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2 September 2014
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Getting Started on Your Family Tree

By Dr Nick Barratt
Starting work

Man searching the archives
Searching at The National Archives, Kew 
Once you have registered as a user at your chosen archive or records office, read the relevant information leaflets before you start work. Your first port of call should be the enquiry desk. Summarise what information you want - be it a birth certificate, record of baptism or a will - and who the person is that interests you. This way you will probably receive a much clearer answer than if you fall into the trap of recounting your entire family history.

'Work from known facts and move backwards from the most recent piece of information. '

Many county records offices have compiled basic name indexes. Check these first, in case you uncover immediate references to an ancestor. Work from known facts and move backwards from the most recent piece of information. Then you can use other catalogues and reference works, to identify material that might contain information on relatives.

You can then ask to see the original documents and work through them, looking for the information you think might be there. Look for concrete proof of things you know a little about already, and avoid assuming a link between individuals just because the place or name seems right.



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