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1. Introduction

My interest in researching family history started in about 1976. I can’t remember what sparked it, but I began collecting information from my mother, and making crude family trees to help the process.  I was then able to tap the memories of my Aunt, and in the next ten years collected information from family sources and from the books in the County Library in Oxford. The family tree was then rather lopsided towards my maternal side, mainly the MacLeods, Farringtons and Brackens. I had scanty information about my paternal (Duncan) side. In 1998 I started semi-retirement that allowed me to take up the research again.

 2. Sources

a. Family

I’m fortunate to have had so much help from members of my family. They now regard me as a sort of family ‘historian’, and have generously given me letters, and other materials. Most notable is the 'Ingram archive', without which I would have much less information about the DUNCAN side of my tree. This material was kept by my sister and her husband during their extended travels. When I eventually looked through this archive in early 2000, it was like a gold mine - there were letters and photographs, and the memoirs of my great-great-grandfather David DINWIDDIE, with valuable clues about DUNCANS and DINWIDDIES, and introducing me to PRITCHARDS, MACKENZIES, and DE LA HOYDES. Other valuable family sources were the FARRINGTON MS (a detailed family tree), given to me by my Uncle, and correspondence of my Aunt about the HIRST and NUSSEY families.

I much regret that missed forever the chance to talk about family history with my grandparents, and great-aunts. While they were alive I had very little interest in the topic, and by the time I had it was too late. (Anecdotal information from family members can be very useful, but it can also be inaccurate).

 b. Libraries and specialised genealogical sources

In the late 1970s I joined the Society of Genealogists (SoG) and the Irish Genealogical Society. I also visited regularly the County Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the India Office records (then held by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) and the Public Records Office. I had to give up my membership of the societies in 1988-98, but re-joined the SoG in 2001. I now have reader cards for the libraries, including the British Library, which now holds the Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), and the Public Records Office at Kew. While in the United States I visit the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints (LDS), the Mormon Church, at New Oxford, near Gettysburg.  

c. The Internet

The Internet is now a major source of genealogy information. The LDS’s International Genealogy Index has given me several valuable clues. A non-profit organisation known as Rootsweb, has ‘lists’ of members with common research interests. Although I have participated for short periods in several of these lists, the most valuable to me has been the India list. It has about 600-700 members, some of whom are real experts in their fields, and freely offer advice. I can't praise Rootsweb highly enough - they have also generously hosted this website. I put an early version of the family tree into an Internet site, which has brought contacts with several distant cousins. I plan to put a more detailed version onto ‘The Net’ in 2002, but will ensure that living persons are excluded.

3. Strategy

Until recently my strategy was to collect as much information as I could about all branches of my family. I use a computer program to organise the ‘tree’and produce GEDCOM files, the ‘industry standard’ for exchanging information, and for creating 'trees' on the Internet. From 2000 I’ve tried to pay more attention to detail about ancestors, as distinct from ‘collaterals’, i.e. uncles and aunts and cousins. I'm now collecting copies of records of births/baptisms, marriages, and deaths/burials (known is the 'trade' as BMDs), for ancestors, working my way back (or up!). The volume of paper is already large. If one adds parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, one has 35 documents; another generation back adds 40 documents - and so on.

Notwithstanding my strategy of concentrating on ancestors, I can’t resist a juicy source of additional numbers. There are now (May 2002) about 6,000 people in the tree, and several thousand more are in the MacLeod genealogies, and their associated Clans the MacDonalds, MacLeans and MacKenzies.

I’ve paid other people to research on only two occasions, one a very fruitful contact in Jersey, the other fruitless research in Ireland. Together they costs less than £20, and I have no plans to spend more. The costs of copies of certificates from the General Records Office (UK BMDs from 1835) and photocopying can add up, but the greatest potential expense is travel, e.g. to India!

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