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Get Into Genealogy Part 4

On occasions the trail will peter out and a person just seems to vanish. Look at all possible reasons why, no matter how unlikely or distasteful. Their disappearance could be a result of being jailed or transported for a "crime", whether they committed it or not - early justice systems tended to be weighted in favour of the rich and influential, and even some of them fell foul of it. They may have died or been killed and their bodies never found, so their death would not have been registered. Consider those who joined the armed forces to fight for their country - many simply never came back. Perhaps, you think, that couldn't have been the case because they were too young; but lots of youngsters lied about their age to the recruiting officer, so think again. If their last known address was in a port city, this promotes many colourful suppositions, including being press-ganged, or deciding to leave the country under a false name.

Always be prepared to accept that some people might simply not have wished their whereabouts to be known for fear of repercussions, so even if they were included on a census, their entry could be an alias. Or there might be a simple explanation - they were out walking when the census form was filled in and the person supplying the information didn't fully understand the need to include them because they simply weren't present at the time. When a search founders, as it most likely will, this isn't the end, but merely a brief pause to survey alternative lines of enquiry before continuing with the challenge. There's an answer somewhere. Even official records can be inconsistent, what with the physical boundaries of districts changing over time and some of the smaller localities being lumped together as part of a larger area - registrations of events in a tiny village might be consigned to the main town of the region, and not necessarily the closest one. Rather than focussing on specific districts, initially anyway, it is sometimes best to widen the search and start with the shire or county.

If at all possible, a visit to those areas where relatives resided can be educational, sometimes essential. Not only will you "get a feel" for the place where your ancestors once lived, but you can talk to the locals, some of whom may recall useful facts about bygone days. Then, of course, there are the cemeteries. The written word on official documents and their transposed equivalents can contain errors, but carved inscriptions on tombstones are less likely to be inaccurate. You may even come across the grave of a family member you never knew existed. And if you find no new information at all, you can be content in the knowledge that you have paid your respects.

Whether for interest sake, or a specific purpose, delving into family history is only as complex as you want to make it. The ancestral jigsaw has many pieces, some so alike that any one might fit with another - but they don't. Each has its own place and you will have to figure out where that is. It won't be easy. The mists of time do exist and the further back you go, the less clear will be the path to take. Wandering down a few blind alleys, however, is quite entertaining, and even glimpsing the doings of the wrong family can be an enlightenment, a hint of what life was like in those days for them, and your own kin. Then the individuals who were just names way down the family tree are transformed into real people whose lives, loves and memories can become a part of your own. You really do owe it to them. After all, they made it possible for you to be here today.

As our ancestors were from the UK, this is one of the websites which was found to be very informative, easy to use and doesn't cost a fortune:

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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