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Trace your family tree


Where and how to start

Tracing your ancestors can take time. You will need to be prepared to carry out research (or employ others to do this for you) it is advisable to begin in a methodical manner as this is likely to ensure the best results.

The basic rule of genealogy is that you must start with the present and try to work your way backwards. Do not pick out an individual and try to work your way forwards. The best place to begin is with the older members of your family. Apart from dates of birth, death or marriage other useful information to find out is addresses, religious denomination and occupations.

Your aim is to try and construct a rough family tree; family bibles are clearly useful as are old photographs, wills and diaries. Recollections can provide a useful starting point bearing in mind information passed down orally can often become distorted.

Basic advice

Some general points that are worth pointing out are

  • Draw up a plan. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents and so on. You need to ask yourself questions such as where are you going to start? Which line will you follow first?
  • There is no one record that will tell you everything you need to know about your family or even a single generation (unless another family historian has already done the work for you).
  • People can only be traced when some public or official body has recorded them. These records were not made for our benefit but for that of the organisation which made them, therefore we will not necessarily find them in the order we might like, i.e. indexed or in alphabetical order.
  • Some records will be arranged by address, others by surname and some by date.
  • A variety of indexes are available.
  • The spelling of surnames will vary, sometimes from generation to generation and frequently the spelling is phonetic, it is advisable to record (and check) all possible variant spellings.
  • Where possible check any information you find against another source.
  • Do not confine yourself to information on microfilm/fiche, the archive has a vast amount of information that is often under used by family historians.
  • We do not supply birth, death or marriage certificates, but we do have access to the General Register Office indexes. Certificates need to be purchased from the relevant local Register Office.

This page was last updated on 12 September 2016