So you have decided to try your luck at researching your family history here at the National Library. To make the most of your visit, you will need not just luck, but preparation.
To assist you in your visit I asked our helpful Family History staff what hints they would give family history researchers visiting the Library to enable them to get the best results.
With their advice, I have prepared the following tips to using our collections and resources. Hopefully they will help you uncover that missing link.
- Read the earlier general guide Be Prepared ! 10 tips for new researchers and visitors to the Library. Although not focussed on family history research, it outlines all you need to know about where to find information on our opening hours, catalogue and other essential information.
- Look at our Research Guide to Family History Research here at the Library as well as our other specialised Research Guides on a variety of family history topics including:
Man congratulating newly married Toti Dal Monte and Enzo de Muro Lomanto at their wedding, Sydney, 24 August 1928 http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-162725408
- Read some of our blogs on family history written by our Newspapers and Family History staff. They explore common research enquiries and family history conundrums so may be able to provide helpful hints for exploring an avenue of your family history including:
- View our Webinars on a variety of family history and other topics which are prepared and presented by our experienced staff. These are a great way to get acquainted with our services from home.
- Search our catalogue and eResources to find out what we have that is unique or unavailable to you elsewhere. Many of our eResources can only be accessed in the Library so to make the most of your time here it is a good idea to have a plan of which ones you would like to use.
- Get organised. Make sure you have your records organised and have brought copies with you (as well as information about where they came from) to refer to during your visit. You don’t want to waste time while you are here looking for that elusive piece of information that is the key to your research.
- Talk to members of your family beforehand and double check those names and dates and places. Even if you have thought you have obtained all the information available, they may well have remembered something since you last spoke so it is worth rechecking. It also saves you making a rushed phone call to them from the Library to confirm a key fact.
Hazel de Berg with her son Michael aged about 11, early 1960s http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-140522414
- Know what it is you want to achieve at the Library. Create a research plan to help you make the most of your limited time and also to highlight those areas which need more work when you get home. Ask yourself the questions:
- What do I know ?
- What do I want to find out ?
- What do other family members know that can help me ?
- A piece of practical advice : pack a USB/Thumb drive . Many of our family history and newspaper collections can only be accessed on microform or online, however you can save electronic copies from these collections in various formats. So if you want to save a copy of a death notice, parish register or a newspaper article in an electronic format (and perhaps email your break through to a distant cousin) it’s best to bring a USB.
- Finally, be patient. Research takes time. It may be that after doing all the required preparation, asking our helpful staff for assistance, and researching in our extensive collections that one particularly troublesome link in your family history is still absent. At this point you can begin another part of your family history. Who knows, if you wait some new data may come to light.
After your successful visit to the Library is over, you may wish to consider what you want to do with the information you have obtained and what you need to do to take your research further. One answer may be to join your local family history society. They provide a wealth of advice and assistance. You can find your closest one by visiting the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations.
You may even wish to publish your research either privately for family members or publicly for broader readership.
Whatever you choose to do, you can be assured that the resources of the National Library of Australia are available to help you, whatever stage you are at in uncovering your family story.