information about a family & may even mention a child not found in the register.



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  Decisions to make. 



            The decisions you now make, stick to them, do not get side tracked, as this will only deepen your frustration.

 You must write down all the information you have, the easiest way to start (non computer) is to take a A4 size piece of paper, Turn it Portrait way up.  At the top put the names of the Couple you are investigating, Convention has the male on the left and the female on the right  -  John Smith JONES  =  Jane Sarah BROWN - the = sign indicates marriage. You should now add birth dates if known, Baptism/Christening dates if known. Marriage Dates. Also add the places where born Baptised/Christened, Married, these places will assist in following you ancestors around.
Death dates and placed if Known.

Children are added below the parents Draw a short line vertically downwards from the = sign and then draw a line horizontally across the page. From this horizontal line add small vertical lines to which you add the names of the Children of the marriage if any.

Once you have the children's names you need again dates and places for Birth, Baptism/Christening, marriage and death.

If a Marriage is found record the female's name only.

Then start a new A4 sheet for them.

If successful you will soon have many A4 sheets. It may be time to get a Computer Programme to help you.


Here is a A4 sheet for you to follow     A4 Sheet for Recording a Family





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