If you’re strug­gling with piles of un­sorted doc­u­ments or an online tree that needs cut­ting back, Claire Vaughan has some smart spring-clean­ing ad­vice

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

S pring is a great time of year to throw back the shut­ters, let in the light and sort out your ge­nealog­i­cal mud­dle. Whether you do your re­search on pa­per, or use an online tree builder or soft­ware such as Fam­ily Tree Maker or Root­sMagic, we have some ideas to help you re­gain con­trol and get on with the business of mak­ing ex­cit­ing new dis­cov­er­ies.

The best place to start is at the be­gin­ning – what first trig­gered your in­ter­est? Fam­ily his­tory ex­pert Ruth Symes says: “What is your prime pur­pose in re­search­ing your fam­ily? Is it to find out the ori­gins of a par­tic­u­lar an­ces­tor? Work out what be­came of an in­her­i­tance? What­ever your rea­son, fo­cus on this and try not to be­come di­verted.”

What­ever form your re­search takes, it’s good to have an over­view of what you’ve done so far, so ei­ther print off or draw up as full a ver­sion of your fam­ily tree as you can. Wall charts (such as Who Do You Think You

Are? Magazine’s – see page 9) are in­valu­able for pa­per-based re­search. From your tree, work out your ‘an­ces­tor score’ – how many di­rect an­ces­tors you’ve iden­ti­fied so far, and plan how to fill in those miss­ing names.

An over­view will also help you to check that your tree makes sense: that ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has a cred­i­ble link to the next. You don’t want to find, later on, that you’ve been re­search­ing the wrong fam­ily!

Else Churchill, lead genealogist at the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists ( SoG), ad­vises re­vis­it­ing and re­vis­ing your tree reg­u­larly – par­tic­u­larly fo­cus­ing on sources: “Make sure you know and have noted the source of all your in­for­ma­tion, and have high­lighted any spec­u­la­tion or con­jec­ture.” Ruth agrees: “As long as you can pro­vide ev­i­dence for an en­try, leave it in. Oth­er­wise, cut it out.”

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