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Discover your roots: unearth your family history

Added 1023 days ago. 04 January 2019

Have you ever wondered about your ancestry? Where you came from, and what life was really like for your forgotten relatives?

TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are, are making family trees and genealogy more and more popular – not only for discovering the history of your ancestors, but also to unearth lost lines and connect with family branches you didn’t know you had.

Whatever your reason for wanting to dig up your family tree, knowing where to start can seem daunting at first. But there are so many different tools out there to help you, if you just know where to look…

​Where to start

The first key to your ancestry lies with you! 

Start by drawing a family tree. Go back as far and as widely as you can, and then ask relatives, to see if they can remember back any further. Record your family history in as much detail as possible – even if these details are a little sketchy in places. Things like full names, occupations, marriages and locations of births and deaths are key to delving further back into your family heritage.  

Digging for yourself

From here, there are a number of ways you can attempt to track your family tree on your own. 

Records of births deaths and marriages from 1837 onwards, for example, are kept at St Catherine’s House in London. Church records can also be particularly useful in helping you find records of deaths and marriages. 

Census information though, is probably the most useful source when it comes to learning about your ancestors. Recorded from 1841 to 1911, these records give you a snapshot of the people living a particular household in a given year, including ages and occupations. Kept by The National Archives in London, you may also be able to access these from a nearby public library. 

Where to go when you get stuck

Digging through public records can be time consuming, with no guarantee of finding any new information or leads. But there’s plenty of resources out there to help you delve as far back into your family history as possible:
Who Do You Think You Are magazine

Following on from the TV programme, this magazine subscription is great way to get started on your ancestry journey. Full of tips from genealogy experts, it’s a great way of keeping you up-to-date with all the best ways of looking back. It’s also worth linking up to their online forum, so you can ask questions and get advice from other people on a similar journey.

This online index is a great alternative to digging back through public records. With a huge database of UK birth, death and marriage certificate and census returns, your family history could be only a few clicks away! 
Genes Reunited

Like Ancestry, Genes Reunited is a database of public records, helping you find your family without foraging through parish records.
Find My Past

For when your search seems to have dried up, Find My Past has over four billion records ready for you to search, including newspapers, military records, workhouse registers, school admissions and more!

Top tip!

Remember, spellings of names, both first and surname can change over time. If you’ve reached a stuck point – why not try searching variations of your family name? You may discover a whole new hidden trail!
Share with us how far you managed to go into your family’s past.

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