You will need to collect some names and dates from your family members.
There are more family trees to print on the Links page
My Family Tree
Your family tree shows who your relations are and is a sort of map of how and who you are related to.
There are many different kinds of family which makes society very interesting.
Birth family can mean Mum and Dad and any children who share the same parents as you (your brothers and
Your Dad’s side of the family is called the Paternal side. Your Mum’s side of the family is called
Brothers and sisters are called your siblings.
Siblings that share one birth parent with you are half-sisters and half-brothers.
Sometimes parents don’t want to live together anymore and one of them moves out. You may live with one
and a Step-parent.
Children can also be looked after by other people, perhaps Foster parents, if their Mum and Dad can’t look
after their own children for some reason. Sometimes these children can be adopted.
Sadly, sometimes either Mum or Dad dies.
Remembering dead relatives on a Family Tree can be a good way of learning more about them and sharing memories.
The most important thing about your family, whatever its mixture, is that you are loved and cared for.
Ask your family if they have any old photographs to help you tell your family's story. Maybe you will be
allowed to photocopy them or scan them for your computer. Make sure you find out as much as you can
about the people in the photograph and when and where it was taken. You will probably find there are
pictures of people whose names nobody knows. This can be very annoying but if you keep asking different
relatives, maybe someone will know who they are.
The backs of very old photos will sometimes tell you the name of the photograph and the town where the
picture was taken.
Here are some from my family collection.
This is my great great grandfather Philip Woolgar. It is a particularly nice photograph because it gives
me lots of information. I can see what job he did, he was a milkman and there is an address on the cart
which tells me where he came from. This picture was taken about 100 years ago. You may not be lucky
enough to have any that are quite this old, but even more recent pictures can be part of your family
Here is one of my mum when she was small.
Here is a picture of me taken near to where I live.
Don't forget that pictures of places are important too - my family used to live in this house. If you
don't have pictures of the houses and villages where your family used to live, maybe you will be able to
go and take some.
Family history comes right up to date, so don't forget to put a photo of yourself in the album.
Interviewing your Relatives (1)
Members of your family can often be really helpful especially when you are just starting your family
history. They may have all sorts of information that won't be written down in any documents you can
find. Only they can tell you that 'Uncle Fred' liked jam on his sprouts or that 'Auntie Annie' always
wore a purple hat to church.
It isn't always easy to decide how to collect and record information that your family might have.
Different ways will suit different relatives so it is really up to you to decide. Here are some
An engraved watch
You could write a questionnaire and post or email it to them.
The good things about this are that you can decide exactly what you want to ask and they can
take their time to think about the answers. You will also have a ready made, written record.
The problems are that some people find writing very tiring. They may not want to put some family
secrets down in writing. They will only answer the questions you have asked and not tell you
other interesting things that they may know
You could meet them and ask some questions
The good things about this are that you can ask them to explain anything that is not clear and
ask extra questions that you might think of.
The problems are that you have to decide how you are going to record what they say and you have
to live close enough to be able to meet them.
You could telephone them
This has the same advantages as meeting them, but has some additional problems
The extra problems are that your relative may not find long telephone conversations very
comfortable for example they may be a bit deaf or their telephone may be in a draughty hallway.
It is also even more difficult to record from a telephone conversation.
Questions you might ask
First of all, it is very important to make it clear that they don't have to ask any of your questions if
they don't want to, or if it makes them feel uncomfortable.
Ask them about the names, including nicknames, of members of your family and how they are
related to each other
Do they know when and where these people were born, married and died. Even if they only know a
rough date this may help you.
Where did they live and when did they live there?
- Can they describe their house, street or town?
Where did they go to school? What subjects did they learn? When did they leave school?
What jobs did they do?
What can they tell you about your relatives? What did they look like? Did they have any funny
habits? What were their hobbies? Did they go to church? Did they go on holiday? If so, where?
Have they got any photographs, documents or heirlooms (precious things that have been passed
down through the family) that you can see and ideally copy or photograph?
Do they know anyone else in the family who might be able to help with your family history?
It is often a really good idea to get more than one relative together when you are asking questions
about the family, this way they jog each other's memories.
An Embroidered Sampler
How you might record this information
There is no easy way of doing this, but here are some suggestions. Whatever you do, don't think you will
remember what they say, because you won't!
It would be lovely if you could video your relatives but this won't work if they get shy in
front of the camera and don't say anything!
You could record what they say on a cassette recorder.
You could try taking notes but it is difficult to write and listen at the same time - maybe you
could get someone else to take the notes for you but it is difficult to write fast enough.
You could write some of the family names on your own Acorn Club Pedigree
Print this list of Family Heirlooms
and check to see if anyone has anything on the list to help with your family research. Look for names, dates, addresses, special events and link them to people on your family tree.
Interviewing your Relatives (2)
When you want to interview someone it might be best to write or phone them to arrange a special time.
Most people would be pleased that you are interested in them but some may not want to be interviewed and would
prefer to keep their life private. Respect this.
Also respect people’s wishes if there is a question they don’t want to answer.
Don’t rush them, let them have time to think and you may learn more.
When the interview is finished, thank them for their help.
Remember to take a notebook and pencil and/or a
voice recorder with you.
Print this list of questions that you could ask when Interviewing your
When you have chosen your questions, write them in your notebook leaving a space underneath each
question for an answer.
Nowadays, everybody has a surname, but it wasn’t always like this. I expect you can think of some of
your friends who have the same first name. It could be quite confusing if there were three people called
Tom in your class and they didn’t have another name as well.
Hundreds of years ago, it didn’t matter if you only had one name because towns and villages were very
small and one name would be enough. Surnames began to be used when villages started getting larger and
just one name didn’t make it clear who was who. Others in the village would begin to add an extra name
so that people knew which John (or Richard or William) they were talking about. These extra names (that
we now call surnames) can be divided into four groups.
1. Names which came from the First Name of your father - so John the son
of Richard would become John Richardson and John the son of William would become John Williams.
||2. Names from the job that you did - so the
John who was a Farmer would become John Farmer.
|3. Names from where you lived - This could be an
place in the village or the name of a village itself - so John who lived by the church
would become John Church or John who came from Torrington would become John Torrington.
4. Names that described your personality or what you looked like - so John
with white hair would become John Whitehead. These included animal names as, when surnames were
developing, people would associate certain animals with particular characteristics - so
the John who was very brave would become John Lyon (from the saying ‘as brave as a
Surnames began to be used in this country between 500 and 1000 years ago. To begin with, surnames were
not passed down in families and one person may have more than one ‘surname’ during his life.
As more records became written down it was important to be able to show which family you belonged to so
you could inherit property. This encouraged people to stick to one name and pass it on to their children.
Welcome to Little Acorns - the section of the Acorn Club especially for the younger ones of you
Maybe you could ask for some help to print this chart out (click here to print it
), and find some pictures of your family to stick on these
to print this frame. You may need help to cut out the window in the middle.
Stick it to some cardboard and frame a family photo. Don’t forget to write who it is and where it is on the back.
Your own Family Pyramid
After going back through 24 generations you will have nearly 17 million direct ancestors.
You will probably be in the mid 12th century, when the population of Britain was about 2 million.
Try to explain how this can be true.