British Family History

A Guide to Getting Started in Genealogy

Before you Begin your Research

Before you begin your research, you need to decide what your aim is. You need to develop a plan, and a way to research your ancestors. Think about which lines you want to follow - you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great grandparents, etc. Whilst some of you may want to trace as many as you possibly can, through both paternal and maternal lines, it is usually best to trace the paternal line, as due to the status of women as you get further back in time, it becomes difficult to trace them.

Example of a Photo TreeApproaching your Research

There are three common ways to approach your research:

  • Aim to create a family tree showing the male-line ancestors (father, grandfather, etc), including the wives, siblings and children of these ancestors.
  • Aim to create an extended family tree, which shows all descendants of the earliest known male ancestor - you could end up discovering a distant cousin or two.
  • Aim to create an Ancestry Chart , which shows as many ancestors as possible, through both paternal and maternal lines. It is usually useful to note down any siblings or other relative of your ancestorsm as these could later solve identification problems.

Whatever you decide to do, don't go trying to research three or four ancestors at once - it is usually better to concentrate on just one, and if you get stuck you can then move onto another.

How to Begin

First you need to talk to all your living relatives to gather as much information as you can from them about your grandparents and great-grandparents. You also need to gather any documents from them - this could include certificates, photo albums, diaries, newspapaer cuttings, letters, or even a family bible.

Put together the basic genealogical facts about the people you have found out about - this includes birth date/place, marriage date/place, and if deceased, death date/place. Also, don't forget about family legends - although these are not necessarily true, it is useful to note them down incase you discover something interesting surrounding them.

Now you should be all set to begin your research using either online research sites, or CD-ROMs containing the data you are interested in.