*   Tracing Your Family Tree
Search Tracing Your Roots  *

* Introduction
*Getting Started
*The Life Cycle
*Service Records
*Further Sources
*Finding Out More
* Caribbean
* Irish
* Jewish
* South Asian


In this section * * * * *
An Introduction*    
Research*   conducting your research*   
Useful Web Sites*   Useful Web Sites for Family History Research*   
Further Reading*   Further Reading Suggestions for Genealogy*   

*An Introduction*top of page

Family history, or genealogy as it is sometimes called, is one of Britain's fastest growing hobbies. It is an ideal pastime and can bring alive the history you learnt at school. Your ancestors weren't just bystanders, they were participants: your grandfathers might have been at the Battle of Somme, could have suffered religious persecution or have been slaves on sugar plantations, for example.

Indian troops march to the trenches during World War One
Indian troops march to the trenches led by bagpipes and drum during World War One. What had begun as a European war developed into a global conflict since it was fought between countries with colonies and dependencies across the world.
* Moving Here catalogue reference (IWM) Q24254
Many people think that family history has been computerised and that all you need to do is type in a name and a family tree going back centuries will be produced. While it is true that the computer, and in particular the internet, has revolutionised genealogy, you will still need to spend time in archives, going through pages of paper or reels of microfilm hunting for that elusive ancestor. However, nothing quite beats the thrill of suddenly finding a forebear on a film or handling a document signed by a great-great-great-grandfather.

If your family or some of your ancestors came from overseas this presents particular problems. In Britain there are often few records, because until well into the 20th century the government was generally uninterested in immigrants - providing they did not pose a threat to law and order. There may, however, be other sources, such as birth, marriage and death records or records of social clubs or occupations that can shed light on the arrival of an ancestor.

Eventually, you will need to turn to records in the country from where they originated. Family History Centres, run by the *LDS Church (Mormons), are a good place to start, for they can order microfilm copies of genealogical source material from around the world for you. In addition there are often web sites that can help by providing information, contacts and perhaps a personal insight into research overseas.

One of the charms of family history is that it is difficult enough to be a challenge, but not so difficult that these challenges cannot be overcome (in most instances). If you are stuck, ask for advice - most people are only too pleased to help.

There are always people who can help, whether they are record office staff or fellow family historians. It is always worth joining a local family history society - or a more specialist group for descendants of immigrants if one exists - as it is a good way of building up your knowledge.

Family history is a detective story. And like every good detective you must discover the facts and present them in a convincing way. Below are some basic rules:

  • Start with what you definitely know rather than rely on conjecture or speculation
  • Record your information methodically
  • Assume nothing unless you can prove it
  • Accept it when you hit a brick wall; by researching another branch of the family you may find clues or build up knowledge that may resolve the initial problem
One of the big problems facing family historians is the amount of information they will acquire about their ancestors and how they will store and find it when necessary. If you have a computer this will help you organise your research immensely, especially if you purchase one of the many commercial *genealogy software packages that are now available.

*Research*top of page

There are many useful tools and avenues that can be followed when starting your research. Read more about conducting your research* for detailed descriptions on research strategies, constructing a family tree and family heirlooms.

*Useful Web Sites*top of page

It is not possible to do all your family history research on the Internet, but it can be an immensely useful source of information, and provides forums in which you can share your research and queries with others. Link here for a list of Useful Web Sites for Family History Research*.

*Further Reading*top of page

Reading around your subject is almost as important as doing primary research and at no time is it more important that when you are just starting out as an amateur genealogist. Our Further Reading Suggestions for Genealogy* are good places to start.

Creators: Simon Fowler

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