Ancestry Research

Research Your Ancestry and Build Your Family Tree Online

If you have ever typed the name of one your ancestors into Google, you may have been surprised at the number of relevant websites that pop up in the results pages. But then where do you go from there?

There are many free and paid for genealogy sites (see the links below) – it’s just a case of choosing the right one(s). You can find free information online but you might also want to get used to the idea that that at some point you are going to have to pay if you want to make serious progress.

Record research will be based initially on Births, Marriages and Deaths certificates and Census Returns, followed by parish register research and when you weigh up the costs of buying copies of these online against the time and expense of travelling to various records archives, there really is no contest.

Database research online literally takes minutes. When I started my family history research, it took months even years to fit in the visits that I needed to make, and whilst this was a very enjoyable activity, I didn’t really have the time.

Free Family History Records

Let’s first look at some of the free resources available to the family historian:
Ongoing project to transcribe the Civil Registration indexes of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales. They welcome donations.
This is the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which has a huge database of material which is still be collected world wide. When I started, it was only accessible on microfiche at local centers (eg libraries) but is now available online.
Connecting and sharing website for genealogists.

These websites have searchable indexes but there will be a charge for viewing and/or downloading any material. FreeBMD’s indexes are accessible from within FindMyPast and Ancestry which is useful for ordering certificates directly from your index searches.

Using Paid For Databases

Whichever provider(s) you choose, check first what records they hold. They should have births, marriages and death certificates and census records at the very least. Check also that you can order digitised copies of the original certificates – transcriptions can be prone to errors.

Look at and compare their pricing structure. Although they will usually charge a small monthly or larger annual (best value) subscription fee, they may also have credits system (or other payment arrangement) where you purchase a number of credits and ‘spend’ them on records and documents. Free trial periods are common, so give them a try. Many also provide a free family tree builder.
Massive database of UK and international records. Different pricing levels: Essentials (UK), Premium (more than one billion UK records), Worldwide (more than 15 billion international records).
US version – Pricing levels are U.S. Discovery (U.S. records), World Explorer (U.S. and international records), All Access (includes all Ancestry records,,, Ancestry Academy).
Over 4 billion records, and 11 million newspaper pages. Claims to have the largest online collection of Irish records and UK parish records and the most comprehensive archive of British military records.
Three pricing levels – Free (start your family tree and connect with others researching the same family) Pay as you go, Subscription.
More than 100 million records including births, marriages and deaths indexes for Scotland. Credits payment system.

What Records Do Online Databases Hold?

The databases above have a huge variety of record types, eg records include:

Births, Marriages and Deaths
Parish records
Education and Work
Military, armed forces and Conflict
Newspapers and periodicals
Census land and survey records
Directories and social history
Institutions and organizations
Travel and migration

More records are being made available all the time on these databases as the process of acquisition and digitization continues. As I write this, FindMyPast releases new records every Friday! Visit these websites and see just how comprehensive their records are.

Other Online Resources

Please look on our resource page to find other useful genealogical links for your online research.


Your Family Tree

To many people, producing the family tree is the main goal of ancestry research. This used to be my principal interest in researching my family history but this changed when I started to learn more about my ancestors as individuals.

Although you will discover much about your ancestry through civil registration, parish records and census returns, there will usually be much more information to be revealed with more in-depth research and this is what now fascinates me.

But back to the family tree.

When I first started my research, I had many rough drafts of my family tree to show different branches and generations of my family and used them as a way of recording information as I progressed. The idea was to that when these were confirmed and verified by further research, I would pull them together into one, two or three trees (depending on how big they were).

This has still yet to happen and the reason it hasn’t is because I will be uploading all my research on to a proprietary database such as Ancestry that synchronizes with software on my computer.

The beauty of this is that you can create a free family tree that is infinitely editable and updatable and will display or link to any information, documents, images or records that you have entered on the database.

Not everyone will want to do it this way. Many will wish to create their tree manually on paper or parchment, or even pay and artist or calligrapher to do it for them. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

To get your family tree started, first talk to your relatives and ask them for copies of any birth, marriage or death certificates. Also ask for any photos they may have of your ancestors – it always adds interest if you can see who you’re researching.

There may already be a family historian in your immediate or extended family and it’s always a good idea to ask your relatives if this is indeed the case.

Of course, any information compiled by anyone else should be checked and verified wherever possible.

Start your family tree with the information that you gathered, beginning with yourself, siblings, parents and grandparents and work your way back in time.

How to find the information for producing a family tree, using civil registration records.


1939 Register

The 1939 Register is of huge importance to the family historian. As you will know, the census of England and Wales is taken every 10 years and published 100 years later. The next scheduled release will be the 1921 census, expected to be available in 2022.

The next census to become available following the 1921 census will be the census of 1951. This is because the census of 1931 was destroyed during the war and there was no census taken in 1941. This means that there would be a significant gap in the records available to family history researchers if not for the 1939 Register.

The 1939 Register was taken as war became inevitable so that the British government could plan for the conflict as well as manage identity cards and ration books for the civil population.

The 1939 Register was taken over just one weekend and provides the following information:

Dates of birth
Marital status
If a member of the armed services or reserves

Findmypast has partnered with The National Archives to make this information available and is currently completing the digitisation of the 40 million entries of the register. It will be published online this autumn.

To find out more, including the publishing date, please sign up here.

Click here to find out more about the UK census online.



New York Genealogical and Biographical Society eLibrary At Findmypast

Findmypast has announced that they have been working with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society to make the eLibrary of the society accessible through the Findmypast website.

Now available online, the eLibrary of the NYG&B includes the second oldest genealogical journal in the USA – The Record.  First published in 1870, it has for 145 years proved to be an extremely valuable resource for New York State families.

As well as The Record, other genealogical data is also available – census fragments, marriage and death information, registers of baptisms and diaries. More than 32,000 digitized colour images of various publications, records, inventories and books stored by the Society can now be explored using Findmypast’s search and viewer tools.

This is just the first phase of the project and more updates will be added in 2016.  The eLibrary collection accessible through Findmypast will eventually comprise of millions of USA records.


New Additions to Irish Newspaper Collection

Find My Past have announced the addition of nearly half a million articles and new titles to their Irish Newspaper collection.

They originate from the four provinces of the country and are of the period prior to, during and following The Great Famine (1805-1871), comprising of both national and local press.

There are now 9.7 million searchable articles in Findmypast’s Irish newspaper collection spanning 231 years of Ireland’s past (1719-1950)

Irish Newspapers Collection


New Anglo Boer War Records from FindMyPast

FindMyPast has announced a new update to their Anglo-Boer War Records Collection which adds nearly 900 new records of British Army soldiers serving in the British Army at the time of the Second Boer War:

Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902 Update

More than 293,000 records are now held in the register and information in each record can include name, rank, service number, regiment and honours.

The First Boer War or Transvaal War – 16th December 1880 – 23rd March 1981 arose because of the British attempt to implement confederation over the colonies of South Africa. The ensuing revolt by the Boers was ultimately successful in that the British government gave the Boers self government of the Transvaal in the peace treaty of 23 March 1881.

The Second Boer War – 11th October 1899 – 31st May 1902 was a major international conflict fought by the Boers of the South African and Orange Free State republics against the forces of the British Empire, resulting in the two republics becoming part of the British Empire.


Who Do You Think You Are – New Series

The BBC Media Centre has announced that the BBC will be screening the 12th series of Who Do You Think You Are this summer. This popular genealogy research based television series presents well known celebrities discovering their ancestry with the help of genealogists, archivists and researchers.

This new series boasts many well known names including Sir Derek Jacobi, Jane Seymour, Frank Gardner and Frances de la Tour.

As always, no expense is spared to connect our celebrities to locations that have historic significance to their lives and the lives of their ancestors and the Tower of London, Tasmania, the Punjab in India and the Wild West of America are among the places visited.

When the Who Do You Think You Are series first started, there were many helpful ‘how to’s’ included in each programme for the amateur genealogist but these disappeared as the series continued and evolved.

However, there is still much to be learned that will be useful to family historians so I’d suggest that these programmes are a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in learning more about how to discover their ancestry.