Tracing your ancestor’s lifeline

On July 2nd we had Jackie Depelle as guest speaker. Jackie is well known to our society and is well known for her research and as a lecturer on family and house history. Her aim was to remind family historians of the wide range of resources that are available. Illustrating her talk with newspaper cuttings, certificates and photos, Jackie began by relating a story of a newly married couple and the journey taken by them from ‘Cradle to Grave.’  Starting with a diagram of an extensive family tree Jackie briefly outlined the basic resources family historians can easily access. These included copies of birth, marriage and death certificates. Then onto census returns, which for England, began in 1801 but only with more detail from 1841 to 1921. Then there are Parish Registers available from 1538. Other resources include property ownership documents, voting registers such as Electoral Rolls, wills etc.

Oral history must not be neglected from family, friends and perhaps even neighbours. Then make yourself familiar with recording systems that are available such as Pedigree charts and Information sheets. When studying census returns be aware that errors can sometimes be made by an enumerator. Also study a particular area an enumerator has covered, by reading the description provided at the beginning and with the aid of street maps the researcher can gauge the social aspect of a particular district.

British Newspapers can be obtained and read online. There, birth, marriage and deaths are recorded along with obituaries. Your local archives and libraries can be useful resources for school records, trade directories, bishop transcripts, parish chests and a warden’s reports and church minutes. Libraries may also have plans of cemeteries and churchyards which are useful in locating of graves. Probate Calendars and wills can be accessed. Then there can be a wealth of information in War Records particularly if an ancestor took part in either of the World Wars.

Jackie’s talk covered a wide range of useful ideas when tackling a family tree and those included above are just a few. However, I think our membership will have certainly gained much from her talk.