Beginner's Guide

Types of records to use to begin your family history.

When you start your family history, the best place to start is with records you may already have.  The types of records that you can use include.

  • Certificates – birth, baptism, death, and marriage certificates.  These are the best records for family history research, as they give first hand details of birth, death and marriage events.  Birth and marriage certificates are more reliable than death certificates, as the informant is more likely to have first-hand knowledge of the family
  • Newspaper clippings – birth, engagement, wedding, death notices, obituaries, and other newspaper articles.  These are also a valuable family history resource, as they are generally inserted by someone with first-hand knowledge of the family.
  • Invitations – invitations to family events – 21st birthdays, engagements, weddings. Another valuable resource, as they include the dates of the event, and are sent by a person with first-hand knowledge of the event.
  • Wills.  Wills can be helpful in identifying family relationship, beyond what may be mentioned in certificates or newspaper clippings.
  • Letters from family members – these can often contain information about family members, and birth, death and marriage details
  • Personal records, including Farewell Cards (cards you get when you leave a job), Milestone cards (age birthday cards, 21st, engagements, weddings), Postcards, Bank books, School reports andVaccination Reports.  These items can prompt you to remember events in your own life, or to help flesh out the life of a family member.
  • Passports – these can be kept with the family history as a secondary source of birth information, if you don’t have the certificate, or you could use the details in the passport to add to a personal history.
  • Driver’s licence(s) – can also be kept with the family history if you don’t have the full certificate.
  • Photos – Once you start setting up your family history in a family tree program, or online, you can add these photos to your tree.
  • Address book. This is a valuable resource in prompting you to remember family members, as well as providing contact details for them, so that you can contact them for more information about the family.
  • Family Bible. A Family Bible often has pages with information on the family. Although the Family Bible would be too big to keep with the family history, you can copy the pages with family information, and add these to your family history.