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genealogy

Genealogy Primer

A friend saw me mention my interest in genealogy and asked for some tips on getting started. Rather than letting my reply languish as a comment inside the Facebook Walled Garden, I thought it would be worth publishing it here too.

This is a very quick introduction. If there’s enough interest, I might write it up more fully. This works for families in England and Wales. Scotland and Ireland have similar systems in place.

  1. Talk to people. Talk to your parents to get information about their parents. What were their full names? Where were they born? When were they born? Are your grandparents still alive? Can you get similar details from them about their parents? Can aunts and uncles fill in gaps? Do your grandparents have brothers or sisters who are still alive and who you can talk to?
  2. Search FreeBMD to confirm the details that you have. At some point you’ll need to take the references you get from FreeBMD and use them to buy birth, marriage and death certificates from the GRO. This is when it starts to get expensive. Each certificate is £9.25. But they’re essential as birth and marriage certificates will have information on the previous generation.
  3. Using info from 1 & 2 above you should have enough details to get you back to 1911. That’s the most recent census that is available for searching. And things get more expensive as all access to the census is commercial. I have an annual subscription for Find My Past, but other sites (e.g. Ancestry) are available. I think that Find My Past might have an exclusive licence for the 1911 census.
  4. Find your family on the 1911 census. That will give more information that will enable you to get back to the 1901 census. Or to go back to FreeBMD and the GRO for more certificates.
  5. Rinse and repeat. You should find it simple enough to get back to the first useful census (in 1841) and the start of civil registration of births, deaths and marriages (in 1837). Earlier than that and you need other sources like parish records.

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