Welcome to the Society of Genealogists

Discover your family history

Join us and explore the UK's premier collection of family history records.

Whether you're a beginner or already on your journey of discovery, we have something for everyone.

We all have a history and we exist to help you find yours.

Featured Stories

New Year: the history of Watch Night

Watch Night (or Watchnight) was instituted by leading theologian John Wesley in 1755. It continues today in many Methodist churches. While New Year is traditionally associated by many with parties, alcohol, music and merriment, some of our Christian ancestors attended specific church gatherings, known as ‘Watch Night’ services. These services provided a structured opportunity, with hymns and Bible readings, for Christians to reflect on their past twelve months and to resolve to live a better life in the new year..

Turnip Shepherd

Among last month’s stories was a list of unusual occupations noted in the 1881 census. There was an interesting response to this, with some readers suggesting that some of the occupations were not real. One particular job drew the most attention - that of the turnip shepherd. Surprisingly enough, turnip shepherd was a genuine occupation. A turnip shepherd was someone who prepared turnips and fed them to sheep while attending to other shepherding tasks. References to turnip shepherds in historical documents are rare, but some examples are shared here.

Scotland’s New Year Dates

Happy 2022 from the Society of Genealogists! Did you know that Scotland celebrated January 1st as the beginning of the year for over a century and a half earlier than the rest of Britain? This could have been confusing to our ancestors in the 17th and 18th centuries, and may be even more confusing for genealogists researching today. As we head into a new year of genealogy research, maybe one of our resolutions for 2022 can be to challenge ourselves with trying to bring clarity to some of the aspects that confuse us?

Upcoming talks and events

The Staff of Life: Bakers & Confectioners
5 February

The English language's huge number of bread idioms highlight the importance of this commodity in our ancestors' lives. The cost of a loaf was so crucial, it caused riots should its price soar.

Join Adèle Emm on Pudding Lane and explore the history of the baker and the bakery. She includes confectioners and pastry cooks.

The 1921 Census of England & Wales at Findmypast
27 January

The 1921 Census of England and Wales is finally here. Join us with Findmypast for an unmissable exploration of the biggest new arrival in family history.

After years spent digitising and transcribing this unique snapshot of our recent history, join Myko Clelland from Findmypast to discover the stories and secrets contained within. Learn how to understand your ancestors’ lives better. And your own. 

On the Right Track: Railway Workers
24 February

Railways were one of the largest employers and many companies left a legacy of staff records. This talk examines how those records help piece together the career of a railway worker using a variety of records up to nationalisation in 1948.

In this talk, Ian Waller will help you find out more about your ancestors who worked on the railways.

A Look at Swiss Cottage: An Illustrated Local History
3 February

Join Tudor Allen on a virtual visit to Swiss Cottage, in London. He tells us what the area was like 200 years ago, when it was all fields with the River Tyburn running through it. 

He shows how its development began with the construction of the Finchley Road in the late 1820s, and points out some of the notable buildings and institutions that have enriched life there.

Explore our collections

Court Records

Our ancestors appeared in many different types of courts – criminal, civil and equity – either as plaintiffs or defendants, criminals or victims.

Parish registers

First introduced in 1538 the Parish registers of the Church of England record baptisms, marriages and burials.

Poor Law Records

Many of our ancestors lived precarious lives and if they grew old and inform could not work or fell ill or bore illegitimate children they may have become a burden on the community.


Evidence of apprenticeship is more likely in 18th century than at any other time from town freemen records, London guilds, parish pauper apprenticeships and the tax levied on apprentice indentures.

Find out more

About us

We all want to know where we’re from; to solve the mysteries of our past; to connect with people whose lives lead to ours; to feel as they felt; to wonder what we would have done in their place.

Our mission and vision

Our vision is a world in which everyone has convenient, affordable access to records, finding aids, knowledge and skills necessary to conduct authoritative research into family history.

We are moving!

We have now officially given notice to our landlords here at Charterhouse Buildings and are very excited for our next chapter and a place which will better suit your needs and ours.

Get Involved

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As member you can make the most of our resources, access our experts and find a welcoming community of people interested in family history and genealogy.

We all have roots. Let’s find them together.

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