SPRING-CLEAN YOUR FAMILY TREE
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
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.”