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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

    • 23 Oct 2021
    • 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
    • Your place
    • 476

    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.

    • 27 Nov 2021
    • 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
    • Your place
    • 472

    Each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom carry out a census every ten years. Census records over 100 years old are publicly available for genealogists to search and are a vital source of information for ancestors from the British Isles.

    The questions asked vary from country to country and census to census. There are also gaps in the records and, in the case of Ireland, only snippets survive for census' carried out prior to 1901. You will find the censuses available on several websites, sometimes including images and sometimes only transcriptions, sometimes free and sometimes not. You will learn how to take best advantage of the different ways of access.

    Join SAG Board member and the Chair of the Education Committee, Kerry Farmer, together with fellow Education Committee member Jennie Fairs as they take you on a trip through time and explore the census records of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

    This webinar is recommended for members enrolled in SAG’s Certificate course.

    Skill level: All Presenters:  Kerry Farmer and Jennie Fairs

    • 7 Dec 2021
    • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
    • Your place
    • 16

    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.

    To get the most out of your results, we recommend you consider joining the wait list for "Analysing your Ancestry DNA results" which will commence in early in 2022. 

    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 

    • 13 Jan 2022
    • 24 Mar 2022
    • 15 sessions
    • Your Place!
    • 17

    Need help with starting to solve your DNA dilemma's? Have you tested with Ancestry DNA and want to understand how to work with your results?

    Join Christine Woodlands and other members of the SAG DNA Discussion Group for a 15 part course designed to assist you to understand the information you can glean from your Ancestry DNA matches.

    The course will be made up of four modules and consist of a mixture of presentations, demonstrations, case studies and discussion groups.

    The first session is optional and is explained in the course outline, together with further details of the dates of each session and the description of the four modules. You can download the course outline by clicking here

    The course will be presented online using the Zoom platform.

    This course will NOT be recorded.

    You must have access to results from an Ancestry DNA test to undertake this course.

Past events

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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Archives/Offices 120 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000

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