Genealogy is the study of the descendents of families and persons from a given ancestor or ancestors. This study is undertaken by many people out of interest in their personal and family origins. As a hobby it can become pleasantly addictive, at least to the person concerned. However the study is also undertaken professionally, not just in order to provide a commercial service that can be used by people who are seeking help in researching their origins, but also for very serious legal and financial reasons. This engenders accepted standards for researching genealogy "properly" - standards that are recommended that you seek to learn and emulate.
The term Family History used to be regarded as synonymous with Genealogy, but now it applies to biographical research into one's ancestors - the aim typically being to produce a well-documented narrative history, of interest to family members and perhaps future generations. Thus the study of family history involves putting flesh on the skeleton that is produced by genealogy - and involves the study of the historical circumstances and geographical situation in which ancestors lived. The resulting ability to associate historical events with particular generations or individuals of your family can help you relive your own history.
These pages aim to provide you with information and sources of guidance on both genealogy and family history when researching in Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. The information is concentrated into very basic advice on genealogy - hopefully it will help you whether you are an inhabitant of Cambridgeshire or further away, wanting to start by tracing your immediate forebears, or you live overseas, and have found that some of your perhaps distant ancestors came from Cambridgeshire, and now would like to find out more about them.
You must understand that these brief notes of guidance should not be regarded as a substitute for good old-fashioned books. Especially if you are a beginner you are strongly advised to start by visiting your local library and doing some reading on genealogy. There are many useful introductory books on genealogy and family history which will provide you with more complete and coherent guidance as to how to get started than you will get here, or from merely posting a series of questions to the mailing lists and bulletin boards associated with Cambridgeshire.
Incidentally, if you are lucky enough to live within convenient reach of one of the many Family History Centres of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) make sure to pay the Centre an early visit to find out what facilities and information resources they have, and how you can use them. The volunteers who run these centres, which are freely open to all, will not do your research for you, but you are very likely to find them a mine of useful information and advice.
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