1. Consider The Living – In your enthusiasm, you may stumble across something that older family members do not want to discuss. Respect their wishes. Some elderly relatives may be very happy to share their stories, but it may be kinder not to badger them with awkward questions.
2. My Family Is Perfect – You might believe that your ancestors were all perfect. If you do not want to find evidence of anti-social behaviour down your family line, it’s best to stop before you start! There are skeletons in many old closets!
3. Just Names On A Certificate – You might be surprised how strongly you feel about distressing aspects of your ancestors’ lives. Just because they died many years ago, doesn’t mean you won’t feel a family connection.
4. Brick Walls – An illegitimate ancestor will often bring your male-line research to a halt. Unless there is someone still alive who knows, you may never get past the blank in the “Father’s Name” box on their birth certificate. A baptism register might be more revealing or poor law records might help for some 18th or 19th century births. Or you may never know.
5. Someone Else’s Family – If you believe the TV ads, all you have to do is enter a name in the search box and choose from a “conveniently sorted” results list. However, your great greats may not be on the list! It is really easy to adopt someone else’s ancestors. Assume they are not your family members until proved otherwise and get advice or tuition on how to be sure.
6. Health Warning! – If you haven’t been put off yet, a word of warning: researching your family history can be very addictive! However, if you find instead that you are tearing your hair out, allow me to do the hard work for you!