It is one thing researching your family and finding all the data but the question is, what do you do with it?
If you are just starting out you may legitimately ask, ‘What data? All I have is a few names and some birth dates’. True, you initial steps will seem rather forlorn compared to what you read about other ancestry searchers. But given time the data you will collect will surprise then overwhelm you. The more you get the more your find. So a couple of questions need to need addressing, how to organise data and how can I secure it?
The first question I am going to have bypass. My own organisational ability is dismal. Everything goes on the computer where it eventually gets put into folders and then put into other folders, folders within folders, it is all very confusing.
I admire those who can organise their work but creating flow charts, documenting everything on a index card system, is not for me.
My only saving grace is that I write, I write about the events of my discoveries. This gives me time to think over the data and records and to check those bits which don’t seem to make sense. What do I mean? Here is an example of a part of my transcript …
Researching my great, great-grandfather, Samuel Ford I found that he apparently married Margaret Wright on the Isle of Cumbrea in Scotland. The couple had ten children which cover two pages of the Old Parochial Records (OPRs). The record commences on page fifteen of the register and continues on page twenty-nine. Five children are recorded on each page entry.
Significantly, the first entry commences,
‘Samuel Ford Quarrier was born [followed by a large gap] Margaret Wright his wife 3rd May 1792 their family is …’
It is apparent that Samuel Ford’s birth date is not recorded and a gap has been left in anticipation perhaps that the details will be forth coming. In this instance, the gap cannot be put down to a scribal error, it has been deliberately left blank. Given the fact that a further five children are recorded on page twenty-nine with a clear reference that the births of the first five children as recorded on page fifteen, it would seem there had been ample time in which to make the necessary insertion as to Samuel Ford’s birth. It may well be that Samuel Ford did not know when he was born which was not unusual in those years. But is such was the case then there was no need to leave a gap in the first place. If Samuel Ford was unaware of his birth then leaving a gap could only serve to embarrass the man. Besides, leaving gaps were birth dates should have been recorded was not standard procedure practiced by the recorder on Cumbrae. I can find no other records where gaps have been left.
… end of transcript.
As it turned out this ‘gap in the record’ proved something of an enigma, a mystery, and as I continued my research I found a number of instances where it seemed that Samuel Ford had something to hide. And as I committed my research to print the amount of material escalated to the point where I wrote of book on the subject. So be forewarned, family history his addictive.
But I fear I digress.
Organising your work is an essential component of genealogical research. There are various programs downloadable from the web. Alternatively, you could purchase a four draw filing cabinet and lots of hanging folders and file you data under specific headings. The problem is however with cross referencing. Inevitable you will want to link what happened to uncle Bertie in Australia with what transpired in, say Ireland, in 1815. The endless possibilities with family histories for cross referencing will I think defy the best computer algorithms. The end result is, regardless of what system you might employ, you will have break any neat and concise packaging in order to accommodate the new data, which means, in turn, you will have to go back and rewrite any number of records just to keep it all current. Thus your system will be forever incomplete, be it a computer program or a four drawer filing cabinet.
However, apart from you, who will know what you have on file anyway?
I have found one excellent way this has been achieved. The Trezise One Family Group is a facebook page which you can discover yourself. I discovered this site within the last couple of months and only then when someone thoughtfully, on another site, pointed me in that direction.
I was able to join the group as one of my relations is a Trezise so I am not suggesting you joining this group, unless you also happen to have a relative named Trezise. The object of drawing attention to this website is to show a productive way of emptying you four drawer filling cabinet and spreading all that information which might be of interest to others.
The Trezise One Family Group has been going for a number of years and has been producing newsletters which are now available, completely free of charge, to members of the group. There are some forty newsletters loaded with family history, photographs, and anecdotes.
This is one way of organising your material, and having it organised by others in return. My own way to to start a website myself. I have found this way suits my own way of recording and documenting family history. There are any number of free blog sites which will allow you to access to the internet and a portal for your records.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to upload all your family history onto a commercial ancestry site. By planning ahead you can make your material available to others while controlling that material and those who can access the data. Even if you start you own website the costs involved will pale in the face of the charges involved in using commercial ancestry sites.
This leads to my next topic, security.
The vast amount of material you will end up collecting as a family researcher will have to be stored somewhere. But if it is left in cardboard boxes, a four drawer filing cabinet, or stored on a computer something might go terribly wrong. Some years ago, just after I had became seriously involved with researching my family history, I was entrusted with a folder full of family material including certificates, documents, and photographs. I was conscious of my responsibility and had the material stored in a ‘safe place’. However. after I relocated to another town I found that the material had disappeared, I had on reflection, in the anxiety of moving inadvertently chucked the stuff out into the rubbish. I was devastated.
But, fortunately I had up loaded much of the material onto my computer.
Family researchers come by any number of documents, many now in digital format. Securing these documents is part of your responsibility. One of the most heart wrenching things about the bushfires which devastated much of south east Australia during 2019 and 2020 was the anguish expressed by many concerning the loss of the family’s photographs.
If you have Irish heritage you may already be familiar with what happen on 30 June 1922. On that day the Four Courts building was destroyed during the Irish Civil War along with what it contained,
… the west wing of the building [Four Courts] was being used as the Public Records Office (PRO). The PRO housed many genealogical treasures including Irish census returns, originals wills dating to the 16th century, and more than 1,000 Church of Ireland parish registers filled with baptism, marriage and burial records.
Sadly, nearly all were lost during the Irish Civil War on 30 June 1922 when, after a two-day bombardment, an explosion and fire ravaged the building. This destruction has ongoing consequences for anyone researcher their Irish ancestral connections.
Computers and four drawer filling cabinets are destroyed in fire. The lesson should be clear, take care of your own records.