There is no doubt about it – the Internet has changed the way we approach family history.
If you wanted to find out your family history 30 or 40 years ago, then you had a number of choices. You could of course ask your older relatives to trace out your family tree. And you might benefit from traditional family history records, such as old family Bibles, which were often used to record the family tree, as well as newspaper articles and old photos.
Then there were the public records kept in libraries or museums – military records, immigration records, ship lists and more – but this often meant a trek to the said library or museum, which could be tricky if you lived in the US or Canada, say, and the old records which would verify your great-grandfather’s war record were held in another country (an example of this is the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle).
History Research for the Masses
And then along came the Internet and the business of family history research suddenly became a possibility for so many more people. In fact, family history research is very, very popular. Recent surveys have shown, for example, that genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States (with approximately 73% of Americans surveyed reporting having an interest in learning more about their family tree).
So why has this huge interest come about? Here at Finders, we look into family’s pasts when we are carrying out our work to trace the rightful beneficiaries to an estate and we find the work engaging and fascinating. If you are tracing your family tree, you have a personal connection to this work, which will make the process even more fascinating and engaging.
You might not have found history an interesting subject when you were at school, but if you have personal interest in the First World War because you know your great-grandfather fought at the Battle of the Somme, or your great-great aunt was a nurse working in France, then history can suddenly become a whole lot more interesting.
Popular TV Programmes
And of course TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are and Heir Hunters have also encouraged the popularity of family history research mapping out the past and showing its contribution to the present.
If you want to use the internet, there are plenty of resources available online to use and we definitely encourage you to use the Internet to do your own research. But there are pitfalls that you ought to avoid, and it can also be very easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information your search pulls up.
What to use, what not to use – what to pay for and what will be waste of your money
are all questions that are thrown up when you embark on the Internet family history research. You also need to bear in mind that Internet-based research can be tricky; we have found that there are errors in transcription for about 10 percent of all records.
Next week, we’ll address the question of the best way to approach finding out your family history online, and what to look out for and the pitfalls to avoid.