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Gene Tracers' Genealogy Tips - HOW TO: Begin Researching Your Ancestors

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Published: 22 Aug 2013

Gene Tracers’ Genealogy Tips - HOW TO: Begin researching your Ancestors

Many of the subscription websites have free trial offers, such as Ancestry, Find My Past, The Genealogist, which make it easy to begin your search for your lost ancestors. But remember, if you don’t cancel it before the trial period ends the subscription will continue!

The records you will have access to with these trial offers is variable, but all include birth, marriage and death registration indexes, and census records. Each site also includes a way of recording your family trees, so you can keep track of who you discover.

Before you start it is a good idea to find out as much as you can from living relatives. However, memories are sometimes selective, or mistaken so be careful what you believe to be fact. Previous generations were also very creative about their ages in official documents and sometimes carried this creativity throughout their unofficial life too. So, don’t be surprised if there is some variation with what you expect and what the official documents say. However, a word of caution … do not be too ready to accept everything you find. You need to be sceptical, and check and re-check and cross-check before you accept a record as fact. Otherwise you could end up following the wrong family entirely!

Just remember, the easiest option is very rarely the right one!

How I began researching the Ravens

I think I began by speaking to my mum to find out the names of my granddad's siblings - I knew there were a lot of them. Even that wasn't easy however, since many were known by nicknames or middle-names (as I discovered!) and, when I started to research them, I had to bear in mind that not all information received from my mum was absolutely reliable, simply because not everything about other family members is ever known, and some family members left mysteries in their wake even in their lifetime ...

My granddad's parents were WILLIAM RAVEN & ANNIE BRUNSDEN, and by using the 1881, 1891, 1901 & 1911 censuses I discovered that their children were:

  • JAMES WILLIAM (BILL) RAVEN b. 1881, Reading St. Giles, Berks.
  • ANNIE RUTH RAVEN b. 1882, Reading St. George, Berks.
  • HARRY RAVEN b. 1884, Reading St. George, Berks.
  • ELIZABETH (BESSIE) RAVEN b. 1887, Reading St. George, Berks.
  • VIOLET (VI) RAVEN b. 1889, Reading St. George, Berks.
  • ALBERT GEORGE (GEORGE) RAVEN b. 1892, Reading, Berks.
  • FLORENCE LOUISA RAVEN b. 1894, Reading, Berks.
  • FANNY RAVEN b. 1897, Reading, Berks.
  • EDITH (EDIE) RAVEN b. 1899, Reading, Berks.
  • ETHEL (ET) MARY RAVEN b. 1901, Reading, Berks.
  • ALBERT EDWARD RAVEN b. 1904, Reading, Berks.
  • LYDIA RAVEN b. 1906, Reading, Berks.
  • THOMAS BROWN (Grandson) b. 1908, East Indies (Brit. Parentage)

In the pre-internet age of searching all censuses on microfilm, and all birth, marriage and death indexes in the original huge volumes at St. Catherine’s House in London, and not knowing when any of them were born apart from my granddad, it took a long time to even establish this much. It especially took time to find James William, Annie Ruth and Harry, partly because of name issues, but mainly because of the fact that they were registered in the district of Bradfield, Berks. Bradfield is actually a small village 7 miles west of Reading so seemed unlikely to relate to parts of Reading. However, at the time that these three family members were born, the particular area of Reading they were born in came under the Bradfield Registration District, even though with subsequent births it came under the Reading Registration District. In the end, it was only taking a chance and buying one of the certificates that confirmed it was one of the three missing children. It was a very slow learning curve ...