This article is directed for those people new to computer related genealogy research, also referred to by the term “newbie”. However, I have long since found this “hobby” of ours to be a continual learning experience, one which I accept with an open yet questioning mind.
The internet can offer a wealth of information and guidance regarding your Family History research, but it can also be a mine field which can hinder your development. This article cannot identify all the pit falls but can offer assistance in finding your way around what the internet can offer you, the researcher.
I am sure that one of the first ports of call where you will find yourself is www.rootsweb.com This site offers both a “Getting started at rootsweb” located at http://searches.rootsweb.com/share.html and also rootsweb’s guide to tracing family trees, at http://rwguide.rootsweb.com/
The Rootsweb site also offers links to interesting and helpful sites, especially the subject of mailing lists, one or more of which you may wish to join. There are many surname lists where you might wish to interact with other people researching the same surname as you. There are also county lists whereby you can discuss issues relating to the county of Lincolnshire, and ask advice of people researching in the same area who may be able to assist with your research.
There is a rootsweb newbie list available, which can be accessed via http://www.rootsweb.com/~newbie/ where more experienced members can offer guidance with any problems.
Other genealogy mailing lists have been made available by Rod Neep at British Genealogy. For an inclusive list of those available, see http://www.british-genealogy.com/lists/all-lists.html You can view instructions for joining the Lincolnshire List at http://www.british-genealogy.com/mailman/listinfo/eng-lincolnshire and for joining the beginners list at http://www.british-genealogy.com/mailman/listinfo/gen-beginners
A full index of available mailing lists is maintained by John Fuller at http://www.rootsweb.com/~jfuller/gen_mail.html you’ll be amazed at the vast assortment of lists to choose from
If you decide to subscribe to a mailing list, it might be an idea to watch the traffic for a little while to learn some of the basic rules which are not always apparent at first, for instance sending an email with capital letters is considered shouting and something you would wish to avoid. Once again the Newbies list would assist you with what is termed list netiquette.
The next site I wish to bring to your attention is that of Genuki, short for Genealogy of UK and Ireland, located at www.genuki.org.uk which also offers a “getting started in genealogy” page at http://www.genuki.org.uk/gs/
This site offers useful advice including “document your sources” and “do not rely on online sources”. Many more sources are becoming available online, and whilst this is extremely beneficial to the researcher, it must be noted that much of this information is, on the whole transcribed, and subject to errors. It should always be authenticated by referral to the original source.
Information related to the Lincolnshire area is also offered from Genuki, at http://www.genuki.org.uk/gs/ and the rootsweb Lincolnshire Genweb at http://www.rootsweb.com/~englin/ both sites being maintained by Lincsgen mailing list administrator Louis R. Mills
It is an important factor for our research to be able to write down findings and record what we have achieved. There are many programmes available for us to do this, many of which are listed on Cyndi’s List at http://www.cyndislist.com/software.htm Differing properties and factors will appeal to different types of research, so it is important to look into what type of programme will be able to fulfil your requirements prior to purchase. Cyndi’s List also offers a wealth of guidance for “newbies” at http://www.cyndislist.com/beginner.htm
The Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) also present a Guide to “First Steps in Family History at http://www.ffhs.org.uk/General/Help/First.htm This site includes a question and answer feature, which takes you through the different stages of research from initially asking relatives for information, to documenting research and which further steps to take.
An interesting site with a different perspective is “about com" which gives us “Top Ten Genealogy mistakes to Avoid” shown at
http://genealogy.about.com/library/weekly/aa072100a.htm This site tells us that the first mistake to avoid is mis-spelling Genealogy! but also offers Classes for Genealogy and Beginner resources. The ninth mistake to avoid in our research, we are informed is “Don’t assume that everything you find on the internet is reliable” a statement with which I strongly agree. Please do be careful with information found on the internet, and always check the original source.
There are a number of sites which will provide invaluable advice and information, for instance that of the Public Record Office (PRO) at
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/default.htm The PRO web site provides many online guides and access to records
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (LDS) provide a “getting started” page at http://www.familysearch.org where useful resources such as downloadable family group sheets are available. A very important resource, the 1881 census is also available online from the LDS. If your time online is not limited then I would advise having a browse around this site, looking at the information pages and searching on the International Genealogical Index (IGI). If you do find anything of interest to you, then remember to either bookmark the page, or make a note of the address (URL) so that you can find it again.
The other census available online is that of the 1901, which is offered as a pay per view service at http://www.1901census.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ The site permits you to search for individuals or institutions, and then you pay a charge to view the actual image. Payment can be made by card or vouchers and details of both are available on the site.
If you are new to computer research, then it would be remiss of me not to mention the Lincs Family History Society Web page, available to browse at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/LIN/lfhs/ You will be able to search surname listings, newspaper extracts, purchase vouchers for the 1901 census and obtain details of membership to the society.
Having located possible ancestors in a census, you will want to search birth, marriage and possibly death records. Civil registration in England and Wales commenced 1st July 1837. The Index (GRO) to these registers can be searched in many large libraries and record offices. They have also been filmed by the LDS and can be searched at their Family History Research Centres. A guide to the Indexes registration districts is available on Genuki at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/civreg/GROIndexes.html
A further guide to Birth, Marriage and Death records in Lincolnshire is at http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/section.asp?docId=27632 which also provides details on how to obtain certificates.
A pay per view service of the GRO Index is available online at http://www.1837online.com which also provides a guide to tracing your Family History and a tour of the site. However, a free site is available at http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/ and although not yet complete is an invaluable source. FreeBMD is part of the free UKGen family, which includes FreeCEN http://freecen.rootsweb.com/ (Census Data) and FreeREG http://freereg.rootsweb.com/ (Parish Registers).
Another extremely useful site, which could be of benefit to you is the Lincolnshire Look up exchange at http://home.wi.rr.com/lincolnshire/lincs.html A number of people volunteer to look up requests from Family History researchers in records that they hold or can access.
Inevitably, your research will take you to further topics not mentioned here. You may, for example, decide to learn more of your ancestor’s lives, and the living conditions of the time. Dr. Ashton Emery has produced an A to Z index of British Genealogical Research at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/EmeryPaper.html should you wish to research different areas. It provides a short guide to many subjects, including Apprenticeship records, Manorial records and probate registry.
I hope this has provided a useful resource for both beginners and more experienced genealogists. However, most importantly my recommendation to you is that you enjoy your research.
If there is a particular subject relating to computers and genealogy that you would like me to cover, then please do let me know. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Page updated Wednesday March 12, 2008
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