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Genealogy, Family History, Ancestry in the UK - Tips for getting started

Researching Your Family History
10 Tips to get you started courtesy of

You never know what you may uncover about your family when you start researching your family history. Find out if your great uncle really was a cattle thief or if you’re somehow related to the royals. Thanks to, you can easily find out if you are a distant heir to royal riches or one of Elvis’ cousins.

Begin the adventure today! Below are 10 tips for getting started with your family tree:

• Start with what you know. You can begin by filling out a pedigree chart – either on paper or online. Fill in as much as you can based on memory, then leave question marks indicating what you’ll need to research in the coming months. You can download a printable family chart at


• Purchase genealogy software. When shopping around for genealogy supplies, you’ll find a variety of software designed specifically for family history research. Programs such as Family Tree Maker are indispensable tools for easily compiling and organizing data.

• Look for records in your home. Before traipsing off to a library, you’ll want to scour your own attic for family bibles, photographs, diaries, journals, letters, scrapbooks, legal records, baby books and, most importantly, birth, marriage and death certificates.

• Interview relatives. You can begin to fill in the blanks on your pedigree chart by asking relatives for information. Often, extended family members will be able to provide much of your missing information. Remember to record or videotape the interview for posterity.

• Search compiled sources. While it’s exciting to find original records for each of your ancestors, it’s best to begin with compiled sources. Previously researched genealogies, biographies, family trees and name indexes will save you a lot of time in the long run. Online databases, such as those on or, can be a huge help.

Pay attention to spelling. Variations in spelling (especially surname spellings) can affect the amount of information that you find. Be sure to try alternative spellings every time you search for a name. Or, when using, try the Soundex search feature.

• Cite your sources. As with any major research project, you’ll want to ensure accuracy by keeping track of your sources. For every record that you use, record the title, a microfilm or volume number and a page number.

• Read up on history. Learning more about the historical background and migration patterns of your ancestors will help your track down important sources of information – such as local histories, regional maps, town directories and gazetteers (geographical dictionaries).

Ancestral Trails: Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History  • Share your discoveries. Once you’ve compiled at least a portion of your genealogy, you can begin to share it with friends, family members and fellow researchers. Using message boards on, upload your tree where others can see your work and even contact you to share information they may have found on the same family lines.

More than just a hobby, genealogy is a legacy – a labour of love to be passed to future generations. You never know what exciting information is waiting for you!  


Quicklinks to Genealogy Pages:

Genealogy and family trees Introduction
Researching your family tree - Tips for getting started
Researching your family tree - Searching
Genealogy and Family Tree software
Useful Genealogy and Family Tree resources
Talkback article - Write it down Mum




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