Family tree gives family history

Tracing your ancestors

Tracing your family history may seem a daunting task, but do not be put off. We aim to show you where to look. First write down the names of your parents, the place and date of their birth, the place and date of their marriage and if relevant the place and date of their death. Next list the same details for their children. Then do the same thing with your grand parents. You may now be unable to get all the information that you require. Leave spaces for the missing information. Now do the same for the next generation back.

Now that you have some spaces appearing where do you look? Most people start at their public library. The main libraries keep a microfiche of parish registers between 1538 and 1875 which have been recorded by the Genealogical Society of Utah (Mormons), into an international index. This index is also kept at county record offices which is the next place of call. If you are thinking of visiting the county record office telephone them first because you will have to comply with their security measures and you may need an identity card with your photograph on it. This search will almost certainly bring up names of people with the same family name. Some close relations some very distant. When you get home you will have to sort them out with dates and places.

The Mormons now have an index on the Internet which will ultimately contain 600m names. With the likelihood that local telephone may in the future become free libraries may start using this web index. Other world wide web sources for the home user are Genuki, which contains e-mail and postal addresses for societies, archives and institutions and is useful for contacts in the former colonies. Cyndi's List gives information regarding America, eastern Europe and the rest of the world. You will come across sites on the Web that contain useful information, but if you start surfing the Net for a name be careful, not all sites are free.

Family bibles, letters, diaries, family papers and old photographs with names and dates on the back are a good source. So when you take photographs do not forget to write on the back the full names of the people in the pictures together with the date and the name of the place. You should do this with any photographs that come into your possession while people can still remember the names, places and dates. Nothing worse than looking at a photograph and saying who is that.

Census returns taken every ten years from 1841 and 1901, newspapers, trade directories, wills and administrations are another good source of information. You can start your search at the Office for National Statistics Family Records Centre at 1 Myddelton Street, London, EC1R 1UW. The National Archives will give a different approach. An on going project to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales is FreeBMD which may be of help to you.

Details of wills going back to 1858 can be obtained from the Principal Registry (Family Division), First Avenue House, 42–49 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6NP. Earlier wills are held in county diocesan record offices.

Before civil records began records of baptisms, marriages and burials churches or chapels kept registers. The largest collection of copies are at the Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London, EC1M 7BA.

There are local family history societies and a full list can be obtained from the Federation of Family History Societies, c/o Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham, B3 3BS. For those who just have not got the time or would like someone else to carry out the research for them contact the Association of Genealogists and record Agents, 29 Badgers Close, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 5RU.

You will find out things that you did not expect, some will shock and some will delight you, but you will never become bored with what you find for it is what you make of it.

The following sites may be of help:

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Scots Origins
The College of Arms
The Earl Consortium
World Family Tree
Bona Vacantia

Enjoy your hobby.

To return to an index click its button below or the hat at the top of the page.