If, like me, you have ever thought about tracing your family tree you too may have been put off by the amount of information that is available and the daunting prospect of where to start. Enter the 'which' guide to tracing your family history. I have reviewed several other 'which' guides in the past and have found them all to be well researched and easy to follow books. This volume proved to be no different.
The first section, Getting Started, sets us off on the right foot. Don't be too ambitious initially, write down what you already know, interview the more elderly members of your family, keep records. You will be surprised at the amount of information this will glean.
The next thee chapters then invite you to explore the established means of tracing your family tree; the census, births, marriages and deaths and gleaning information for the years before formal registration was in use. All three chapters offer invaluable advice on where to look for those family members.
Three sections then follow on more 'outside the box' techniques. Using and researching archives, looking at people's occupations, school records and transport.
We then look at starting to build up a family tree on a PC, perhaps the most popular way of creating a genealogy given the number of software programmes available.
Finally the book looks at genealogy on line through popular sites such as Friends Reunited and its sister site.
Throughout the book prices are quoted at 2011 values for obtaining information from places such as the Public Records Office in Kew along with subscription rates for the popular genealogy sites.
A cd-rom is included with the book containing a copy of the 'Family Historian starter edition' with instructions on how to upgrade to the full version.
Highly recommended and I've promised myself I will start work on my family tree, just as soon as I can find a bit of free time!
For anyone new to family history research, this book is probably ideal and I enjoyed reading it. If you're already into genealogy, you probably need to look elsewhere although you'll still find plenty of good material here.
The book leads you gently into getting started, with advice on how to glean information and how to document it. It goes on to tell you all about census records and how to use them, then other records such as birth/marriage/death certificates. Beyond that, advice is provided on parish registers, visiting cemeteries and even a fascinating couple of pages on `How to read a headstone'. There are sections on occupations, further research and collaboration with others.
Finally, along with advice on choosing and using software, including building your own family tree website, Family Historian Starter Edition software is provided. I haven't tried it, because I already use alternative software, but it should make an excellent way of getting started.
The only weakness I found is that the book is short on help for people with families from abroad (although Ireland is covered). Otherwise, I'd rate this a near-perfect book for anyone from the UK starting out on researching their family history.
These days there are so many books, magazines, free guides and internet programs to help people trace their family history that I thought that Tracing Your Family History Made Easy from Which might be one too many. I was wrong this is a good tool for both beginner and intermediate researcher.
The book at well over 200 pages is pack with information, tips and guides that are for the most part easy to follow. The included CD-Rom Family Historian Starter Edition 4.1 is not quite so easy to get to grips with but with a little practice it is very handy indeed.
I would recommend the would be researcher to get well into the book before starting work as little gems keep popping up that really make things easier. All in all though it is easy reading and the step by step structure makes it feel easy whether you dedicate a few hours a day or a few hours a month.
In the past I have started a couple of times to research my family history and never really got into it but with this book, the CD and a little bit of dedication I really have make some progress. Well I am back to 1765 so far and there is great interest as there may be a transportee to Botany Bay, Australia in the family!
I really do recommend this book.
With more and more people looking into their family history, more and more authors are trying to get their share of the beginners market. And this one is definitely near the top of the pile. It takes you the basics, as there aren't really that many shortcuts when it comes to establishing facts, holds your hand through investigating official records, and goes on to look at computer tools for helping you on your way. However, folks from the UK who don't live in England should approach with caution as it is very Anglo-centric. Regardless, the basics are laid out well, and it's well worth a read.
I have spent quite a few days trying to uncover the past history of my family. And I must admit I found out a little bit, but it was quite hard work trawling through the many sites which claim to offer information only to present you with a page to input your credit card details before they will show you what you think is the right information.
I was therefore quite pleased to read this book and see that there are quite a few free resources available to the budding genealogist. And this book not only provides links to those sites but also gives out excellent information and tips on how to begin your search and what to do if you do not find what you are looking for. There are sections on many different types of records and how to go about building up the past. And it is all very well laid out and easy to follow. There are even tips on how to present this information in the correct manner to be preserved for posterity.
For me the biggest value were the tips on how to search effectively. Many hours were wasted looking through records and thinking that they did not contain the information I wanted, when with the help of this book I have already managed to begin to uncover another layer of my tree. Looks like another weekend in front of the computer looms!
There is a CD provided which unfortunately only works on PCs, so us ever growing Mac users will have to use one of the many online resources available such as Genesreunited to create our family trees. Or of course you could use a scroll of parchment and ink...
I have been meaning to start a family tree for quite a few years and this "Which: Tracing Your Family History Made Easy" has finally nudged me in the right direction.
Firstly because of the thorough step by step instructions within the book itself and secondly because it comes complete with easy to use software to get your family tree started (please note the software included can only store up to 80 names, you will need to upgrade to the full version to add unlimited family members)
The book is excellent on many levels, by utilizing the simple to follow steps you will be able to get started with: yourself, your living relatives, learn how to keep records, start your family tree and create a drop down chart.
The Census Explained: What can the census tell you, where to find the census, explore different census, how to download and read a census.
Birth, Marriage and Death: Certificates, search for BMD certificates online, what the indexes tell you, how and where to order the certificates from, what the certificates tell you, wills, probates and orbituaries.
Berfore Civil Registration: Going further back in time, Parish records (how to find them online and offline, what they tell you etc), non-conformists and Roman Catholics, graves and inscriptions, visiting a churchyard and reading headstones, wills proved in ecclesistical courts, how to find wills online and poor law records.
Using Archives: Visiting and using the National Arhcives.
Occupations: Apprentices, masters and freemasons, trade guilds and livery companies, legal and medical professions, the clergy, emergency services, armed forces and other occupations.
Schools, universities, healing the sick, criminal ancestors, transportation, immigration, emigration, missing births, blue blood, manorial records and newspapers.
Build Your Tree on a PC: Choices of software, how to use and how to build a website.
Online: Join a mailing list, web forums, blogs, social networking sites.
And much more.
As you can see from the above list, this "Which Guide" to Tracing Your Family Tree really covers most things needed to get a really good start on your own family tree ... I know that I have made a pretty good beginning in the last few weeks.
Give it a try, it's great fun and not as hard as you think.
I was impressed with the computer CD that came with the book which loaded in just seconds without any problems. The user interface was simple to use and the records structured themselves into a logical order.
When I put in my missus, for example, the program did not prompt for her parents but it was obvious from the headings that the information was needed, if available, and clicking on the relevant heading took me to the data entry for that person. All very simple and straightforward with no steep learning curve.
Within minutes I had a family tree of my Grandparents, parents, me and the missus, my kids and their spouses and their kids.
I know the hard part is finding the records to go back further but unlike some family tree programs which are overly complicated the simplicity of this Which? offering has encouraged me to continue.
I think this would be an excellent package for budding genealogists to start with.