With the explosion of family history records available online over the past few years, researching the family tree has become a popular pastime. If you’d like to have a go at researching your family tree, but haven’t yet started, do be warned…
YOU CAN LOSE HOURS AND EVEN DAYS AMONGST THE LEAVES OF YOUR FAMILY TREE!
Family history research can be very addictive. Time seems to disappear as you search through the various records available online. You generally only come out from under the tree when you realise your stomach is rumbling like an earthquake and the light has faded.
I have been researching my family history for well over a decade and the family tree has turned into more of a forest as offshoots begin to get explored. It’s never ending and new records are being transcribed online all the time. Research isn’t just done online though, it’s amazing what you can find out in the real world.
I often get asked about how to get started with researching a family tree, so I thought I’d share some of my tips with you.
Begin with yourself!
Don’t just jump in and start researching online. Write down notes and dates about yourself before working up the family tree. Once you’ve got everything down then move onto your parents and grandparents. Ask questions and find out paperwork. This should be done before you start researching online.
Talk to family members
Ask older family members as many questions as you can. I’ve often found that once you’ve started asking questions, people get thinking about it and so it’s best to go back over some of the questions at a later date to glean even more information. However, do respect people’s wishes… Sometimes people don’t want to talk about these things, so don’t push it.
Be aware that once you do start your research, you may find out things which may be upsetting or contradictory to what you or your family members believed. If you do find out something which you weren’t expecting, please be aware of other people’s feelings and think about whether or not you should share this information or discuss it.
Find out family photos
I love going through boxes of old photos! I bought an acid-free photo album a few years ago and started putting photos in and naming the people in them. We already have quite a few photos of people we’re unable to name, I’d rather not add to that in the future.
It’s also a good idea to scan the photos and put them online (tagging them with names). I’ve not only accumulated more family photos this way, but I’ve accumulated more distant cousins too – one of which had a number of the same photos we’d got.
There are a growing number of websites which you can use to research your family tree. A few are free, some charge per record and most are subscription based, but many will offer a free trial. Sadly, if you are serious about researching your family tree, it will cost you.
Ancestry (subscription based) – www.ancestry.co.uk – I’d probably say this is my go-to website for my family history research. They are one of the biggest, if not the biggest genealogy records website. You can also set-up your family tree there (making it private or searchable to others) and link it to the records on the website.
Find My Past (pay as you go & subscription based) – www.findmypast.co.uk – Another one of the big ones in family history research. As I’ve already got a subscription with Ancestry, I pay for credits to view records. The downside to this is that the credits are time limited and so I often pay for more than I use. However, Find My Past do have many records which Ancestry don’t have.
Genes Reunited (pay as you go & subscription based) – www.genesreunited.co.uk – This is where I keep my most up-to-date tree. This is a great website for getting into with people who share common ancestors.
FreeBMD (free) – www.freebmd.org.uk – An ongoing project to provide transcribed index to births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. These records give you enough data to find and purchase birth, marriage and death certificates for your ancestors.
Family Search (free) – www.familysearch.org – A service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Explore billions of records for free. You can now create an account and build your tree with the website too. Well worth checking out.
There are many more websites available to help you wish your research. I’d also advise reading blogs and using web forums to aid your research. You never know what you might find!
Get those feet dirty and go and investigate churchyards and cemeteries for ancestors’ headstones. Don’t forget to make use of local record offices, libraries and archives. Newspapers (online and offline) are also a great source of information.
There is so much more information I could give you, but I’m sure it can wait for more family history blog posts.
One more piece of advice before I go… ENJOY!
If you have any questions or queries about researching your family tree, please do leave a comment below. If you have a particular family history subject you’d like me to blog about, let me know!