Would you like to meet your ancestors? Here’s how in 10 easy steps…

Monday, January 20, 2014

Who do you think you are logo

With 2014 being Foresters' 180th anniversary, we've been taking a look through our history. This made us think that's it's funny how, in our hi-tech age, we seem to be more fascinated by the past than ever! If you've ever thought about uncovering your family history, expert Jon Bauckham of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, shares his top tips on how to get started…

1. Start with what you know
Begin by jotting down anything you already know about your family. Drawing a rough family tree can act as a prompt for relatives, who might be able to provide additional documents or knowledge.

2. Get online
Many key records can be found on websites such as ancestry.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk. For information specific to Wales, try welshgenealogy.net, for Scotland, ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk and for Ireland, findmypast.ie. Many sites offer free trials, allowing you to make significant progress without paying anything.

3. Gather the evidence
One way to get the ball rolling is to find your family on the 1911 census, which is now available online. From there, you can work backwards and trace your family at 10-year intervals until the first modern census taken in 1841 (1901 in Ireland).

4. Births, marriages and deaths
These three main events in your ancestors' lives will have been registered with the local authorities (from 1837 in England and Wales, 1855 in Scotland and 1864 in Ireland) before being copied into central indexes kept by the General Register Office (GRO). These are available at FreeBMD.org.uk and genesreunited.co.uk.

5. Get the certificate
Once you find a relevant entry, you can use its unique code to order a copy of the original birth, marriage or death certificate from the GRO at £9.25 each (gro.gov.uk), providing even more details. If you're going back earlier, you'll need to consult the local parish registers - FamilySearch.org has many of these available free of charge.

6. Do some detective work
Finding names and dates is satisfying, but sifting through documents such as old newspapers or prison registers - many of which are available online - can tell you what people actually did with their lives and help you build up a bigger picture.

7. Be thorough
For an accurate account, always check the validity of every piece of information against an original record and check the authenticity of anything you find online.

8. Ask the experts
The internet has made genealogy easier to do alone, but seeking help from a professional organisation, family history society (listed at ffhs.org.uk) or expert (listed at agra.org.uk) can help you take your research further.

9. Create your own legacy
Once you start researching your roots, it can make you think about the legacy you leave behind for your own descendants - so you may want to record your research and make it publicly available. Apps such as savingmemoriesforever.com enable you to record interviews and share them with others, or you could start a blog (try wordpress.com).

10. And there's more!

Here are some more sites for budding genealogists to investigate:

British newspaper archive britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
Cyndi's List cyndislist.com/uk
GENUKI genuki.org.uk
The National Archives nationalarchives.gov.uk
Society of Genealogists sog.org.uk


If you find out something amazing about your family history, let us know!