Discover your family history as lockdown sees a rise in Britons exploring genealogy
Lockdown has seen thousands of Britons explore their roots, uncovering fascinating stories from their family trees.
Genealogy once required careful study, cross-country trips to local archives, and hours spent sifting through dusty tomes.
But now, with a wide variety of apps, websites, and other resources, those amazing stories are just a few clicks away.
Sam Otter, Chief Revenue Officer of Findmypast, said: “Interest in online search has grown steadily since the start of 2020.
“When the Covid restrictions first hit, Findmypast saw the number of new users double, as well as a 60% increase in searches on our site. Thousands of families across the UK have since taken the lockdown as an opportunity to explore their roots.
find my past)
“Online family research lets you time travel from the comfort of your own home and anyone can do it; all you need is an internet connection and an inquisitive mind.
“It can provide a sense of rejuvenation and self-discovery, with millions of unique stories just waiting to be discovered.”
Findmypast user Mandy Lewis has uncovered incredible stories about her ancestry.
She says: “I have DNA proven the biological father of my illegitimate great-grandmother, James Harrison. He ended up in an insane asylum, his patient records contain two photographs of him.
“I discovered a few years ago that King Richard III was buried in the garden of my 12x great-grandfather Robert Herrick in Leicester. Learning about James’ struggles in the asylum and Robert’s connection to the Leicester’s story has been very moving. I learned more about where I come from and more about the history, which excites me.”
Use our guide to start uncovering your family’s past…
1. Getting started
Sit down and write down everything you already know, focusing on names, dates, and places. This will form the basis of your initial research.
Ask your loved ones to see what they remember. Every detail can help, no matter how insignificant.
Ask older family members first, as they are more likely to have met some of the people you are looking for or heard stories about them.
Search the attic. Check old photographs, letters or documents and other heirlooms for clues to the past.
2. Search online
The billions of records now available online contain a wealth of information for building your family tree.
When researching ancestors, it is always best to start broad by researching a name and year of birth.
Once you have a better idea of what, where, and who you’re looking for, you can narrow things down from there.
3. Build a family tree
The best place to store your findings is in an online family tree.
Many online tree builders, including those from Findmypast, are free, easy to use, and packed with useful features, including “hints” that will do a lot of work.
Clues automatically match the names, dates, and places you have recorded for each ancestor to potentially relevant records as well as common ancestors stored in other users’ trees, allowing you to directly benefit from existing research.
find my past)
4. Birth, marriage and death
Civil registration in England and Wales began in July 1837 and the General Register Office (GRO) has recorded details of all births, marriages and deaths since.
Their meticulously curated records are widely available online and will provide you with all the information you need to identify ancestors and discover previous generations.
They can reveal:
– Where and when your ancestors were born, married or died
– The names of your ancestor’s parents
– The name of your ancestor’s spouse
– The names of your ancestor’s children
These records will also provide you with the details you need to order copies of the original certificates from the GRO website.
The certificates will provide you with even more details to help you in your hunt.
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5. Become a census detective
Now readily available on many websites, censuses have been taken in Britain every decade since 1801 (except 1941, when war prevented this).
Full censuses for England and Wales are available online from 1841 and due to data protection laws the last census we can search online is from 1911.
Censuses can provide a wealth of information about your ancestor and the people he lived with.
The 1939 register
The register fills a vital gap in the UK archives and is one of the best resources available for what is just beginning.
The 1931 census was destroyed by fire. No census was taken in 1941 because of the war. Thus, the 1939 register is the only national census-type resource available for this period.
The register is extremely detailed and covers all households in England and Wales. Like a census, it can tell you a lot about how your ancestors actually lived or be used to explore your home’s history.
You can find out if your ancestors had servants or staff, who their neighbors were, how many children they had, and what they all did for a living.
6. Search parish registers
find my past)
Between 1538, when Britain seceded from the Catholic Church, and 1837, when responsibility for keeping records was assumed by the government, the primary source of records of daily life are church records.
Church records offer a fascinating look not only at your family history, but also at the history of our society, with details of baptisms, marriages and burials dating back to the reign of Henry VIII.
They are also a great way to trace generations and add new branches to your growing family tree.
Millions of church records from all corners of the country can now be easily explored as more county councils digitize their records, making them available online.
7. Check the news
Historical diaries are an incredible resource as they can provide rare insight into the daily lives of your ancestors. Local newspapers contain more than just announcements of births, marriages and deaths.
8. Tell their story
Once you’ve developed your family tree, it’s time to add color to your research by taking a closer look at your ancestor’s life.
Among the billions of records available online, you’ll find a wide variety of records that can help you learn a surprising amount about the defining moments in their lives.