Researching your family tree can be an intriguing and eye-opening experience, and what used to mean many hours spent at libraries and the records office is now a whole lot easier thanks to the worldwide web.
For anyone interested in genealogy but unsure where to start, here are some tips and websites that can help you get started.
If you're not sure whether you'll stick with your research for very long, it's wise to start your search with one of the free online resources. Genuki is one such site, and this well-known resource provides a comprehensive list for families in the UK and Ireland, and can point you to other resources or online records that may further your search. Another site to try is Cyndi's List, which includes categorised indexes by country and territory throughout the UK and Ireland, and a section for military research. The site runs on donations, so if it helps you to get started, consider making a donation so that others might benefit from this excellent resource.
Other useful sites include www.freebmd.org.uk, which lists some births, deaths and marriages in England and Wales, or www.familysearch.org, a free genealogy site featuring historical records from around the world.
First family tree
Free sites may allow you to make a start on your family tree, but to take things further, you will almost certainly have to pay. Like many other online resources, internet genealogy sites usually work by having members pay a subscription, either monthly or annually. For this fee, you'll find that you get a few extra resources such as access to census records, World War 1 and 2 and other military records, and parish records too. Ancestry.co.uk, Find My Past and Genes Reunited are some of the big names to try, and it's worth remembering that these larger sites usually offer a two-week free trial so you don't have to pay a thing until you know the site will be of use to you. They also include forums so that you can chat to others who may be able to offer help or advice about researching your ancestors' history.
Once you have a basic family tree, complete with full names and dates of birth, you'll be able to dig a little deeper. Information relating to wills, the World War 1 Campaign Medal index and various naval records can be found at the pay-for site www.nationalarchives.gov.uk, although there is free information available for those researching servicemen or women who died during the two World Wars at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. And www.origins.net is a great site containing more unusual and hard-to-find British and Irish records such as wills, probate documents, military information and marriage indexes, which could just push your search a little further back into history. While you will need to pay for the services, you can choose to pay for some sections only, with either an annual, monthly or even a 72-hour fee.
Thereafter, you will more than likely need to look for specific archives, which may mean travelling to the archive itself, but the web is the ideal place to start and you'll find plenty to point you in the right direction. So why not give it a try and see what lurks in your past?
Are you researching your family tree? What advice would you give to others just getting started? Leave your comments below...