Getting Started

When you set out on your Family History Research, you need to understand what records are available, how you obtain them, and how each can provide the help you need. It may seem a bit of a cost, say, to have to order certificates, particularly if you get it wrong and they are not what you had hoped for, but they will be the backbone of your research. Birth, Death and Marriage certificates all provide specific bits of information in different areas of your research. You will need to know how to read them. For example, a wedding certificate provides the name and occupations of the bride and grooms Fathers and if they were alive at the time of the marriage. The certificate gives a record of where the bride and groom were living at time of marriage and also their age and occupation. The place and date of marriage may also hold a clue as well as it being a church wedding or register office. Even the witnesses can be important. Sometimes information can be missing but even that could be a clue.I subscribed to a Family History database which gave me access to all the records I needed. You do have to be prepared to learn how to use these databases properly and get the most out of them and they are all slightly different but there is always plenty of help so don’t give up. Sign up to a free trial and that will often give you enough time to evaluate and gain experience.

The chances are that at some time during your research you may need to visit the Cornwall Record Office in Truro, which holds the Parish Registers, Bishops Transcripts, probate records, census returns, Poor Law records, deeds, leases tithe maps and school admission registers and more. The great thing about Truro is that it does have an online catalogue that is searchable and will inform you in advance what documents it holds. Likewise, The Cornish Studies Library in Redruth is a reference library that holds a whole wealth of resources. It has a vast collection of books relating to Cornwall, a photographic archive, census returns, some Parish registers and trade directories and maps and the newspaper collection. It is important to find out opening hours and lunch breaks and what you can take into the research areas beforehand. Many will allow you to take cameras into the office to photograph certain documents for a fee but get a copy of the guidelines first. Take a pad with you for making notes but it is good practice to take a pencil not a pen. Make a list of what you want to achieve and don’t leave till you have completed it. Again, record all sources of research and if you have spare time expand it a little.

One thing that may affect your research, if you ever get that far back, is the changing of the calendar from Julian to Gregorian.  What I hear you cry, I know but the full explanation becomes quite complicated. The Julian calendar was the standard system of recording dates until March 1752 when it was decided to change things because the old system no longer worked. At that time it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar which is still in place today. Before March 1752 dates between January 1st and March 24th would be assigned to the previous year, for example, January 1st 1751 would be written as 1750. This was because the New Year was not until March 25th up to 1752?

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