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English Family History and Genealogy at Home

Welcome to our  Genealogy Guide, where you can find useful advice regarding family history and ancestry in the UK.
Genealogy involves studying and tracing family pedigrees, with the purpose of tracking down ancestors, creating a family tree or learning about family history. If you are interested in genealogy then this is the place to find out about the different sources available to help you learn about your family history.

Steps To Finding Your Roots

Where to start

A good way to start your research is to write down details about your immediate family:

    • Document their full names and dates of birth.
    • Other details such as place of birth and your mothers’ maiden name may also be useful.
    • Find birth, death and marriage certificates for your immediate family.
    • Certificates will not only give details on the person the certificate belongs to, but may also provide information on their parents or partners.
    • If you do not have copies of the appropriate certificates, they can be ordered from places such as the Family Records Centre or the General Register Office.
    • Speak to old relatives, such as your grandparents, and ask them about their lives, memories and names of their parents and grandparents.
    • Ask your relatives if they have previously completed any genealogical research. This could save you a lot of time and effort if research has already been done.
    • Search your belongings for old photographs or diaries, ask your relatives if they have any items that might be useful in your research.
    • You can gain a lot of information from relatives, so make sure you ask around and document anything useful that you find out.

Organisation

You should organise your findings and documentations well, this will help when it comes to analysis of your research later on.

    • Store certificates, photographs, letters, etc. in labelled folders.
    • You may find it useful to photocopy some of your documentation to keep as a back up in case the original documents are lost.
    • You should start charting your family tree; genealogy software for the computer may be useful for this.
    • If you have a scanner, you could scan any documents and store them on your computer.
    • Genealogy software is available to help you organise your documents as well as create your family tree.

Finding Records

There are many different types of records available that will help you learn more about your family history. There are a number of principles to remember regarding official records that may help you in your research.

    • Don’t be worried about the number of records available. There are many different places around to help you in your research.
    • Different types of official records available:
      • Birth, death, marriage certificates
      • Immigration and emigration records
      • Adoption certificates
      • Wills
      • Census
      • Military records
      • Religious records
      • Maps
    • Don’t be scared of visiting places such as record offices, libraries and family history centres. There are also places on the web where records and family history advice is available.

Tracing back your family line

It will be necessary for you to find records about your ancestors in order to chart your family tree and trace back your family line.

    • The civil register of birth, deaths, etc, was created in the 1830’s. This would be a good place to find out general information about your ancestors after this time.
    • For tracing back your family line before the 1930’s you would need to use other sources such as wills, parish register entries or military records.

Toolbox

The reason we gathered these huge list of hyperlinks from all around the web is to offer you as much  genealogical sources, links and resources when conducting research on English families.  These records apply to almost every areas in the United Kingdom.

A = ARTICLE    V=VIDEO

Getting Started

V  FS: Getting Started (10:09)

A  Family History Research

A  GT: Getting Started

A  Starting Your Genealogy Research

A  Getting Started in Genealogy and Family History

A  FMP: 10 Tips to Start Your Family History Journey

A  FMP: 4 Things Every New Genealogist Asks

A  LT: Decoding Genealogy-Speak for Beginners: Pedigree Chart and Family Group Sheets

Myths and Mistakes

V  BYU: Caring for Your Family Heirlooms (58:42)

V  BYU: Preserving and Editing Old Photographs: The Overson Collection (55:51)

V  BYU: Preserving Your Family Records (57:01)

Digital Backups and Archives

V  BYU: Can You Afford to Lose all your Genealogy? Backing it Up (59:16)

A  FS: 3 Keys to a Great Photo Backup Plan

A  Perspectives on Personal Digital Archiving

Photos

V  BYU: Scanning Basics—Before You Start (39:25)

V  BYU: Photo Organizing (12:30)

A  MH: The Power of Photos

A  AC: Organizing and Preserving a Family Photo Collection

A  TH: How to Label Your Digital Photographs

Interviews

A  FE: Steps to a Successful Interview

A  Family History Questions You May Not Have Thought to Ask

A  150 Questions to Ask Family Members about Their Lives

Stories

A  LDS: Going Beyond Just Names and Dates

A  AR: Plot Like a Pro: Three Simple Steps to Creating a Compelling Family History Narrative

A  AR: Six More Ways to Find Your Family History Muse

Journals

A  RT: 3 Ways to Keep a Digital Journal

A  RT: Journals: A Source for Family History Discoveries

Storytelling

V  AC: Telling Your Family Stories (25:00)

A  RT: 3 Tips to Make You a Great Storyteller

A  RT: 7 Fantastic Storytelling Tools and Apps

Research Basics

Starting

V  FS: Beginning Research Techniques—68:00

V  BYU: Research—How Do I Do It? (60:49)

V  AC: Make a Key Find in 15 Minute or less (56:00)

V  BYU: How to Get Started: Q & A (26:37)

A  FE: Beginning Your Genealogical Search

A  AR: Ten Tips To Maximize Your Research Time

Organization

V  Organizing Genealogy Files

V  BYU: Organization for the Disorganized Genealogist (61:00)

A  How to Organize Your Genealogy Stuff

A  Organize Your Research

A  TH: Organizing Your Genealogy Files

A  How to Organize Your Genealogical Digital Files

Notes and Logs

V  GE: Genealogy Research Log (13:00)

V  FS: Write It Down (4:58)

A  FE: Recording Names and Places

A  FS: Research Logs

Record Types

V  FS: Access to Records on FamilySearch (2:43)

V  FS: Records at Risk (26:00)

A  FS: Options and Tips for Searching Historical Records

A  FS: Using Authorities Lists

A  LDS: Limits of Historical Records

Analysis

V  FS: Evidence Analysis, Part 1 (37:00)

V  FS: Evidence Analysis, Part 2 (27:00)

V  AC: Negative Evidence (30:50)

V  AC: Evaluating Sources (29:00)

A  TH: Analyzing a Historical Document

A  FE: Transcribing and Summarizing Genealogical Documents

A  BW: Correlate Evidence

A  BW: Evidence Analysis

A  FE: When the Information Doesn’t Agree

V  BYU: Untangling Difficulties in the FamilySearch Family Tree (58:55)

V  BYU: Finding and Merging Duplicate Records in Family Tree (58:55)

Research Strategies

Basic Approaches

V  AC: Family History Focus (34:23)

V  BYU: Using the Internet in Research (28:00)

V  AC: Connecting Internet Finds (24:00)

A  GC: Preparing for Outside Research

A  FMP: Who? What? Where? When? Why? Developing Research Strategies

A  GC: Concentrate on the Facts

A  LDS: 6 Basic Rules of Genealogy

A  FE: Approximating Family History Dates

A  RT: 3 Ways to Improve Your Research Skills From Home

A  GIT: Getting Started Researching Your Family History

A  TH: Beginning Research Techniques

V  BYU—Researching in Depth (66:59)

V  FS: Inferential Genealogy (120:00)

V  AR: Finding Ancestor Origins (18:16)

A  RIV: Search Tools in Family Tree

Searching: Next Steps

V  FS: Completing Your Research (3:03)

V  AC: Finding Ancestors before 1850 (60:00)

V  AC: Missing Records (26:27)

A  AC: Smarter Searching

A  AC: Why You Can’t Find Your Ancestors

A  TH: Tips for Finding Ancestors in Databases

A  FHD: 6 Tips for More Effective Genealogy Searches

A  FMP: 5 ways to sharpen up your online search skills

Wildcards and Soundex

V  BYU: Getting Better Search Results with Wildcards (22:58)

A  FMP: Maximize Search Returns with Wildcards

A  FHD: 6 Tips for Searching with Wild Cards

A  AC: Searching with Soundex

A  GIT: What is Soundex, and How Does Soundex Work?

Names and Spelling

V  FS: Using Name Variations to Find a Record (3:18)

V  AC: Spelling Doesn’t Count (25:00)

A  GM: Surnames Sound a Challenge for Researchers

A  LDS: Considering Name Spellings

A  OT: Finding an Ancestor whose Surname Changed

A  FHD: New Surname Search Helps You Easily Research Last Names in Your Tree

A  RT: What’s in a Surname?

A  RT: What Is a Surname Distribution Map?

A  LT: The Challenge of Dealing with Aliases in Genealogy Research

A  GIT: First Name Abbreviations

A  TH: How to Properly Record Names in Genealogy

Female Names

V  AC: Finding Maiden Names (19:00)

V  AC: Finding Female Ancestors—scroll down (60:00)

A  RT: Ever Wonder Why It’s So Hard to Trace Your Female Ancestry?

A  RT: Where to Look to Find Your Female Ancestors

A  FMP: Tips for Tracing Female Ancestors

A  AR: Five Ways to Find Your Female Ancestors

A  AR: Five Strategies For Finding Forgotten Females

A  FHD: Having Trouble Researching Your Female Ancestors?

A  7 FHD: Little-Used Tricks for Finding That Missing Maiden Name

A  GC: Finding Female Ancestors and Maiden Names

A  TH: Placing Your Female Ancestors in Historical Context

A  LT: 5 Tips for Finding Female Ancestors

DNA

A  Basics of DNA

A  Ancestry DNA FAQs

A  Answers to Common DNA Questions

A  Introduction to Using DNA for Genealogy

V  DNA Testing for Genealogy (1:19)

V  BYU: Can a DNA Test Help You Find Your Ancestors or Relatives? – Part 1 (41:44)

V  BYU: Can a DNA Test Help You Find Your Ancestors or Relatives? – Part 2 (10:09)

A  FE: Taking a DNA Test

A  FTM: How to Handle Surprises in Your DNA (Results)

A  TH: DNA Tests Available for Genealogy

A  8 Best Testing Kit

DNA TypesA  atDNA: Finding Matches on All Ancestral Lines

A  LT: Introduction to Autosomal DNA Coverage

A  LT: Exploring Ethnicity with DNA, Part II: Autosomal Testing

A  LT: Mitochondrial DNA: Connecting Generations

A  mtDNA: the Direct Maternal Line

A  TH: mtDNA Testing for Genealogy

A  X-DNA’s Helpful Inheritance Patterns

V  FS: YDNA Solutions to Common Genealogical Problems? (28:40)

A  Y-DNA: the Direct Paternal Line

 

British Genealogy Sources

Civil Registration (Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates)

Birth and death certificates are original documents, and are therefore a valuable primary resource. They can provide useful, reliable information that will allow you to trace back your family history.

Birth and death certificates can provide information that will allow you to trace back your family tree, and also provide specific details about your ancestors.

birth certificate shows:

    • Forenames of the child
    • Date of birth
    • Place of birth
    • Gender
    • Full name and maiden name of the mother
    • Full name and occupation of the father (if married to the mother)
    • Name, address and relationship to the child of the person who registered the birth
    • Time of birth (Scotland only)
    • Date and place of the parents marriage (Scotland only)

death certificate shows:

    • Full name of the deceased
    • Cause of death
    • Place of death
    • Date of death
    • Age at death
    • Occupation of the deceased (if male)
    • Name and occupation of the husband (if female)
    • Name, address and relationship to the deceased of the person who reported the death
    • Marital status (Scotland only)
    • Name of spouse (Scotland only)
    • Gender (Scotland only)
    • Fathers name and occupation (Scotland only)
    • Mothers name and maiden name (Scotland only)

Where can i find?

Census and Census Substitutes

The Census is records containing information about the population of the United Kingdom. Every ten years the government completes a survey to gather this information.

What they tell us?

From 1841 to 1901, the census has contained personal information about residents in the UK. Before this time the Census only gives information about population numbers.

1841

    • First name
    • Surname
    • Age (for those over the age of 15, age was rounded to nearest 5 years)
    • Gender
    • Occupation
    • Where born (simply same county, in another county of England or Wales, Scotland, Ireland, or foreign)

1851

    • First name
    • Surname
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Occupation
    • Place of birth
    • Marital status
    • Relationship to head of houshold
    • If disabled, nature of disability

1861 – 1881

    • First name
    • Surname
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Occupation
    • Place of birth
    • Marital status
    • Relationship to head of houshold
    • If disabled, nature of disability
    • Number of rooms with one or more windows (Scotland only)

1891

    • First name
    • Surname
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Occupation
    • Place of birth
    • Marital status
    • Relationship to head of houshold
    • If disabled, nature of disability
    • Number of rooms with one or more windows (Scotland only)
    • Whether language spoken is Gaelic and/or English (Scotland only)
    • Whether language spoken is Welsh and/or English (Wales only)

1901

    • First name
    • Surname
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Occupation
    • Place of birth
    • Marital status
    • Relationship to head of houshold
    • If disabled, nature of disability
    • Number of rooms with one or more windows (Scotland only)
    • Whether language spoken is Gaelic and/or English (Scotland only)
    • Whether language spoken is Welsh and/or English (Wales only)
    • Religion (Ireland only)
    • Literacy level (Ireland only)
    • Ability to speak or write Irish (Ireland only)

Where can I find the Census?

Baptism Indexes

Marriage Indexes

Marriage certificates are original documents, and are therefore a valuable primary resource. They can provide useful, reliable information that will allow you to trace back your family history.

What they tell us?

Marriage certificates can provide information that will allow you to trace back your family tree, and also provide specific details about your ancestors.

marriage certificate shows:

    • Name of bride and groom
    • Age of bride and groom
    • Occupations of bride and groom
    • Marital status of bride and groom
    • Address of bride and groom
    • Date of marriage
    • Place of Marrage
    • Whether marriage by banns, licence or certificate
    • Name and occupation of the fathers of the bride and groom
    • Witness names
    • Name and maiden name of the mother of the bride and groom (Scotland only)

Where can i find?

Education & Announcements

Newspapers Archives

Photographs

DNA

Records of the Poor

Use this list to locate Poor Law records, as well as documents in which issues of and connected to poverty are discussed more broadly.

Burial Indexes

Probate Records

Emigration Records

Over the course of history, people have left the UK for many reasons. The most common destinations for emigrants are America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Emigration records can be important for learning about your family history.

What records are available?

Records relating to general destinations:

  • Records containing information on emigrants going to destinations all over the world.
  • The Society of Genealogists holds a good collection of printed material.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints also have lists compiled British and American sources.

Foreign Office Passport Registers:

  • Records containing the entries of passport details.
  • Records give details such as passport number, full name, destination and the names of referees.
  • Records are available from 1795 to 1898.
  • It was uncommon for emigrants to apply for a passport, so finding records may be difficult.

Plantation books:

  • Records of commissions, instructions, orders and letters to governors and officials.
  • Records of warrants for selection of Colonial councillors.
  • Records of grants and surrenders of offices.

Chancery Patent Roll:

  • Records relating to grants of land and offices in America and elsewhere.
  • The indexes to these records are available at the National Archives in Kew.

Admiralty Medical Journals:

  • Medical records of emigrant ships.
  • Records are available from 1815 to 1853.

Audit Office Declared Accounts:

  • Records of pensions and allowances paid to emigrants.
  • Records are available from 1779 to 1827.

Assize Records:

  • Records relating to criminal trials.
  • The records give information about sentences and those who were transported to other countries.

Transport Department records:

  • Records relating to the transport of military forces to various parts of the world by sea.
  • Records are available from 1773 to 1917.

Where can i find?

Migration Records

Some of your ancestors may have come from countries other than the UK. It is important to have an idea of where your ancestors came from in order to learn more about your family history.

What records are available?

There are a number of immigration records available, both digital and physical. Below is a list of immigration records available:

Records of the Chancery:

  • These are records relating to alien clergy and foreign merchants.
  • Records are available from the period of Henry III to Henry VIII.

Records of the Exchequer:

  • These are records relating to the possessions of foreign laymen.
  • Also contain records of fines imposed on the alien clergy.
  • Records are available from the period of Edward I to Edward IV.

Exchequer Accounts Various:

  • These accounts contain records of the transactions of foreign merchants in London.
  • Records are available from the period of Henry III to Charles I.

Exchequer Subsidy Rolls:

  • The rolls contain the names of foreigners living in the city and suburbs of London.

State Papers:

  • These are records that contain information about the return of strangers into London and other areas of the UK.
  • Gives names of people driven out of their country by persecutions and set up new homes in England.

Non-parochial Register:

  • These are records kept by churches in France, Holland, Germany and Switzerland.
  • The records contain information about refugees from these countries that came to the UK.

Certificates of Aliens:

  • Records of the arrivals of individuals in England and Scotland.
  • The certificates show information such as:
    • Nationality
    • Profession
    • Date of arrival
    • Last country visited
    • Signature of immigrant
  • The records are part of the Alien Act, 1836

Where can I find them?

Maps and Gazetteers

Historical maps give an indication of the layout of an area at a previous time. If you want to learn about the history of an area, historical maps can be a valuable resource. The UK is divided into local authorities; these are areas of major cities and counties.

Where can I find old maps?

Military Records

It is likely that one or more of your ancestors served in the armed forces. There are records available that go back to the Civil War, although most of the records available are from World War I.

Where can I find military records?

Archive Catalogues

Networking with Others

Occupations

Surname Studies

Surname Distribution Maps

Old Handwriting Aids

Religions and Ethnic Groups

Local Histories

Land and Court Records

Heraldry and Nobility

One-Place Studies

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