Table of Contents
- Getting Started
- Exploring Beyond the Online Resources
- A Hobby for All Ages
- The Evolution of Family History Records
- The Popularity of Family History Research
If you’re interested in delving into your family history and are wondering where to start, you’re not alone. Many people find themselves asking this common question when embarking on the rewarding but sometimes frustrating journey of family history research. Fortunately, FamilyHistory.co.uk is here to help. This website offers a wealth of resources and information to assist you in your quest for ancestral knowledge. From birth, marriage, and death records to census records and parish documents, you’ll find everything you need to begin your family history research.
Before diving into the wealth of resources available, it’s important to approach your family history research as a fun project. This is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with family members and gather information you may have never known before. Grandparents and other relatives can be an invaluable source of information, holding a wealth of knowledge about your family’s past.
Exploring Beyond the Online Resources
While many family history resources can be found online, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity to travel and visit new places. Exploring archives, museums, churches, and other historical sites can be both educational and enjoyable. You’ll have the chance to meet like-minded individuals who share your enthusiasm for family history research.
A Hobby for All Ages
Family history research is not only interesting but also a hobby suitable for all ages. Whether you’re a young enthusiast or a retiree looking for a new pastime, this hobby offers endless possibilities. You can spend days exploring beautiful parish churches, visiting towns and cities, and immersing yourself in libraries, record offices, and historic buildings. It’s a hobby that can bring people together and even lead to a rewarding career in a field you love.
The Evolution of Family History Records
Before the Middle Ages, genealogical records were scarce. While the New Testament of the Bible includes the genealogy of Jesus Christ, most early family histories were transmitted orally and committed to memory. Some written records existed for chieftains, monarchs, aristocrats, and other prominent individuals, often to establish lineage, status, and the right to rule. In Europe, genealogy became closely linked to heraldry in the 12th century, with coat of arms displaying a nobleman’s rank and pedigree.
16th Century – State Involvement
During the 16th century, the general population began to draw governmental attention, leading to the maintenance of written family records. Churches in England, Wales, and later Scotland, were required to keep parish records of baptisms, marriages, and burials. Marriage formalisation took place in the 1700s, and the 1800s saw the introduction of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Decennial census returns also became increasingly detailed.
Family History Records Available
As a researcher of British ancestry, you have access to a wide variety of family history records. Thanks to the General Register Office for England and Wales, which holds copies of birth, death, and marriage certificates since July 1, 1837, tracing English and Welsh ancestry back to this time is relatively easy. Scotland’s General Registry Office was established in 1855, while Ireland’s General Registry Office was established in 1864. Parish records may provide information for those looking to trace their family history further back than official records allow.
Census records have been conducted in the UK every ten years since 1801. From 1841 onward, personal information has been recorded, making census records invaluable for family historians. However, not all census records have survived, as the 1931 census returns for England, Wales, and the majority of Irish census records were destroyed in fires.
In addition to birth, marriage, death, and census records, probate records are another valuable resource. The Principal Probate Registry, established in 1858, holds copies of wills and letters of administration in England and Wales. Wills provide details similar to those found on death certificates.
These are just a few examples of the most commonly searched family history records. However, there are many more resources available, including electoral rolls, newspaper archives, and court records. Depending on your research focus, you may come across passenger lists, employment records, and more.
The Popularity of Family History Research
So why has family history research become so popular in recent years? The answer lies in the perfect combination of increased interest in the past and the growing opportunity to research it.
Growing Interest in the Past
There has been a noticeable rise in the desire to learn about social history. While the history of wars and governments often revolves around the great and powerful, social history is something in which all our ancestors had a stake. Discovering humble origins has become a source of pride rather than dismay, and many people now enjoy finding connections to long-lost aristocrats.
Increased mobility has also played a role in the popularity of family history research. As families move around the world with greater ease, the yearning to uncover lost family roots grows stronger.
Growing Opportunities for Research
The genealogist Anthony Wagner identified four markers for successful family history research: property, continuity, name, and record. These factors influence our ability to trace our family history. Property ownership produces paperwork, continuity of location or occupation makes tracing easier, and a rare name is more readily identifiable.
The abundance of available records is another crucial factor in the rise of family history research. Many records, particularly those pertaining to English and Welsh ancestry, can now be accessed online for a modest fee or sometimes for free. Never before has there been such an opportunity to explore your family history.
Family history research is an exciting journey that allows you to connect with your past and discover the world your ancestors lived in. With the wealth of resources available online and the chance to explore archives, museums, and historical sites, this hobby provides endless opportunities for learning and enjoyment. Whether you’re a young enthusiast or a retiree looking for a new hobby, family history research is a fulfilling and rewarding pursuit. So take the plunge and start your journey into the captivating world of your ancestors.