Over the last few days I’ve been compiling some of my family history to be included in a book on pioneers in the greater Moree district. Anyone who has done a speck of research into their ancestors knows what a time-consuming job it is. Tracing your family history is very much like falling down Alice In Wonderland’s rabbit hole. There are numerous dead ends, false starts and a lot of misleading information. And that’s not to mention the replication of names. Nearly every generation in our family has a John or a Frederick John. Clearly my paternal grandmother drew the line when she christened my father Frederick Ian, although she was known for her sense of humour, Ian in Gaelic means John. Then there are the women, Sarah-Jane, Sarah-Ann and Margaret feature strongly. Throw in two Alexander cousins, David and David Alexander, who emigrated to Australia in the mid-1800s, only for one of them to marry their cousin, another Alexander and return to Ireland and things get messy when you’re trying to sort out who is who.
But don’t let my rambling put you off! Start your search at home first. Delve through old pictures and family bibles. Talk to relatives. Old letters can be invaluable in sorting out place names, residences and relationships. Particularly if the writer was savvy enough to note their address in the top right-hand corner and to date it as well. And it’s a bonus if the correspondence makes reference to a place or a relative so you can establish connections in your ever-growing family tree. Property ownership, whether rural, home or business can be impossible to establish at times. Buildings crumble, can be demolished and rebuilt. Records are destroyed through natural causes or human intervention. A lot of town and rural property information pertaining to title deeds has been archived, some of it digitally and in NSW you might need to employ an accredited broker to do the sleuthing on your behalf (see the link below).
If you have nothing at all. The best place to begin is to start in the present and work backwards. Birth, death and marriage certificates provide invaluable information. Depending on the document they’ll name respective parents/spouses, their ages and occupation, and the place of the event. Bingo. You have your beginning. There are a number of websites that offer assistance and I have to say that for the cost of the yearly subscription I’ve found them only marginally useful. But if you’re keen to learn more about your present family by discovering the lives of those who came before you, its an incredibly rewarding hobby.