Trace your roots

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Family treeThe BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? has featured such celebrities as Rory Bremner, Fiona Bruce, Rick Stein, Zoe Wanamaker and Kevin Whately. These celebrities delved into their family trees to discover where their roots lie.

By searching through archives, museums, personal diaries and other sources of information, the celebrities unearthed fascinating stories about grandparents and great-grandparents involving war, immigration, scandals and great acheivements.

Finding out about your family's past is fascinating but it's not the easiest thing to do. Happily, there are places you can research online for example: freebmd.org.uk for some birth, marriage and death records in England and Wales, familysearch.org for selected parish records and rootsweb.com. These are all free to use so get the most out of them! You should start by drawing up your family tree, but if you get stuck creating it, there are plenty of online tools to help you or you can purchase family tree building software to make the task easier.

There are other genealogy websites which may require you to pay for their use but they usually offer you a free trial period. These are sites like ancestry.co.uk and genesreunited.com. You can try searching for births, marriages and deaths records as these will likely hold important information about relatives. The 1911 census, which can be found online, will also be an excellent mine of information.

If someone in your family had a military past, the records for military history are very accurate and could help you learn some secrets about your family's past. Or maybe there was a black sheep in your family - you could learn about their exploits through articles in newspaper archives or through the Old Bailey's archive of proceedings in criminal trials.

From the 27Feb - 1 Mar 2009, Who Do You Think You Are? Live took place at the Olympia exhibition centre in London. If you were able to make it down there you would have seen all kinds of brilliant stands and talks that explained how to go about researching your family history. One brilliant exhibitor was Family Tree DNA. The experts from this company can use DNA testing to discover where your ancestors came from. But don't worry if you missed the show, you can still search online for DNA testing for yourself.

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