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What do I do with all my mum's old notes?

(25 Posts)
Mrswinkler Sat 02-Jan-16 15:03:30

My mum did a lot of family history when I was a teenager, both sides of the family. She died 15 years ago and I've now ended up with her records. I have a free two days on my own next week away from home and I plan to go through and sort these out. They are all hand written.

What's the best thing to do? Looked at some posts about software but not looked at any of these programs/websites yet so not sure what they entail. Also seen that some of you you have it all in word- how do you organise these files?

If there are answers to these questions elsewhere please point me in the right direction just thought I'd ask the wise ones if MN first. Thanks

PeppaPigStinks Sat 02-Jan-16 17:17:17

I am not an expert but could you scan them and save them?

Mrswinkler Sat 02-Jan-16 18:22:59

I want to make sense of them really, write them up properly. Maybe after I've had a good shufty through them I'll have a better idea.

lljkk Sat 02-Jan-16 18:36:42

Just how many pages? Probably I'd try to make electronic copies (transcribe) AND keep the originals. Can you do that over 2 days?

Mrswinkler Sat 02-Jan-16 18:55:55

I've a box of about 9 files!

Going to sort out in two days and assess. Then should I just transcribe all before I decide whether I want to use a website?

Noneedforasitter Sat 02-Jan-16 19:50:04

I was handed a bunch of old notes a while back, which inspired me to investigate my family. I had nowhere near as much as you seem to have, which will be a very valuable resource.

Unless you've got a very thorough piece of work from your mother, you'll need to do your own work to build up a family tree. Then you'll probably find the notes make a lot more sense.

The online sites (Ancestry, Find my past etc) are very good, with intuitive software which builds the tree for you: no need to download anything or be technical. It isn't cheap, but you can always cancel the monthly subscription. Don't order certificates through those sites though, go direct to the government site which will be cheaper.

The information available online these days is staggering - UK wills, local newspapers, all the census data, war records etc..

It can be very addictive. Hope you enjoy it.

lljkk Sat 02-Jan-16 21:36:30

There are quite a few free software packages out there, you can download & have locally on your computer. I use Gramps... and a lot of paper records. it's mind-bogglingly tedious to enter your own data, so very nice if you can contact a cousin who has already done loads.

Mrswinkler Sun 03-Jan-16 08:29:31

I think I'll find I'll have a lot of records already. I remember helping my mum in various libraries scrolling through microfiches looking for info (we're talking 30 years ago now). If I need to use websites to find information I think it'll probably be for finding missing bits, stuff available from Ireland which she may not have had access to or verifying other information she may of not been sure about. Does this sound about right?

I'd like to find a way to present this data for others to see and for other family members. I wouldn't want to tie myself into paying regularly to access this so I'm assuming something like Gramps would be good?

Noneedforasitter Sun 03-Jan-16 09:31:57

I wrote up my family history (grandparents, great-, and great-great-) focusing on each individual in turn. I think it worked reasonably well, because there is no real narrative ark in most family history, so an essay-style text is hard to write in an engaging manner. The challenge is to avoid repetition when referring to the same event from two different perspectives. But you may be a better writer than me. If your experience is anything like mine, you'll find the appreciation from relatives will not pay back for the effort involved. It is only worth doing if you are enjoying it yourself.

You'll have to decide what output you want. If it is a family tree, an online site is worthwhile, because even if you have the information already, the online software will populate the tree automatically with identified census data. If you have the information already, the data should be easy to find online (although I'm not sure about Irish records).

If your records are really thorough, and you want a written text, rather than just a tree, you will probably benefit from online resources. Assuming your relatives are in the UK, the best ones (apart from the basic census data which is accessible from Ancestry etc) will probably be UK wills ( which is a pay-per-order for each will and the newspaper archive ( which is a monthly subscription service. Because your mother's work is 15 years old, she probably didn't have access to the 1911 census data and certainly not the 1939 data, so there is additional information to access.

In my family history there were several candidates for the relationship section of mumsnet (and a couple who did indeed LTB, even in the 1860's). My great-great-grandfather was prosecuted for abandonment of his family, and I found an account of the court proceedings in a local newspaper (online) which was fantastic. You may or may not find something in the newspaper archive, but it is worth trying, because it is a real eureka moment when you do. Occasionally the national archives can turn up something ( although they are much less searchable than other resources. (In the national archives I found the operations report for the bombing raid in which my uncle died during WW2, which was another poignant moment. My father was very moved when I gave him a copy.)

Hope this helps.

lljkk Sun 03-Jan-16 13:03:30

Gramps can take the main formats (gedcom?) from other sources.

I dunno with, can someone build a tree there & then export the info? AFAIR, the census data themselves aren't copyright, only images.

Mrswinkler Sun 03-Jan-16 17:19:13

Well, first file I opened is actually college course notes from 2006, a family history course my dad went on. I didn't know.

My dad's memory has started to go but I bet he'll remember all the family history stuff.

Reading the attached made me cry.....

throckenholt Sun 03-Jan-16 19:54:02

In the first instance write up all the notes into a word document - one for each family name. If someone is in two families (eg a woman who marries) put the info for her in both files.

I try and put it in generations with subtitles for each main person - eg John son of Fred Bloggs and Sally Jones - with all his relevant notes.

His birth for example will be in both his section and the section for his father (as the birth of a child).

You could try signing on to ancestry, without buying a subscription - build your tree (although details are limited - not much room for family stories). You can keep it private if you like. When they have an offer on (or you feel it worth buying a month's subscription you could blitz through and see if you can find records for your people). And later, if you decide to use some genealogical software you can export it as a gedcom and import it into the software.
You could try findmypast (or genes reunited - but I think ancestry is simpler to build the tree). You can often get into rates to those sites too if you want to go searching for new info - they have some of the same, but also some unique to their site - check which is most relevant to where you family lived.

Beware though - you might get hooked !

lljkk Sun 03-Jan-16 20:34:29

awwww... smile

dodobookends Wed 06-Jan-16 16:56:18

If you use an online family history program for your information, it is better to keep it private. Someone once pinched used all my research, added it to their trees, and published everything online.

It annoyed me a lot because they'd made an assumption about one particular connection which was wrong (I knew because I'd already researched that line and discovered that the two families were not related). This was several years ago and I asked them to correct it, but they won't and it is still there.

lljkk Wed 06-Jan-16 17:56:25

I'm kind of the opposite, everything is publicly available. Helps me connect with cousins. Though I have moaned at people for pinching my text.

I don't really care if people want to make wrong connections. I point out they're wrong & move on.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Wed 06-Jan-16 18:15:22

You can buy software to work offline rather than having to subscribe to a particular site.

But whichever package you choose, I highly recommend using one. You can feed in lots of data even before you know "what the story is", and the stories start emerging of their own accord. You can search, eg by place, when something dimly rings a bell. And you can output data in lots of formats, eg descendants of person X, all people who lived at address Y over the years.

The software will handle sources for you as well, as long as you go to the trouble of recording them.

Nine files is a lot to transcribe. If it were me, I'd number the pages and then enter the data straight into the software with "Mum's paper file 6, p149" as the source. And if she's specified her source, make a note to check against original if now available online. But that's just me.

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Wed 06-Jan-16 18:29:24

(I would then slowly replace the "Mum's paper file" references with checked refs to original sources, as I found them. So by the end you have a file with mostly external references.)

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Wed 06-Jan-16 18:30:09

(You could then slowly replace the "Mum's paper file" references with checked refs to original sources, as you found them. So by the end you'd have a file with mostly external, verifiable references.)

throckenholt Wed 06-Jan-16 18:53:13

Personally I am happy to make my trees public. I really don't mind if some one else uses it - I am happy to share what I have found if they are interested.

And I care even less if they get it wrong - if they are happy with that, then that is their problem not mine !

dodobookends Wed 06-Jan-16 21:00:02

The trouble with trees posted online, is that new researchers who find them tend to take them at face value and believe they are correct, assuming that the research has been done and confirmed.

I didn't make my tree public, I was contacted by someone on GenesReunited who asked for a copy of it as he thought there might be a connection with great-great uncles/aunts connected by marriage.

He sent me his tree too, and as soon as I saw what he'd done, I knew he'd made a mistake, as I'd fallen into the very same trap a few years before, and eventually discovered from parish registers that there were two people in a village with identical names who married women with the same first name. What gave the game away to me was that one of the men died soon after the marriage, so couldn't have been the father of a child born two years later. I pointed all this out to the person on GenesReunited, but they ignored me.

I've since noticed that the wrong tree/relationship connection has been copied by several other people, all of whom have been misled by this incorrect information given by somebody else. The research I did took years and years, and had hundreds of names on it going back to the early 1700's. Now other people have wrongly added chunks of it to their trees, misled by somebody else's error.

To be honest, there's not much point in tracing your family tree when it isn't your family!

lljkk Thu 07-Jan-16 07:45:45

What if I die and all my research is lost & no one gains from it? That would upset me a lot more than some propagated errors in other people's versions. I'm especially keen to share photos.

I've encountered a few people who are highly possessive of their research & won't share. What is the point of that?? One of my collaborators reckons that the possessive non-sharers usually have the least accurate info. One cousin disagrees with me about a link to the Howard family (Henry VIII wife). We've discussed it, we agree to disagree.

throckenholt Thu 07-Jan-16 08:10:59

The bottom line with family history research is - whatever the source - always treat it as suspect until you have personally verified it. Even if it is granny swearing it is gospel - it may be what she believes but it could still be wrong !

And, to be honest, there is very little point in doing family history at all (says she who has done it for the last 40 years !). If you are happy haring off down a wrong line - it's no big deal - as long as you are happy and you find it interesting !

So - make you tree public or not as you prefer. Do whatever suits you, and enjoy it.

dodobookends Sun 10-Jan-16 17:00:27

lljkk I am not a possessive non-sharer, I just resent people taking my research, making a stupid mistake, publishing it on the internet and then refusing to correct their monumental fuckup when I tell them to.

IamtheRealMrsEamonnHolmes2 Sun 07-Feb-16 00:40:55

Just saw this section for the first time tonight - have you made any progress Mrs Winkler?

grapple86 Sat 21-May-16 13:17:48

I did the most amazing thing for my parents, they had loads of notes combined of their lives, so I found this company who get a ghost writer and write/edit it all and then print it into a hardbound book to keep. they are called story terrace - email she was super helpful x

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