Family History Research Conclusions

Studying Family HistoryThe third part in this series about studying Family History is the  family history research conclusions I made  for my biographical report. To bring you up to date if you missed the earlier posts this is about a course called the Introduction to Family History from the History Department at the University of Tasmania.  The previous two posts have covered Studying Family History at University and A Family History Story. A tale where Family History Research separates family myth from facts  family  – “They left the family money to a cattery!”

Family History Research Conclusions

The prime conclusion from the study is that not all family stories are true while can others guide research directions. Supported by clearly defined research plan only rigorous, objective research methods can evaluate family stories.

The findings have provided an ideal base for future research where some suggestions are discussed later. The project provided numerous learning opportunities, discussed now:

  • Methodically checking the various secondary sources e.g., NZ BDM website, ancestry.com NZ BDM indexes, FreeBMD, Cemetery records, etc., while repetitive, laid a foundation for ordering the primary source vital records.
  • Rigorous use of research log ensured work at the various repositories was well managed. The design was based on the research aims and sources with people listed on the right and about five columns for entries, per topic, per page. Topics covered were birth, marriage, death, newspaper clippings, and cemetery records with shipping lists, probate & wills plus electoral rolls on the last page. Sources not requiring checking were shaded out. Located information was noted in Evernote and referenced in the log. (See Figure 1:  Research Log Check Sheet)

    Section of a Research Log Check Sheet used for Family History Research.

    Figure 1: Research Log Check Sheet

  • I reviewed a number of documents I had collected previously, some not included in my Family Tree yet. I learnt never to underestimate what additional information you can find by reviewing them again. For example Olwen Zoe KITTO’s will has provided the potential married name for Erica Alice KITTO plus potential children. In the past these were just names and it was not until I isolated her as a possible grandchild of Esther ROE did I rediscover these facts.
  • I found that adapting the plan to search other sources generated some of the hard to find facts. For example Frederick Richard Keith KITTO married his second wife in Sarawak so I thought I had no chance of finding her name in the time frame allowed. I tried key word searching on Google and found an oral history recorded in 2002 clearly mentioning the couple and the interviewee knew Susanna DAUD as a childhood friend.
  • The quality of the informant or the even the repository can give a fact more weight. E.g., FRK KITTO’s death in 1967 I think holds more weight being noted at an Oxford University website holding his documents. (Perhaps not the best example as it is secondary information and I may be overestimating the source weight.)

My conclusions can be summarised to never hold assumptions dear or bias your research on unsubstantiated views. Be objective, methodical and follow the research rule to verify the facts.

Finalising the Family History Research Project

As part of this research I ordered a number of birth, marriage and death certificated from New Zealand and England. Some came after the study period had finished. I need to review these new documents and add the details to my family tree. Based on the finding “never to underestimate what additional information you can find by reviewing” documents again I should also recheck old files once more for previously unnoticed information once the new certificates are fully evaluated .

Possible future research?

A new research challenge would be to investigate what happened to Erica Alice KITTO, with the possible married name Thompson. Did she have any children? Where is Susanna DAUD and what happened to the child I meet in the 1970s? Where did Keith KITTO die?

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