Help for Beginners

Everyone of us has a genealogist inside. We think to a greater or lesser extent about our family, our ancestors, and what we can tell our children about our past. How can we learn more . . . ?

Genealogy is the exploration and recording of people and places from our past. The following headings are our Roadmap to encourage family historians to record their family story, and to extend it back in time for the benefit of future generations, We encourage you to adopt good research practices,and hope you might participate in our Society by providing a copy of your South Australian research for our library.

What Does a New Genealogist Need to Know?

Firstly, there is no right or wrong way to do genealogy. However, there is an easy way to go about genealogical research, and there is best practice.

Some people will simply write down the names of parents and grandparents, siblings and children, and perhaps include the details of where they lived. This is ok, but they will probably not know about the wealth of information available on the internet or in libraries like the one we have at Genealogy SA. They will have a pedigree chart which shows names of parents and grandparents, and possibly record names of a few other people from earlier generations.

It is much more rewarding to also record information about actual dates, places, occupations, emigration routes, and sources of information. By recording your sources carefully, you then have a way to check your information at any time in the future. This then is the start of a 'method' which often generates ideas which lead to new lines of research and the discovery of new ancestors and other relatives. You then might start to think about the historical context of our ancestors and how they lived.

There are principles that should be followed if you want to share information and have others trust your work and any information you provide. Researching your family can take as much or as little time as you want. You can have a few notes, or share your tree on one of the free or paid genealogy websites, or publish a large book of your work.

New genealogists might aspire to follow some basic principles :

  • Start writing down what you know, on a computer or paper
  • Talk to older relatives while they can tell their stories. They won't be around for ever
  • Start from the recent generation and work backwards. It is always easier to go back in time, working from reliable information
  • Join a local Society and meet others interested in genealogy. Genealogy SA has a wealth of resources to help you get started
  • Join on-line communities. Facebook or mailing lists are good ways to interact with others and get help and advice
  • Ask questions about internet information providers, check out their sites at your library or local Society, and discover who has records that might be useful to you.
  • This is a fun pastime so enjoy learning, recording and enquire into information that seems odd.
  • Be aware that some family may not want to share information with you and accept their decisions with grace. Also be aware that different people have different views about privacy 


 Is there a Methodology that Good Genealogists Follow?

There are many study courses that will teach you the basics of good research. A good way to start your research is to find primary resources, which is any document prepared by people present at the event. A birth Certificant is usually a good example because the informant is often a parent or midwife. A Death Certificate is tricky because most are prepared shortly after death, but by Undertakers who usually rely on what information other people provide. They may be more reliable if the informant is a son, for example. Always ask yourself whether you can rely on every bit of information. This can raise questions for further research as you become more experienced.

Always work from known information to the unknown. Try not to guess or make assuptions as you check new information or evidence against previous documents.

Good Record Keeping and Publishing

Always keep family groups and generation information in separate folders, or use one of the many computer programs that are available. If you are not sure where to start, a search of the internet will return lots of ideas. An internet search will also provide reviews of the various free/low cost/expensive programs which will organise everything for you.

What can Genealogy SA help me with?

Genealogy SA has a wealth of books, documents, records and on-line indexes that you can search. We have access to many of the paid subscription websites that you can use in the library, and our library is staffed by volunteers with many years of experience who can guide you when you need assistance or to help to find specific resources.

Using external Researchers and Genealogy SA's Research Service

At some stage you may come upon a question that defies anwering. We call these brick walls, and there are a number of ways to get help. Belonging to a community of people may mean someone can help you during a meeting, or on Facebook or other networking situation. As you become more expert, you can begin to help others to keep support networks going. 

Genealogy SA provides a research service using the records in the library, although we can often visit Land Titles Office, the Probate Registry or State Records for information we do not hold ourselves. It is worth coming to the library to do your research if you can, but we have experienced volunteers who do research and provide transcriptions of our records when required.The funds received from this service greatly help us to maintain and expand our print and digital resources.

You also have the option to hire an external researcher to carry out work for you. There are a few in Adelaide who know our library and other resources about South Australia, and an internet search will easily find them.