> Where to Start



  Always DOCUMENT your research
  • Never underestimate the importance of systematic documentation
  • Start documenting your research right from the word go
  • Always fully identify your source of information and the date you made your search
  • Keep a careful record of what searches you have done even if you found nothing - this will save you wasting time searching the same source again in the future
  • Remember that your research records are as essential as your statement of results
  Always CROSS-CHECK your sources
  • Never assume that a single source of information is guaranteed to be correct - even certificates can be misleading (e.g. our ancestors often lied to the Registrar, for example their ages for marriage certificates)
  • Try and follow the golden rule of 'three proofs of evidence' to avoid inadvertently going down the wrong family tree
  • Never rely on an index entry alone - always check out the original source document that is indexed
  • Remember living relatives can confuse people and events outside their direct experience
  Researching from HOME
  • Increasingly BUT NOT ALL genealogical research can now be conducted from the comfort of your own home
  • The internet has transformed the ease with which many genealogical sources can be searched and contacts made with other genealogists who share your particular interests
  • Key internet databases that cost nothing to use include the 1881 Census, the International Genealogical Index, the Free Births Marriages and Deaths Project, various emigration databases, the PCC Wills Index, World War Casualties, Trade Directories, Manorial Documents Register
  • Although you can access a wealth of information on free-to-use web sites, it is likely that at some point you will feel it is worth subscribing to one or more of the growing number of pay-to-use sites which hold highly useful information not freely available online - three of the top sites are compared in the section on subscription sites
  • The internet is also very useful for checking whether a local or national repository holds the original or a copy of a particular document that you are interested in - many record offices provide on their web site an online catalogue to their archived records - there are also nationally managed online catalogues to county record office collections
  • The internet also provides an indexed gateway to the vast and comprehensive collection of microfilmed documents of genealogical interest held at the Family History Library in Utah - any microfilmed document found in this online index can be booked out and viewed at you local Latter Day Saints Family History Centre
  • Not least the internet is an invaluable aid for finding out (through internet user forums, family history society web sites, etc.) who else is tracing some of your ancestors and benefiting from their research
  • It is worth checking out GenUKI which is organised around individual counties in the UK
  • Aside from the internet, there is a growing number of CD-ROMs that can assist you in your research
  • You can also purchase microfiche copies of indexes (registered births marriages and deaths, census returns, parish registers, etc.) - however now days with an increasing number of indexes and document images being also published on CD-ROMs, it is worth checking whether there are any CD-ROM equivalents of the microfiche you are interested in before investing in a microfiche reader
  • Last but not least there are literally hundreds of books ranging from introductory beginner guides to highly specialised publications focusing on a particular aspect of genealogical research
  Use accessible CENTRES of genealogical information
  • You are well advised to visit you local Latter Day Saints Family History Centre sooner rather than later - there are over eighty of them spread across England and Wales and they provide access to a wide variety of extremely valuable sources of information for genealogists - although the volunteer staff at these centres cannot do any research for you, you will find them very helpful in answering any general queries you might have
  • Although they do not hold many, if any, original archived records, Local Studies Centres often provide excellent facilities for family historians with free access to a wide variety of genealogical sources (microfiche indexes to registered births, marriages and deaths, access to the International Genealogical Index, local history publications, etc.)
  • The further back you go in tracing your family tree, the more critical Record Offices are likely to be in progressing your research.
  • Family historians who live in London or the home counties are fortunate in being able to visit with relative ease national repositories of archived records. The National Archives, the British Library and the Society of Genealogists are all based in London.
  • If you do not live near London, you need to plan carefully any visit to one of the above national repositories and are well advised to first check out their web sites and online catalogues (including the shared Discovery catalogue) to maximise the value of your visit - the National Archives in particular often require 3 days notice of your visit to ensure time to transfer the documents you are interested in from off-site storage to the search rooms at Kew
  Join one or more SOCIETIES
  • It is well worth joining your local Family History Society - you are certain to gain valuable guidance from other members on how best to pursue tracing your family tree
  • It is often also worth joining Family History Societies located in those areas where your ancestors lived - you can pick up useful information and contacts from their newsletters and it is always worth checking out their lists of publications for sale
  • It may also be worth joining one or more Local History Societies located in those areas where your ancestors lived - some of these societies positively welcome family historians and can furnish you with a wealth of local historical background to add "flesh to the bones" of your basic family tree
  • If you live in London or the home counties it may well be worth joining the Society of Genealogists - their library contains a wealth of genealogical sources. They also run a series of lectures and seminars.
  • If you are interested in learning about genealogy per se and its associated discipline of heraldry it is worth joining the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies. The Institute, which is based in Canterbury, runs a series of full and part time courses
  • The further back you go, the greater the chance that other genealogists have already researched parts of your own family tree - it is well worth trying to contact them and exchanging information
  • It may well be worth checking out if the surname you are interested in is registed with the Guild of One-Name Studies and if it is then contacting the person running that particular one-name study
  • A simple internet search along the lines of 'surname place family' (e.g. 'Richardson Glasgow family') using a search engine such as Google or Dogpile can often lead you to other genealogists with a shared interest in parts of your family tree
  • It is also worth checking out the 'British Isles Genealogical Register' which lists more than 155,000 surnames recording the places and dates of families currently being researched along with the names and addresses of the researchers - this is available on CD-ROM or microfiche from the Federation of Family History Societies
This page last updated: 27 December 2017