Hints and tips

Follow our hints and tips guide to help get you started

Below are a selection of hints and tips to help you get the most out of your family history - with explanations of how to use records and sources and guides to where to find help.

Starting your family history
Free advice

Who are you dealing with? You must at least know a name.

Where did your ancestors live? Most records are associated with a place.

When were they alive? Records and research will differ depending on the period you are interested in.

What did your ancestors do in their lives and will that affect what information you can find? 

Genealogy or Family History?
Free advice

Genealogy (from Greek: γενεαλογία genealogia "study of family trees") is the study of families, family history, and the tracing of their lineages. ... A family history may include additional biographical information, family traditions, and the like.

But is that it?

Surname searching: What's been done before?
Free advice

Family histories and pedigrees can be found all over the library and, of course, online. Hence there is no one place to look, whether at the Society of Genealogists, or elsewhere.

Whether printed and published in book form, manuscript or online, pedigrees should always be checked and substantiated against original genealogical sources.

Genealogy as a career
Free advice

The great growth in interest in genealogy and family history and the corresponding technological developments and online resources has seen a number of related career opportunities develop in the subject which scarcely existed twenty or even ten years ago.

Employing a Professional Genealogist
Free advice

Thanks to recent TV programmes and ease of access to online resources recently we have seen an enormous expansion of interest in genealogy and family history.

London research
Free advice

One of most common problems faced by family historians is research in London. There is as yet no single data-base or finding aid that indexes all the records in what we now consider to be London. With over 100 parishes in the City itself and a huge number in Middlesex and what we now consider Greater London, the task is quite daunting.

How to get the best results from FamilySearch
Free advice

FamilySearch is a vastly growing website with many different uses; for this cause, it is changing very often to accommodate for growth. It would not be beneficial to give a step-by-step search tutorial; however, it is important to know how to get the best results from a search.

How to get the best results from the IGI
Free advice

The IGI, or International Genealogical Index, is a valuable tool that all genealogists should use: especially those doing research in the UK. The IGI has hundreds of millions of names listed in the database that can be available to you by learning how to best search the index.

Writing Genealogical reports
Free advice

Learning how to write accurate genealogical reports is an essential skill that every aspiring genealogist must learn. While at first they may be daunting, writing genealogical reports can become part of your research routine, will help you sort your thoughts about your ancestors and will make your work accessible for others to read.

Finding and downloading PCC Wills from the National Archives website
Free advice

The National Archives holds a multiplicity of documents collected from all over the UK. It is a great tool that one could use to continue their family history research. The National Archives holds the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, recorded from 1384 to 12 January 1858. The PCC was the court that was the most important, dealing with many of the wealthy or those who had land in more than one county.

Make connections
Free advice

An essential list of Genealogy links.

Fact or fiction? How to analyse your research
Members only

You spent a long day researching a family at an archive, library, or online: now what? How do you sort through all those dates and events in a way that makes sense?

We will discuss some tools you can use as a genealogist that will help you sort and analyse your research, which will make report writing and publication a little easier.

Palaeography Part 1: How to create abstracts from old documents
Members only

The handwriting used during the lives of our ancestors can be difficult to read and sometimes frustrating for the untrained eye.

Learning simple methodologies will help a researcher have a more enjoyable and fruitful experience with a document.

Palaeography Part 2: Reading Secretary Hand
Members only

Historically, English handwriting has not been so easy to read for our modern eyes.

Learning how to read Secretary Hand will help you better find answers in your genealogy.

The right to arms
Members only

Surprisingly few people who use a coat of arms and crest today have any actual right to do so.

Armorial bearings do not appertain to all persons of a given surname but belong to and identify members of one particular family.

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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