Advice

 

   
     
n Join a Family History Society
    Try and find a local Family History Society in your area and join it, It won't cost the earth, my local society is the Aberdeen & N.E. Scotland Family History Society and joining them was the best £15.00 I've spend in a long time. I won't bore you will all they can do for you, visit their web site. However I will say that all the Family History people I've met are knowledgeable, helpful and enthusiastic.
 
2. Never give up
   

BRICK WALLS EXIST - FACT! However in real life it just takes a big hammer to knock a brick wall down. So with research, don't bang your head against it, leave it, come back to it later and try again, give it another go, you never know when it will come tumbling down. It may be you or it may be somebody else.

To illustrate.
Sometime before her death in 1991 my mother wrote to her cousin in Australia, saying that her grandfather Adam Rankine had been married twice. His first wife was a Danish widow called Caroline Haager who already had a son called Charles. Sadly Caroline died soon after and Adam married my great grandmother Louisa in 1880. In 1828 the family had double sorrow as Louisa died on 3 Apr in Epping, Essex and the next day her son, John Lawson Rankine, my grandfather, died in Longtown, Cumberland. Great grandfather Adam moved north to stay with his daughter-in-law Jessie and my mother. He died in 1936, however sometime during that time Charles appeared and my mother met him and liked him. Charles had admired his stepfather so much he adopted his name and his career, Inspector of Schools.

For at least 10 years nothing more was known about Charles, my 2nd cousin had tried to find Charles as had my neice - no luck!

Then along I came and started researching the family. I found out that Adam and Caroline married in 1873 in London and lived there until t Caroline died in 1878, one son emigrated to Australia and the other (my grandfather) moved to Cumbrland, but no sign of Charles. We weren't even sure what his name was apart from Uncle Charles! - Charles Rankine, Charles Haager, Charles Haager Rankine, we simply hadn't a clue. I had come up against the same Brick Wall as the others.

Then one day I was using Ancestry to search for another Rankine and came across an entry for a Mr.C.H.Rankine in the British Phone book for 1927, his occupation was Inspector of Schools and his address was in Aberdeen (about 2 miles from where I'm sitting, typing this !). I filed this result away in my memory (bad idea) as this wasn't who I was looking for at that time and it didn't mean anything to me.
Some weeks later I was in the ANESFHS research centre reading other member's trees. There was a another person doing some research at the same table. She kept getting up and consulting books on a shelf out of my sight. Being curious I waited until she had left and got up to see what she had been consulting. It was a row of Aberdeen Phone books, that triggered the memory of the C.H.Rankine I had found before so I started looking through them. There was an entry for C.H. Rankine, Inspector os Schools, at the same address in 1925, 1927 and 1931. Could this be Charles Haager Rankine?
In the 1933 Phone book the entry read Mrs. C.H.Rankine and she continued into the forties, when she too disappeared.
I reasoned that C.H.Rankine must have died sometime around 1930 probably in Aberdeen. This gave me something to shoot for and it would worth some expenditure.
So I raced upstairs and grabbed a computer, logged on and started searching. Yes, a C.H.Rankine died in 1930 in Aberdeen, a quick purchase of more ScotlandsPeople credits and I had a copy of the death certificate printed out, I picked it up from the printer and looked at it, and there it was :-
Charles Henry Rankine, father - Adam Rankine, mother - Caroline Haager, wife Janet Arbuckle, CRASH - the wall was breached.
In short succession thereafter I found his Marriage Certificate, his records in the 1891 and 1901 censuses (we had been looking in England not Scotland), his Glasgow University education, his job , two children, his obituary, his wife and his youngest daughter's deaths.

NO MORE BRICK WALL!

BTW my apologies for disturbing the other researchers that afternoon, I was on a high to put it mildly.
 

3. NOTE IT DOWN!!
    Make a note, make a note, make a note. Got the message?
Seriously, always have paper and pencil with you, when you find something interesting, make a note and make it clear enough so that you can find that fact again.
There is nothing worse than knowing that you saw something vital a while ago and not being able to go back to it.
I once made a note to look up the actual text of census, I noted down the name, address, town and county, none of which helped me at all, I needed YEAR, Parish, Parish Number, ED number and House Schedule number.
It was about a month later that I found the info I needed.
 
4. BE Sceptical!
    There is a LOT of information on the Internet, some of which will help you no end, but BUYER BEWARE! Some people are too trusting of the available information. Don't trust other people's information until you are satisfied that it is a good bet.
I once found an instance on the internet, a family with 18 children! I saw it, grabbed it and put it in with my data, later I looked at it and thought there was something odd, further investigation turned up the fact that the eldest son got married before he was born to his own mother and all the mother's children were his as well, so he was his own father! And 7 people at least had this in their trees!!
So check it out for yourself!
 
5. Organise
   

I'm not going to tell you how to do this as it's very much an individual choice, some people use software others use paper in boxes, but you must be organised.
It's no use having the information if you can't find it!
If you are going to ask for help, then you need to be know what you've already got and what you want to acheive and you don't want to duplicate your effort.