Family Research Challenges

Interact with the Anglo-Indian Project

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Researching your ancestry can be challenging – good days, bad days. On a good day, the information seems to find you, official records appear as if from nowhere and the trail back in time flows with ease; generation after generation is discovered. On a bad day, the trail runs cold and records appear to have vanished, you follow the wrong line of inquiry and it seems you have reached the end of your ancestral possibilities.

The family history website Ancestry published an article titled Ten common research mistakes, many of which were directly linked to their own website search tools, but had some wider reach. The ten areas highlighted were:

  1. Forgetting to record information on family history forms
  2. Ignoring your ancestors’ siblings
  3. Overlooking the maiden names of female ancestors
  4. Assuming you are related to a famous person
  5. Skipping a generation
  6. Assuming a family name is only spelt one way
  7. Jumping to conclusions
  8. Researching the wrong family
  9. Relying on data found in an online family tree
  10. Failing to document your sources

Some of these resonate with the research conducted by the Anglo-Indian Project. But, five pertinent mistakes are apparent from this research:

  1. Not speaking to family first: many family history researchers have stated “I wish i’d spoken to my Grandparents about this sooner”. A brutal reality is that people don’t live forever, speak to them now.
  2. Over-reliance on family stories: (following on from point 1) another common experience has been that many family researchers place too much emphasis on family stories. These can be valuable and provide much needed context to records and information discovered elsewhere. But, over-reliance on anecdotal stories can lead the research down the wrong path.
  3. Misreading official records: old records (as is the case with the British India Office records) are sometimes written in illegible handwriting, which can lead to interpreting the documents incorrectly (e.g. misreading names of people or locations) or disregarding the records and potentially missing out on valuable information. For British India family research the British Library and FIBIS provide excellent services to assist with this.
  4. Keeping an open mind: it is important when conducting family research to keep an open mind. As point 2 above, it is important to remain critical of all information obtained and validate the information with as many sources as possible. Official records can contain false information, so don’t take them at face value.
  5. Awareness of others: another fundamental feature of ancestry research. It is easy to get carried away with the latest finding – an official record, an family photograph, a forgotten grave stone – but, be mindful of others who may not wish to see the information, which may bring up a whole raft of emotions from the past (or even the present).

The last point (5) leads into another important point about distributing the research and data protection – to be covered in a future blog post. There are many other key aspects to ancestry research, but these are a few for now to assist with the exciting and sometimes challenging process of researching your family history.


AIP_with web address2

Interact with the Anglo-Indian Project

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