Genealogy Pro Tip – Check alternative spellings when searching for your ancestors

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How often have you found your own name spelt incorrectly on a document or when written down by someone else?  I’m sure it’s happened!

Your ancestors likely had the same problems, plus they may have had limited reading and writing skills or been illiterate, the names may have been written by others such as the vicar who didn’t always know how your ancestors name should have been spelt and sometimes words may have been written as they sounded.  Also check out known nicknames for that name or that you know your ancestor was known by and don’t forget possible abbreviations of the name.  Consider how the name may have sounded when said in a different accent.  Try different vowels in place of the ones that are in the name.

When you can’t find your ancestor, think outside of the box.  It’s important to be creative when searching! 

Meet Susan Lark – Record Agent

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My study of family history started more than 30 years ago when I began investigating my Tasmanian convict roots. From there I moved on to my Victorian, and NSW ancestors who were a mix of convicts and free settlers. In 1996 I began working as a volunteer at the Kiama Family History Centre. It was during my volunteer time that I studied for and gained my Advanced Diploma in Local, Family and Applied History through the University of New England, Armidale.

In 2006, after ten years volunteering experience, I took over the role of Manager of the Kiama Family History Centre as Kiama Municipal Council’s Family History Officer. In this fulltime role I supervised 30 volunteer research and indexing assistants.  During my tenure the Kiama Family History Centre launched 9 indexes on CD and published 3 books. As the Family History Officer, I personally undertook all research projects. These projects varied from queries about local families to information about families who settled as far away as Canada and South Africa. The position allowed me to develop strong genealogical research skills, not only in Australia but throughout the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and parts of Europe. It also allowed me to develop friendships and contacts with other professional researchers in many other countries.

I resigned from my position as Family History Officer for Kiama Municipal Council in late 2019. In early 2020 I began operating my own genealogical consulting business. Since that time, I have been lucky to have found myself able to work consistently. I have undertaken research projects for people residing NSW, Qld, ACT, NZ and Scotland. The projects undertaken have seen me researching in Far North Qld, Tasmania, Victoria, Cornwall, London, Bedfordshire, locally in Kiama and as far away as Sicily, Italy.

I am the author of three books:

  • Discovering Kendall’s Private Burial Ground Kiama
  • Thomas Chapman of Hartwell House, Kiama
  • Discovering the Wesleyan Methodist Churchyard Cemetery, Jamberoo

Research Enquiries:
Email: [email protected]
Facebook: Kiama Ancestry & Local History Specialists

Genealogy Pro Tip – Always use maiden names when recording females.

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This provides consistency ie: it doesn’t matter whether the female remained single, married once, twice or more, was widowed or divorced, her maiden name always belongs to her.  If females are recorded by their maiden name you and others will always know how to find them in your tree as they are all recorded the same way.  Use of the maiden names also ties them to their birth family and that is an important step in finding her ancestors.

When searching you would search by maiden and married names.  If you are using software, then as long as you have the female entered by her maiden name and add her spouse then most genealogy software programs automatically searches by both her maiden and married surnames when looking for records about her.

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