Sources that helped me complete our Family Tree


Handwritten trees and letters

My very first sources of information for building our Family Tree were given to me by various members of my family about 20 years ago. I was given hand-written letters from several older relatives with sketched trees (such as the example on the right), a few photocopies of birth certificates, etc.

I also received some good trees and information from Bob Bowmaker in Australia who had done some considerable research on the Bowmaker history in the past [I am in the process of contacting him again to share what I have and obtain any new information that he might have].

The letters mentioned above are very useful, but should be validated with birth/death certificates etc to ensure the information is accurate. I would advise recording the certificate code in your Family Tree program against the date (if your software provides this option). It does take a fraction more time but saves you a lot of re-work later on when you are wanting to determine whether the information you have has been validated yet or not.

Website contacts

About 8 years ago I purchased the Family Tree Maker program and entered all the information I had. A few years later I published my tree on the Family Tree maker website, and began to receive emails from very distant cousins etc who found themselves or their ancestors in my tree.

In a few instances, they were able to provide me with several further generations of my own ancestors from these contacts, and in one fantastic lead I obtained extremely old photos and stories as well (on the Simpson's Bayer branch). In exchange I gave them some information that they didn't have.

One important thing to remember when exchanging information with these contacts is to respect the privacy of those in your tree that are still alive. Be very very careful who you provide such birth dates to (if in any doubt at all, don't!). They will most likely have no intention of misusing this information, but they may be less scrupulous about how they store or share this information with others.

Interviews with Family members

Family members hold the most precious information of all - the photos and stories of their (and your) relatives. I wasn't aware just how much could be available until I started work on Brent's family tree a couple of years ago. From Brent's parents and a couple of relatives living nearby I was able to borrow hundreds of old photos (albums etc) and precious letters detailing the interesting lives of some of their ancestors.

Not only did the old photos add much personality to their life stories, some of their photos provided additional information as well. A good example of this is an old photo album of Brent's grandmother - in it were photos of a trip she made to Sydney, Australia...No-one was sure when she had taken the trip, but we noticed she had taken a couple of photos of the Sydney harbour bridge while it was being built. After a short foray on the internet we were able to ascertain to within a few weeks the actual date that she was there, based on the specific stage that the bridge building was at!

Once I'd done as much as I could with what they'd given me, I went back to a few family members and interviewed them about their memories of their relatives, and then put all the information together to create the life stories. Some of these stories need some extra work, and this is my top priority at this time. They were also able to identify unknown people in some of the old photos, such as the one shown above left.

The most important thing is to get the information from your relatives as soon as possible, even if you are not ready to put your whole family tree together. Get the information while everyone is still around (and retaining all their faculties etc!) because you never know when something terrible may happen, either to that relative, or the photos, letters etc they possess. Take it from personal experience - I have lost grandparents suddenly before getting the chance to interview them, and photos stored by relatives are believed to have been lost to bush fires, or carried away by other more distant relatives and lost!

Genealogy Research

It took me a little while to realise that there are local Genealogy Societies that can help you trace back through New Zealand relatives quite easily, using microfiche to obtain birth/death certificate reference numbers (you then use that code to obtain a copy of that certificate from the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages. This was a big help on Brent's side. I was very lucky to find them and use them when I did - only a few months after I've finished obtaining all I could from them, the Dept of BDM put their fees up astronomically for the service of providing the certificate copies, saving us a LOT of money!

My local genealogy society is located in Marlborough Park Hall, Chartwell Ave, Glenfield. 

A distant relative told me about the NSW Registry of BDM, who have an excellent website which you can search online (limited range of years available for privacy reasons). This is extremely easy to use and has helped me quite a bit filling some holes in my Australian ancestors trees. The address is . Using this you can obtain birth. marriage and death years for free and obtain the source code, but you need to pay AUD22.50 to receive a copy of the certificate for confirmation and more detailed information.

Elderly relatives recounting their life

Finally, I must mention one source in particular which has to date been the highlight of my family tree research.

A few years before he died, Brent's great-grandmother's husband, Len Smith sat down and wrote down several quite long letters where he recounted the highlights of his life including how he met Brent's grandmother, met her children, details of their wedding day (and night!) etc. He gave them to his daughter, Bubs, who later let me borrow them and transcribe their contents. Transcribing them took me quite some time but I thoroughly enjoyed it, transferring his stories to print for his family to enjoy. These pages can be viewed on my website. What a fantastic way to leave your memory with the world you eventually leave behind - I only wish we could encourage more of our relatives to do the same.

Click here for a list of specific sources of family information