It’s a basic human trait that people have a need to know who and where they come from. Family history research can give a fascinating insight and helps people answer some, if maybe not all, of these questions.
Ever wondered if you are related to royalty? Or if there is someone famous in your family tree? These are all valid questions and they make the search exciting, but most of us will find we are related to everyday normal people just like us. Take me for an instance, I’m a big horse racing fan, or to be more precise a National Hunt racing fan.
I was hoping when I started my family research that I would find that I was related to a famous Grand National trainer or jockey, sadly no such luck, however thanks to the internet I was still able to trace my family back into the 1700’s without too much difficulty. I found out there was a horse connection of sorts – my ancestors were bargemen on the canals, not quite what I was expecting or hoping for!
The internet has had lots of critics but one of the boons provided by the global expansion of information on the web is the ability it gives us to find and trace our roots.
Firstly, always talk to family members as the first point of reference and make notes, they will be invaluable later on. Next step, collect copies of birth, wedding and death certificates, you’d be amazed how much information can be obtained from them.
Wedding certificates are great for finding out who the parents were and what occupations they had (sadly here in the UK they don’t list mothers information.) You can order copies of most certificates online from the GRO (Government Record Office) they cost about £10 each so order sparingly.
There are lots of research sites for family history but they can require you to pay a monthly subscription or you can often ‘pay as you go’. This can prove very expensive over a period of time, but if you gather as much information from free sources first, then sign up and check your information, you can keep costs to a minimum.
Make use of the numerous FREE sites, believe it or not there are some excellent free websites for family history. Probably the best is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you don’t have to sign up and you can search for free and it has a vast database of family names and history.
Another very useful site is GENUKI, it covers England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, with lots of links to other useful sites.
GENUKI is very useful and you will find lots of names listed in church records, reaching back as far as the 1500’s.
There are things to be aware of however, the further back you go the more tenuous the links become unless you are fortunate and have a very unusual name. There is always the chance the person you’re looking at may or may not be related, always ‘pencil in’ that name until you can verify from various sources.
You can’t get birth, death or marriage certificates for events before 1837 from the GRO. Finally, don’t rush it, remember it’s taken hundred’s of years to get to you. It may take a while to trace your family tree back to it’s roots, however it’s often easier than you might think and after all, some of us just might find that link to the Royals! Good Luck!.
Writing for one of the UK’s most popular horseracing website has kept Simone Eddison busy for the past eight years, when she is not writing about National Hunt racing she can be found on the gallops watching the progress of her own racehorse. Connect with her on Facebook.