Branching out12 November 2020
It’s been on the cards for years and hasn’t eventuated, we get it! After all, when it comes to making a start on the family tree, it’s akin to searching for thousands of needles in a global haystack. But it’s time to don your detective caps and get hunting! We’ve got some simple steps to make the investigation less daunting.
Hunting at home
Where do you begin the hunt for the genealogical gems to piece together the story of your ancestors – who they were, where they came from, what happened to them and why? It’s a search that will likely take you far and wide, but before you get carried away, it is always best to start closer to home, where some of the most valuable clues might just be hiding in plain sight.
Make a start in the attic, basement and drawers where photos, documents and personal correspondence may be stored and start talking to all your nearest and dearest – you’ll be surprised how quickly the puzzle pieces start falling into place and you can start working on the foundational branches of your tree.
Once you’re underway, it’s time to branch out. Your local library may be your first reference point and from there, much of what you require can be sourced online, as organisations are
increasingly digitising their records.
Birth, death and marriage records are all available online; cemetery records are kept at council service centres in Te Puke, Barkes Corner (in Greerton, Tauranga) and Katikati and genealogical queries can be made at these centres. The New Zealand Society of Genealogists has regional branches throughout the country, where members exchange information, listen to specialist speakers, visit local repositories, attend research days and run educational programmes.
Meanwhile, if your search has taken you offshore, you can contact the embassy of the country where someone was born or died easily online to get overseas records.
Throughout your search, it’s important to keep organised and document everything. This is where an online family tree platform is worth its weight in genealogical gold. Several free and fee-based online genealogical databases are available, including Ancestry.com and Myheritage.com.
One of the biggest bonuses of these online databases is that as you piece your own family tree together, you can come across people within your own tree who have already done
the leg work for their own part of the family and takes some of the work off your plate, while connecting you with many new relatives.
The social side
Social media gets a lot of stick, but when it comes to genealogy, it’s an invaluable tool. In addition to being able to hunt out and connect with relatives globally with ease, there’s also the opportunity to find local organisations, libraries and archives in the hometowns of your ancestors.
You can even find your own local genealogy services to provide support and advice, as well as connect you with others who share an interest in genealogy. The New Zealand Society of Genealogists hosts monthly meetings throughout the country, along with DNA and genealogy drop-in sessions.