Exploring the Life of our Ancestors

24 Oct 2019

First family tree


The first step is to start with what you know or can easily find out.
Write it all down on a bit of paper.
Note: when writing people's names on a family tree we normally use the name they were born with (maiden name) and write their surname (or last name) in Capital letters. Also write down any other names they may have been called.


Step One: What you know

Write down what you know about your family - their names, dates they may have been born, where they were born or have lived, what jobs they did, any other interests they had. Add in any other bits of interest...
Write about your parents, their siblings, and their parents. Then anything you know about your parents grandparents, their great grandparents...
Also write down any family stories or events you've been told. Don't worry about any gaps or if anything is correct yet. 
Where were your parents born? Where did they grow up? (the town, country, suburb, street...)
Where did your grand-parents live?
Where did your grand-parents parents live?
Do you know where your ancestors lived before coming to New Zealand?
Do you know why your ancestors came to New Zealand? (For work, because of War or Famine...)

Step Two: Documents & Photos

Have a search for any documentation you may have. Birth and marriage certificates are great. 
Lots of other items are useful too - Passports, Letters, Photos, Postcards, Plunket books, School Certificates...
The main things to search for are names, dates and places.
Do you know your grand-parents jobs?
Do you know your grand-parents parents jobs?
Were any ancestors in the army?
Do you know about anyone's hobbies or interests (in a music group, did dancing competitions, in the newspaper...)

Step Three: Contacting family

Contact any family members you can to find out what information they might know.
Arrange a visit at their place or a time for a chat. 
Let them know what you've found out, what you're doing, and ask if they know any more about the family, or have any documents or photos that you could get a copy of. Are there any family legends or family mysteries? Note down what they say and add anything new to your tree.
They also may know of someone else in the family who has already done some research and has some info. Most folks interested in family history are happy to share information.

Step Four: Start your first tree

Write out everything you've found out into a tree design (maybe like the samples here).
Do you notice anything interesting?
Did folks have similar jobs, live in one area, travel a lot, or call their children similar names?
Do you know a lot about one family and nothing about the other? (Called having Gaps)

Sample Tree

Sample Tree

Now you have a hand written tree you are ready to go online...


22 Nov 2018



In this rapidly changing digital age it can be confusing what to do to keep family photos and documents safe and secure for future generations.
Digital files can easily get damaged or lost just like old photos and documents. Hard drives can fail, computers get a virus, laptops get stolen, phones lost, dodgy datasticks stop working, CDs or DVDs get scratched, or the technology moves on and we no longer have a DVD drive... Ahhh! What to do?
A big start is to spread things around around: share your items and digital files with all those who matter!
Here's a quick list of some storage filing and updating ideas...

Physical Storage

Physical Photos
  • Handle with care - wear gloves and avoid touching the photo images
  • Store photos in a safe environment – acid free materials and away from light, heat, and damp. Avoid “Magnetic albums” and unknown or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics. Avoid glue, staples, paper clips, or cellotape
  • Make digital copies of your photos – with a scanner, camera or phone
  • Give family members printed copies of your favorite images
Physical Documents
  • Handle with care - some may be old and delicate
  • Store documents in a safe environment – acid free materials and away from insects
  • Make digital copies of your documents – with a scanner, camera or phone
  • Give at least one family member printed copies of your favorite family historical documents
Heirlooms and family stories
  • Take photos of family heirlooms
  • Make a text file with a few sentences explaining the heirloom's origins
  • Add metadata to the heirloom digital files

Digital Storage

Moving digital data from obsolete software formats or storage media to contemporary apps or media is time-consuming. Select your favourite items to save and keep them as safe as possible.

Digital Photos
  • Make printed copies of your digital photos
  • Decide upon a backup system you can use to add to and update your photo/document collection
  • Store at least one complete set of your image archive on a hard drive
  • Store at least one complete set of your image archive at an off-site location
  • Backup at least one set of your image archive on a safe cloud service like Dropbox or Flickr. ( www.dropbox.com   www.flickr.com )
  • Store a complete set of your image archive with a family member or friend
  • Label your photos/documents with a relevant title/name
  • Create a relevant folder system with clearly labeled folders that would be easily understood by a stranger in 100 years time 
  • Save a folder of Original images (untouched) and a folder of Adjusted images (copies that are cropped/touched up ready for printing)
  • Add metadata to digital files to aid future generations
  • Make sure others have access to your collection if needed (your passwords, devices, and files)

Digital Formats
  • Save images and text as standard file formats, avoid saving as software files (software becomes obsolete quickly)
  • Save images as JPG (or JPEG), or TIFF, or PNG files – at the best quality possible
  • Save text files as TXT and PDF files – and any other relevant formats
  • Avoid opening and saving JPG files – they will lose quality each time