Top tips for finding your ancestors

1. It can be difficult to trace the lives of women in history. You might find it helpful to trace them through the activities of their fathers, husbands and2. Names are another real challenge, as people can be known by many names throughout their lifetime. For example, Vera Lillian at birth might have been known as Lillian (or Lily, Lilli, Lilly and Lillie) throughout her life. She might also have been known by a traditional or kinship name. When you are looking for records about your ancestors, it is important to check every known name, nickname and spelling variation.3. Surnames can help you trace where your ancestors lived or worked. Surnames of Indigenous people were often assigned by European employers and were sometimes derived from the names of places, such as pastoral stations.4. Sometimes the records you want to find don’t exist or can’t be found. Try to research the places your ancestors may have lived. You might be able to find information about them or what their lives might have been like.5. Think creatively. Always ask yourself, ‘Could there be a record for that?’ Carefully read the information that you have for clues and ideas. Be on the lookout for variations and misspellings.6. Keep an open mind. Making assumptions can keep you from finding vital information; don’t assume that everything you read or hear is 100 per cent accurate, but don’t disregard it either.7. Get support. Family history research can take you on a very emotional journey. Historical records can be upsetting or offensive. You might not be able to find what you want to know about your ancestors. The bottom line: make sure you have support!

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