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How do I research my family history?

Researching your family history can be a wonderful hobby but it is worth learning how to do it well, so that you don’t end up researching the wrong families!

The process of researching your family history involves collecting evidence from government and church records and other documents which demonstrate how people are related to each other. You start with yourself and find documents that demonstrate who your parents are, then you look for documents that demonstrate who their parents were – and you work backwards in time. As you do this, you also collect stories about your family and hopefully photos and other memorabilia.

Finding the right documents and evidence is the challenging part, because it varies by location and documents can sometimes be scarce. Interpreting the documents can also be a challenge.

The Society has been helping people trace their family history for over 85 years. We collect documents and other resources in the library and archives for you to use, and hold classes to teach you how to research. Check out our events calendar for what’s on.

While there are a lot of materials online through sites such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and government websites, not everything is available online. Libraries such as ours are still a very important place to visit if you are researching your family history.

To record your family history and the progress of your research, most people use family tree charts and some people find family history software is useful. We sell charts and workbooks, and we have software groups which meet regularly to provide support. Their meeting dates are in the Upcoming Events section.

If you would like to start researching your family history, visit our library and talk to one of our volunteers. They would be happy to help you get started. We also run courses for beginners, which you will find in our events calendar.

Image: Candelo Church of England, Candelo NSW, SAG Manuscript and Image Collection, Item 5/588

We recommend the following events if you are just starting out with your family history:

Upcoming events

    • 12 Apr 2022
    • 14 Jun 2022
    • 3 sessions
    • Your place
    • 349

    Just started your family history or need a refresher?

    The Family History Fundamentals course is a three part online course being held on Tuesdays 12 April, 10 May and 14 June, from 7.00pm-9.00pm (AEST).

    Participants will receive a certificate of attendance.

    The course will include an e-workbook for each of the three sessions which includes exercises, templates, checklists and list of resources.

    Skill level: All     Presenter:  Danielle Lautrec

    Part 1: Getting Started Tuesday 12 April 7.00pm-9.00pm (AEST). The first of the three-part session primarily uncovers the principles of family history research, with a particular emphasis on understanding the diversity between types of sources. The session will demonstrate numerous forms of charting and the necessary information required for each. It will then demonstrate search techniques, including reference to diverse repositories and instruction on how to best utilise them your research. To end, the session will discuss the importance of appropriate research planning as well as methods to achieve success.   

    Part 2: Analysing the evidence Tuesday 10 May 7.00pm-9.00pm (AEST). Part two will enhance the theoretical grounding gathered from part one as it focuses on the practical aspects of genealogy. A detailed breakdown of source analysis will demonstrate how to recognise errors and overcome research challenges, ensuring that the sources help your research to its full potential. The session will also cover handwriting analysis and increase your problem-solving capabilities.  

    Part 3: Documenting and presenting Tuesday 14 June 7.00pm-9.00pm (AEST). Part three is focussed on how to share your discoveries with other researchers, including: charts, software, reports, books and online, allowing you to choose a method that best suits you. This session differentiates between documentation and presentation, and what is required in the correct execution of both. An important final step is how to ensure your citation process is as easy as can be. 

    Book using this listing if you wish to attend all three sessions at the discounted price. To book an individual session please go to the seperate listing for the chosen part.

    All sessions will be recorded, so you can either watch them live or watch them later (or do both!).

    To read SAG's refund policy for events please click here

    • 24 May 2022
    • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
    • Your place
    • 7

    Christine will share her "Top 10" techniques for working with AncestryDNA. This session is ideal for those who are taking a first look at their AncestryDNA test or thinking about testing at AncestryDNA.

    Demonstrations and case studies will be featured in the session. There'll be plenty of time for questions. Reference material will be available after the session.

    This session is limited to 25 participants.

    This session will conducted on through Zoom and will not be recorded. Participants should be available at the advertised time.

    Skill level: Beginner

    Presenter: Christine Woodlands 

    • 25 Jun 2022
    • 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
    • Your place
    • 498

    Receiving your test results is an exciting time but it can quickly become confusing. This session will look at the different types of tests available, which one is right for you and which companies do these tests. We will look at some basics to help you understand and interpret your matches and there will be plenty of time for questions so you can start finding those new cousins!

    This is an online session using the ZOOM platform.

    It will NOT be recorded due to privacy reasons, so you should only book if you can attend live.

    Skill level: Beginners     Presenter: Melissa Hulbert    

    Note: Members need to be logged in to the site to make an event booking.

    • 4 Jul 2022
    • 11 Jul 2022
    • 2 sessions
    • Your place
    • 18

    If you're interested in learning the basics of "blogging" your family history why not join this short program. We're enthusiastic amateur bloggers who use the Google based "Blogger".

    In the first session, we'll show you how to create your Google Account and access Blogger. We'll talk about different ways of organising blogs to tell your family stories. On-line demonstration will show how to set up a blog and use "pages" and "post" in your blog. We'll have instructions that you can use before the next session to start your own blog. You can also join a Facebook group to ask questions between the sessions.

    In the second session, we'll take the next step by looking at the many options available within Blogger to personalise your blog. On-line demonstrations will again be used.

    There'll be plenty of time for questions in both sessions.

    Once you have registered please complete four short questions about communication preferences by clicking here

    This course is limited to 20 participants and it will only be offered to SAG members on this occasion.

    This course will NOT be recorded. Please only register if you are able to attend live.

    Skill level: Beginner     Presenters: Julie Simpson and Christine Woodlands

Past events

9 Apr 2022 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
16 Feb 2022 COURSE: Beginners Practical Introduction to Family History
29 Jan 2022 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
18 Jan 2022 Webinar: Legacy Family History Software for beginners
13 Jan 2022 Analysing Your Ancestry DNA Results
8 Jan 2022 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
7 Dec 2021 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
27 Nov 2021 WEBINAR: UK Census Overview
2 Nov 2021 WEBINAR: Follow Up Meeting: Introduction to Blogger - Telling Your Family Story
23 Oct 2021 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
12 Oct 2021 WEBINAR: First Look at AncestryDNA
21 Sep 2021 WEBINAR: Introduction to Blogger - Telling your family story
10 Jul 2021 WEBINAR: Beginners Introduction to DNA
15 May 2021 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
12 May 2021 Analysing Your Ancestry DNA Results
6 Mar 2021 Family Tree Maker Beginners Course
20 Jan 2021 Analysing Your Ancestry DNA Results
16 Jan 2021 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
10 Oct 2020 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
25 Jul 2020 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
23 May 2020 WEBINAR: Family history software & charting – Family Tree Maker & Legacy
23 May 2020 WEBINAR: Family history software & charting – Introduction
30 Apr 2020 LECTURE: Convict records in the NSW State Archives
30 Apr 2020 WEBINAR: Convict records in the NSW State Archives
18 Apr 2020 GROUP: Legacy Software Users Group
4 Apr 2020 WEBINAR: DNA Research Group - Beginners
4 Apr 2020 FREE LIBRARY TOUR: Where do I start at the SAG library?
1 Apr 2020 WEBINAR: Putting your family history online
19 Mar 2020 LECTURE: Deciphering handwriting
12 Mar 2020 FREE RICHMOND VILLA TOUR: What's in the SAG archives (MIDAS)?
26 Feb 2020 FREE LIBRARY TOUR: Where do I start at the SAG library?
8 Feb 2020 GROUP: Family Tree Maker AM session
23 Jan 2020 FREE RICHMOND VILLA TOUR: What's in the SAG archives (MIDAS)?
18 Jan 2020 GROUP: Legacy Software Users Group
18 Jan 2020 FREE LIBRARY TOUR: Where do I start at the SAG library?
11 Jan 2020 GROUP: DNA Research Group - Beginners
7 Jan 2020 WEBINAR: Reviewing your research - get past that roadblock in your tree

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