Free Ancestry Reports – Avoid These Mistakes When Creating Free Ancestry Reports

When compiling free ancestry reports, there are many aspects of research that a beginner will encounter for the first time. Some of these will be quite unexpected, as there is no way of knowing what you might find until you begin searching ancestors. That is, unless you read this article first! We have called upon the experience of many professional researchers, who have shared with us the common mistakes that can be made while sourcing material for free ancestry reports.

The Physical Side of Researching for Free Ancestry Reports

Researching for free ancestry reports can be surprisingly quite the physically intensive endeavour. Especially when visiting archives, you may spend quite a bit of time on your feet lifting heavy books and manuscripts. Not everything had been digitized, and if you are not physically strong, you might want to take a friend with you who is. Much information you’ll come across will be stored on microfilm or microfiche, and some researchers find it difficult to read it for long periods of time. Some libraries will have specially designed computers for people with poor eyesight, but not all, so keep this in mind when considering preparing free ancestry reports.

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You might also want to wear old clothes to an archive, as much of the material may be stored in musky old volumes which will have accumulated lots of dust or dirt over the years. Some of the older leather bound books will have degenerated to the point where they are covered with a reddish powder which can stain clean, light-colored clothes. And be sure to wash your hands after you’ve finished the research for your free ancestry reports, you never know what germs you may have picked up.

Encountering Ancient Script when Compiling Free Ancestry Reports

Handwriting has changed over the ages, and you will encounter some awkward and sometimes illegible script when researching free ancestry reports. Although it may be better on official documentation, everyone has their own particular form, and often those writing the information were rushed and so wrote haphazardly. Spellings also differentiated between sources, and sometimes shorthand techniques were used. It is quite common to find alternate spellings of personal and place names in a single document.

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You may also encounter Latin terminology, which was popular during certain periods, if so, many libraries will have a Latin dictionary on hand. This is time consuming yes, but necessary if you wish to create accurate free ancestry reports. There are online resources for teaching or at least familiarizing yourself with Latin. One such website is the British National Archives who have a section on interpreting both Latin and ancient handwriting. This is an extremely valuable tool for the creation of free ancestry reports.

Interpreting Dates for Free Ancestry Reports

Dates can be especially confusing when researching for free ancestry reports, especially if searching British or Irish ancestors. Many dates are recorded in what is known as a Regnal Year. This is a system that sets a date in relation to when a reigning monarch took the throne and the number of years they reigned for. You may encounter something like 20 Henry VII, which designates the 20th year of the reign of Henry the Eighth. This relates to the period dating from 22/04/1528 – 21/04/1529.

There was also a calendar change in 1752, so if research for your free ancestry reports goes beyond that date, dates may be off by up to ten weeks. The old Julian Calendar employed by the church, the dominant power of the time, started the New Year on the 25th of March. In 1752 this practice was dropped in favour of what is known as the Gregorian Calendar. An excellent guide as to how to interpret and understand these date changes and peculiarities is A Handbook of Dates by C.R. Cheney.

Keep in mind these final points when researching for free ancestry reports:

  • Remember that searching archives can be physically demanding
  • Handwritten records may be difficult to read or contain Latin words and abbreviations
  • Documents may be dated using a different calendar
  • Prior to 1752 years began on March 25, not January 1

Remembering these few bits of vital information will help you to avoid some common mistakes, and assist you in preparing clear and concise free ancestry reports.

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