TALKING IS THE FIRST STEPOne of the best research tools when you begin are your living relatives.

Have a chat with Mum, Dad, Auntie, Uncle and best of all Grandparents. Even if you only see distant elderly relatives at weddings and funerals go and see them or give them a ring.

By taking this approach you will find out what they remember about your ancestors and you may even find that someone else in your family has carried out some research which means that you have a big start.

When you talk to your relatives remember to take a notepad and make notes of names, dates, places, occupation, nicknames and funny stories. It is amazing how useful these notes are when you are trying to chose between several candidates later in your research.

I was a bit concerned about this action but to my surprise not only did I enjoy finding out about the past by most of my relatives loved talking about the old days and telling me previously unknown stories about both sadness and antics of my grandparents lives.




Many of the best records on the Internet relate to the period from 1800 to 1900.

Before 1800 records mainly exist about landowners or prominent residents which means that 98% of the population is not listed or the listings are in difficult to reach records.

Data protection is not only an Internet convention but is subject of legislation by most Governments means that details of people who are alive are usually not listed. This means that most official records on line finish around 1900.

If you are searching outside of this period either think laterally and search records relating to occupations , memorials etc or be prepared to travel and search parish records.



Even now I find research very time consuming. If you are beginning to research your family tree just to check out the information available on line from census will take you many hours.

Most of the information sites provide information in exchange for time limited tokens which means that cost effective research is carried out in a comparatively short period of say three months.

Time also effects the knowledge that you carry in your head. There is so much data to consider that notes alone can be confusing. Regular research allows you to follow a specific pattern and prevents duplication that will cost in both finance and time.

It is best to chose a period when you can spare periods of three to fours hours at least on several days each week.

Once the main tree is complete small sections can be added later as time allows.



The initial perception about family history is the family tree drawn out on a large sheet of paper. Whist this still has a place and is a great way of representing your research you will reveal lots of data about your relatives.

Some people prefer to keep a card index where they make entries in relation to all of their relatives.

Given your use of the computer for research it makes sense in use software to record your findings. A great byproduct is that most programs will allow the information to be produced in many methods to suit your varied needs and a push of a button converts your information into the Gedcom files which is the Internet standard for transferring genealogical information. Personally I couldn't go back to the old method.

The cheapest method is to use software such as Works or Office that may already be loaded onto your computer and adapting the spreadsheet or database to record details.

Given the price of specialised software this course is only recommended for those people who are on a tight budget.

Which software to use depends on your budget as costs vary from 1.99 to 100 .

My personal choice is Family Tree Maker which is a lower/middle price software package and is probably the biggest seller on the market. Certainly many data disks are available for use with FTM.

Software can be purchased from High Street Computer shops although it is often much cheaper from online stores or at budget prices from auction sites like E Bay.

One warning - If you buy from an auction beware of pirate copies- If the price seems too good to be true then it probably is so don't buy. Most traders on E bay are reputable and will be happy to answer questions verifying their goods.

Money saving tip - Software is updated regularly which means that many retailers are able to offer big discounts on a slightly older version of software. If you are on a budget then buying Family Tree maker 2005 will probably be virtually as good to a beginner as the purchase of Family Tree maker 2007. If buying software make sure that it will be compatible for your computer.



Census records for England and Wales are available online for 1841,1851,1861,1871,1881,1891 and 1901. The census records everyone living at a particular address on a given day in that year. For family history purpose that means that older relatives born before 1841 are traceable as are babies born just fore the census in 1901. This spread will often cover people who were born in the late 1700's to people who died in the 1960's and 1970's.

Although they are still coming on line similar facilities exist in Scotland , USA, Canada and many other countries.

The census is the first place to visit to gain basic information. Once you have identifies a grandparent you can trace people living at the same residence backwards and sideways at each of the census dates and thus identify probable relatives.

The 1881 Census was transcribed by the Church of Latter day saints and is available on line free of charge. The other census are all pay per view where you subscribe to a web site for a specific period where all searches are free or purchase tokens allowing a specific number of searches. Details of sites are provided on the links page of this site.

I have used most of the sites and find little difference - All offer easy and effective searching. The main difference is price with searches varying between 10p and 1 per search. A number of small private sites charge but have little data so it is best to stick to the more reputable sites unless you are provided with free short term access and are happy with the data that smaller sites offer.



Ancestry.Com is the original family history site although this area has now mushroomed and there are a number of sites  that offer searches, message boards, ancestor listing etc. Most require membership although many offer limited services for free membership ad improved services for paid members.

These sites can offer great value to researchers - One of the sites provided details of my Great,Great Great Grandfather who as born on 1780 and had been listed in a family tree by a member of his family. Contact enabled our two trees to be linked and a whole new generation of relatives discovered.



You are not alone as every area of the UK has a Family History Society.(FHS) The society will have many local people as members who have expertise in family history research which they share with members. Membership is normally cheap and may be worthwhile especially if you wish to conduct your own research at a record office. They also often provide data on CD's that can be useful.

Genuki may be a strange name but it is a great organisation that is using volunteers to provide a virtual reference library online. Each County has a Genuki web site which provides extensive local information and free searches of a variety of records. The only drawback is that although the input is constant it will take many years to complete and there are many frustrating gaps. but well worth a visit.



Information is everywhere on the Internet. Just try typing a name into the google search box and you will come up with hundreds of positive searches. Whilst many will not be your person thee is a chance that one response could be your man and from a source that you haven't considered. The important advice is don't give up at the bottom of page 2 keep gong until the name no longer appears- You never know what you will find. It has paid off for me several times.

You can just search but the action I find the easiest is to visit the best genealogy site on the Internet where there are more links than I have space for on this site. Just about everything you can think about relating to family history is listed and linked. Although it is US based there is a vast number is UK related data probably as the UK provided a significant percentage of modern Americans ancestors. the site - Cindi's List - see the links page for details.



The best local source is the public library who all carry genealogical material. Of particular use are textbooks for beginners like the dummies guide to genealogy as well as old newspaper clippings, local history books and copies of trade directories like Kelly's and Pigots.

Use of this material may trace ancestors if they were local dignitaries or businessmen but it will also paint a picture of the community in which your relatives lived.

Most Counties in the UK have central records offices where official records are held in a central location. My local Records Office has an enormous number of records that include Parish Church records - vital for births, marriages and funerals before official recording began. Use of the centre for research is very cheap although bookings are required and a short training period is required to use the computer system or microfiche.

If you can travel to London then the Public Record Office is the national equivalent to the local records offices. Check details on their web site before you travel!

Hands on activity can be fun , after hours on the computer, try visiting Churchyards checking headstones, looking at War Memorials for service based ancestors or checking out the local museum BUT don't forget your camera !



Assumptions can ruin any family tree . Take it from me concidences do happen and the fact that you are looking for John Smith born in 1816 at East Ham does not mean that the John Smith born in 1816 at East Ham that you have traced is your John Smith. Double check other details like wifes name, home address etc and if necessary back check the person you have found. By all means list John Smith as possible and even consider him probable but do not list definite until you can be sure.


Ancestry co uk

The largest collection of UK family history records online
Most complete UK Census collection available online (1841-1901)
The Scottish 1841-61 Censuses
FREE Birth, Marriage & Death indexes from 1837 to the present day
Over 580+ million records currently online
Parish and probate records dating back to the 1500s

Paid membership allows full search of the all the directories while free membership allows basic searches of most databases and a full search of a few although the free birth, marriage and death alone is well worth a visit. Click any of the below three links to visit

Lifers 120x60

FREE - Birth, Marriage & Death Records

Search the UK Census collection

Burkes Peerage

The definitive historical and genealogical guide to the major British, Irish and American families.

There are more than 1 million names in our 15,000+ records of British, Irish and American royalty, the peerage, presidential and other important families. Each has been meticulously researched by a team of professional genealogists to ensure the information is accurate, reliable and up-to-date.

The site also maintains records of most of the important houses and castles in the UK.

This is the site to visit if you hope to discover an ancestor who lived above stairs.

To visit the site click on the relevant link below.

Burke's Peerage & Gentry                            Castles and Stately Homes resource

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