Nick Barratt (Genealogist) gives expert video advice on: What's the difference between a Family Tree and a Family History?; Do I need to do both?; I know very little about my family where do I start? and more...
What's the difference between a Family Tree and a Family History?
Family History is the research that goes behind compiling a Family Tree. It has been defined separately to Genealogy for what you might call snobbish reasons. Genealogy has been seen as this ancient pursuit of heraldic links and pedigrees. Family History has been seen as more of an amateur pastime or hobby. Essentially, it's exactly the same practice of research, and both will have the Family Tree. It's just that Family Historians tend to build a Family Tree, and Genealogists build pedigrees.
Do I need to do both?
In many ways, doing family history will create your family tree. So it isn't really a case of doing one or the other. You can try and do family history without a family tree, but without knowing who these people are, a) you've got no certainty that they're the right guys in your family tree, b) you're not quite sure where they appear in your family tree and what relevance the research that you're going to undertake is going to have, and c) the social context won't really work. So family history and family trees do go hand in hand, and without one, the other is rather meaningless.
I know very little about my family where do I start?
A lot of people don't know a huge amount about their family, either through estrangement or death of parents and grandparents, or just lack of interest or from having moved away. This is where you have to go right back to basics and start with yourself again, maybe your own birth certificate to find out or confirm your parents' names. Once you've found their names, check to see whether they're married. Their marriage certificate will give you their age and the names of both fathers. That will allow you to then look for their birth certificates and the process then repeats itself. There is a very logical stepping stone process, just because you don't know much about yourself doesn't mean you can't do family history. It just means you have to start looking for records much closer at the beginning of your research.
When should I start tracing my Family History?
You should start tracing your family history as soon as possible because the thing is a lot of people are only tempted to get going after the death of an elderly relative, because those stories are no longer there and there is a curiosity about finding out the background to them. It's like Christmas gatherings, you hear the same story trotted out year in and year out but no one actually thinks to sit down in a corridor and write it. Do it now. Do it now before that memory is lost or the person is gone, before any precious objects and artifacts are thrown away or discarded. It is never too soon to start taking your family history.
I'm stuck, what should I do?
If you're stuck, don't despair and don't panic. First of all, work out why you are stuck. If it's a case of there's just no more evidence, then you may have to employ the help of a specialist or another researcher, because they are obviously more expierienced and have acutally got access to the records that you might not have access to. Usually it's worth coming back a generation or working nearer the present day - you'll find another branch of the family to work around. You may even want to start trying to find living relatives that you have never met before - they could have a family archive that you know nothing about, that would solve some of these problems. It's not just a case of going back in time, you can sometimes come forward and sideways to find new clues that you never knew existed.