Remembering the golden rule that one always works from the known to the unknown, in other words from today, back in time, it is logical that the path from the present into the past is marked by milestones, in each family members life.

The most important of these milestones in a persons life is their birth, marriage and death, which if following the logic of working from the present to the past would be reversed to the the order of their death, marriage and then birth.

Working backward in time, a persons death occured nearer to the present than their marriage, which is nearer to the present than their birth.

These important milestones, birth, marriage and death, together with each individuals name and the places at which these events occured, form the basis for a genealogical study.

Adding important defining events such as education, work history, military service and other information of a biographical nature starts moving the work into the realm of a family history.

Normally when setting out one would obviously know your own names and date and place of birth and marriage. You would know, or could easily discover the same information for your wife and for your children.

You probably know your parents names and could obtain information on their birth and marriage, if they are alive, or would know their death date and place in the unfortunate event that they are deceased.

You may have some information on your grandparents but in all probability, if you are like me, they were simply gran and gramps, or something similar.

The first step is to record all the information that you know, verifying it from records and information at your disposal.

At some or other stage you are going to hit a brick wall, where you will need to move from informal sources to more formal sources.

Taking what I said earlier as the sequence of events, death, marriage and birth, one would try to obtain information from a persons estate file. In addition one could try and obtain copies of birth, marriage and death certificates for the period from which official registration of births, marriages and deaths started.

Before official registration started, which here in South Africa was around 1900, one then needs to obtain birth and marriage information from church records in the form of baptisms or christenings and marriages registered by the church.

Estate file information is available right back to the founding of the Cape in 1652, or shortly thereafter and supplementary information on deaths can be obtained from burial records or headstone inscriptions.

At some or other stage it may be possible to connect to earlier generations through existing published genealogies.

Eventually you are going to get to the stage where an ancestor arrived in South Africa and you are going to need to continue the research in his or her country of origin, which is outside the scope of these pages.