Additional Notes

The following information is aimed at preventing you from making mistakes in your own research and includes information on surnames, dates, family traditions and other general considerations:

The spelling of surnames may not have remained constant over time. In earlier times many of our ancestors did not have surnames or spoke a language other than that spoken by the record keeper or were illiterate and couldn't tell a record keeper how their names should be spelled. In addition people changed or anglicised their surnames as a result of war or to fit in better in the countries in which they settled.

When recording surnames on your working documents always write them in CAPITAL LETTERS or underline them. Many surnames can be mistaken for given names.

Write dates using an unambiguous format: Americans interpret 5/6/1881 as 6 May 1881, but in many other countries it would be read as 5 June 1881. It is recommended that you record dates using the format dd.mmm.yyyy, eg., 06 Aug 1956.

Place names should be recorded in full, including parish or township, county, state or province, and country. Many settlers named the places where they settled for the places that they came from so you have a Heidelberg in South Africa and one in Germany.

Family traditions such as "we should have received a vast sum of money from great-uncle Percy but were cheated out of it by other members of the family," should never be taken as fact. In most instances family traditions do contain a kernel of truth and may be used a guide until proven true or not.

Family traditions mentioning close connections to famous people are usually false, however there may be a more obscure relationship involved. For example, perhaps the famous person spent a night at your ancestor's inn instead of (as the legend goes) marrying into the family.

When searching for relatives in records, don't pass over entries that are almost (but not quite) what you're looking for. For example, if you're searching for the marriage of John BROWN and Mary JONES in 1850, make a note of the marriage of John BROWN and Nancy SMITH in 1847: this could be a previous marriage in which the wife died shortly after.

Double-check all dates to make sure they are reasonable, for example, a woman born in 1790 could not have become a mother in 1800.

Don't assume modern meanings for terms used to describe relationships. For example, in the 17th century a step-child was often called a "son-in-law" or "daughter-in-law," and a "cousin" could refer to almost any relative except a sibling or child.