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Beginning your family history research

Begin your investigations by following five simple steps: (PDF version)

1. Write down what you know

Make a copy of a standard blank Ancestry Chart and sketch out your family tree, starting with you at the left and filling in names and places, and dates of birth, death and marriage of parents and grandparents. Extend further information to Family Group Sheets for each couple/family.

2. Investigate your family

Ask your family if they have information to help fill in the gaps in your family tree. Obtain useful addresses of relatives including close and distant cousins, uncles and aunts.

Search out useful documentation such as photographs, birth, death and marriage (BDM) certificates, diaries, school records, family bibles, etc., which various family members have kept.

3. Search the Birth, Death & Marriage Indexes

Join the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV – Level B1 257 Collins Street, Melbourne), and research in their extensive library. Holdings include indexes to births, deaths and marriages for all Australian states.

Visit your local library, or a family history group.

Purchase copies of certificates, using an application form from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Death certificates of your first Australian pioneers will help you to find their parentage and their birthplace in the "Old Country".

Remember to check spelling variations of the name you are researching. Put yourself in the place of the immigration officer, guessing how to spell a name from someone who mumbles, has a cold, looks away and has a mouth full of marbles. Use the same technique when looking for variations of your name.

4. Search for other information

Check electoral rolls, directories, cemetery, school, hospital and shipping records, naturalisation records, phone books and genealogical research directories.

Meet with fellow genealogists and attend talks on special topics relating to family research

Contact the local family history groups in the areas where your family lived

Purchase books pertaining to the area of your research.

5. Start investigating overseas

Once you have the birthplace of your first families you can then check overseas records. Again, use the GSV to search copies of:

Civil Registration Indexes for England and Wales (GRO)
FamilySearch
Census indexes
Parish records
Monumental inscriptions
Gazetteers and Directories
Probate and Wills
Journals from local family history societies.

Further research assistance

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