When you first start to think about finding your ancestors by tracing your family tree, it can easily become overwhelming because many different options are available to you.
I hope these tips will help you to make a decision regarding the right choice for you depending on the research you wish to undertake and how far back you wish to go. The choice is yours.
Unfortunately, you will have to pay to conduct genealogical research at some stage, whether that is ordering birth, death or marriage certificates, taking out a subscription to a family history website, travelling to record offices, paying record offices' charges, or hiring a professional genealogist.
A lot of information is available online, such as parish registers, the GRO Index or Census Returns. You may find that it is cheaper and easier to look at these resources online rather than spending time and money travelling to a record office.
FamilySearch is a website that has been created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
You can search through many parish registers and census returns that have been made freely available, but it must be noted that the resources are by no means complete, with several parish registers not yet included in their database.
More records are being added daily, however, and it can help you to find a record in a parish register. You should always check the original record, however, because their record only contains the bare minimum of information, not including any additional information that may have been added to the original record by the clergyman.
One application that is accessible on their website is their family tree application that allows you to upload your family tree to the internet.
One drawback with this application, however, is that it allows anyone to make changes to your family tree. They can add and/or delete people regardless of how accurate the information being added to your family tree actually is!!
FreeBMD provides access to the GRO Index of England and Wales. Compiled by volunteers, the information contained on the website is largely complete for births 1837-1983, marriages 1837-1983 (1969 is incomplete), and deaths 1837-1983 (1904 and 1980 is incomplete).
The General Register Office website provides free access to the GRO Index for births and deaths. Births go up to 1919, and 1984-2004, and deaths to 1957 and 1984-2019. The index does not currently include marriages.
The one big advantage to the General Register Office's website is that the index includes the mother's maiden name from 1837, whereas the Index included on FreeBMD only contains that information from 1911.
The fact that the General Register Office includes the mother's maiden name in their Index can be very helpful in tracking down a marriage, making it that much easier to continue research.
The death index includes age at death from 1837, whereas the FreeBMD index only has that information from 1866. This information can help you to track down a baptism date, especially if the person was born before civil registration began in 1837.
If your ancestor was killed during WW1 or WW2, you may be able to find a record of his grave in the War Dead section of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website. This record normally includes his name, regiment and unit, date of death, his age, and where he was buried.
The record can also include additional information, such as his parents names, their address, and if he was married, his widow's name and her address.
The record of my relative Leslie John Dunkley states that he was in the Northamptonshire Regiment 7th Battalion, that he died on 27 September 1915 aged 21, and that he was buried in Loos Memorial.
It also states that he was the son of John Samuel and Bessie Dunkley of 150 Ashburnham Road, Northampton.
Although there are websites that are free to access, such as those mentioned above, and can help you to begin your research journey, they do not provide access to all the resources you will need when conducting research.
When you are choosing which website you want to use to build your family tree past birth, marriage and death dates, you must first ask yourself how much information you want to include in your family tree, and how far back you wish to go.
If, for example, you wish to learn more about your ancestor's military career, you will need to ascertain that basic information before beginning to look for his military record to distinguish him from records of people with the same name.
If there is something specific you wish to learn about his military career, you should ensure that the website provides access before paying for a subscription.
If you are UK based, Ancestry costs £10.99 per month (£54.99 for 6 months - single payment) to access their basic package that includes access to UK census records.
If, however, you wish to search through all UK records held by Ancestry which include parish registers, census returns, criminal records, electoral rolls, immigration records, military records, and wills, it costs £13.99 per month (£69.99 for 6 months - single payment)
If you find, however, that your ancestors immigrated to the UK, or emigrated to another country, you may wish to purchase their full package that provides access to all records held on Ancestry, which costs £19.99 per month (£99.99 for 6 months - single payment).
This package includes records from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America.
This is why it is so important to decide exactly how much you wish to discover about your ancestors, and to ensure that the records you wish to access are available before paying for a subscription. It is prudent to consider taking advantage of a free trial to see if you like the website before committing to paying for a subscription.
FindmyPast costs £9.99 per month for their starter package (£79.99 for 12 months - single payment) which includes access to UK census records.
If you wish to search through all UK records held by FindmyPast, which includes parish registers, census returns, criminal records, electoral rolls, immigration records, military records, and wills, it costs £12.99 per month (£119.99 for 12 months - single payment).
If you find, however, that your ancestors immigrated to the UK, or emigrated to another country, you may wish to purchase their full package that provides access to all records held on FindmyPast, which costs £16.99 per month (£159.99 for 12 months - single payment).
This package includes records from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America. It also includes access to their newspaper archive, which spans three centuries.
You can also check records available on FindmyPast. From here you can filter your search by country, county and year.
Although Ancestry and FindmyPast provide access to many records and resources, not all records are available online, so you may find that to continue your research you have to go to a record office to continue your research.
When you are planning your trip to a record office, it is important to consider additional expenditure such as accommodation, food, travelling costs, and any charges that may be made by the record office.
If you wish to take many photocopies of documents at a Record Office, or print off records at home, it is important to remember that even these costs can mount up, and you also have to consider whether you have the space to store them!!!
If you are one of the people who believes time is money, you will spend a lot of it whilst you are researching your family tree, but I hope you will consider that this time/money is well spent!!
It is going to take time to research your family history. You can spend many hours looking at census returns, certificates, diaries, letters and any other resources. Even travelling to a record office takes time!! I have thoroughly enjoyed all the time I have spent researching my ancestry, however.
If you find that your ancestors immigrated to the UK, or emigrated to another country, this can add hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to the cost of researching your ancestry, especially if you decide to follow your ancestors' journey and conduct research in that country.
For more information regarding planning a genealogy research trip, please read my article: planning a genealogy research trip.
If you cannot visit a record office, many family history societies have published transcripts of parish registers, memorial inscriptions and census returns. You may be able to purchase these items from the society if you wish.
These resources can either be in book format, on microfiche, or on CD-Rom. If you wish to purchase microfiche, you may also have to invest in a microfiche reader.
Organising your research is very important because it makes it easier for you to access the information you have collected. There are many different ways that you can organise your research, which includes using a filing system or computer program, or making notes using a family history chart.
For more information regarding how to record your family history, please read my article: recording family history: why organising research is important.
If you wish, you can also pay to have your family history research compiled by a professional genealogist, either because you do not have the time to conduct your own genealogical research or have hit a brick wall and are unsure how to proceed.
Professional genealogists' fees can range in price from £15 per hour to £50 per hour plus any additional expenses. Many genealogists also charge a fixed fee, but it is crucial that you agree a fee before any research is undertaken.
All in all, researching your family history can be a very rewarding, albeit expensive, hobby. It just depends on how much information you want to uncover, and how far back you wish to go.