Tracing Your Roots
Tracing Your Roots
Nick Barratt (Genealogist) gives expert video advice on: How would I start to trace my family tree?; Where do I get a copy of my birth certificate from?; My family are all across the world, where do I start? and more...
My family are all across the world, where do I start?
That's a very common subject, and it's much harder to trace overseas relatives. However, if you want to get some information about how to start, and also where to look for information, you need to go for "Moving here", which is a website that shows you region by region what records are held by Britain and what is held overseas. It also shows you how to go about contacting overseas genealogists who also might be able to help you.
My family are from Scotland, where do I start?
If your family are from Scotland, it's quite lucky, because there is a great online resource that will get you started - 'Scotland's people'. This combines images of birth, marriage and death certificates, all Scottish census returns and old parish registers going back to the 1550's. So in many ways it's a one-stop shop for Scottish genealogy.
My family are from Ireland, where do I start?
Irish genealogy is actually quite problematic because a lot of records were destroyed in the 1920s during the civil unrest and also a number of fires at the national institutions. You also have to think about which part of Ireland your family comes from. Anything before 1921 you'd need to go to Dublin where most of the records are kept. After 1921, the country split in two so you might need to go to the public record office of Northern Ireland, or the general register office of Northern Ireland in Belfast, or if you're part of Southern Ireland then again you need to go back to Dublin.
My family are Welsh, where do I start?
People who've got Welsh ancestry can actually use the English and Welsh system in London, where you've got birth, marriage, and death records at the Family Records Center. They also have census returns, and also probate material, wills, and other types of thing. But there is also the National Library of Wales that holds a lot of these records, plus original parish registers covering most of Wales, too.
What do I do if I find skeletons in my family history?
Skeletons in the family history are really what make a lot of people get started in the first place, as long as they're far enough back. If you're talking within a generation or two, then obviously you have to confront the fact that it will change the way you view your parents or your grandparents, or even great grandparents if you knew them. And also, you've become the messenger to deliver this information to other members of the family. So think carefully, if you think there is a rather suspect story in your background, do you really want to uncover it? Do you really want to know the truth? And if the answer is yes, be prepared for what you find, because then you've got to tell other people about that.
I've found my family tree, what next?
Your family tree is really the stepping stone towards a much more interesting level of family history or genealogy. Compiling a family trees these days is quite easy you can do a lot of it online. There are commercial websites that are aligned to identify birth marriage and death certificates and also you can see images of census returns So that in the past would have taken quite a while to put together. But the clues in these records such as where someone lived or what jobs they did allow you to go much further and much deeper into new sources and start to put flesh on the bone if you like and understand who these people were and what they did for a living that's the next phase
What is Genetic Genealogy?
Genetic Genealogy is where you look at your makeup through DNA samples, with mitochondria from the female side and various other chromosomal techniques that will allow you to work out whether you are linked to a certain group of people by surname, or a region by place. There are many ways to look at your ethnic background depending on which part of the world your family came from. It's a very new technique but it is becoming more popular. Test kits can be bought not only in the UK but overseas. It costs about 100, 120 pounds or so and it involves a simple swap. Send that off for analysis and you get back a series of results.
What kinds of things can I trace, apart from my family?
You can trace a whole range of aspects of history which are linked to your family, such as the history of an occupation. Many people see patterns emerging throughout time, musical or artistic traits for example. You can also look at big picture history. You can look at, for example, the history of mining through a mining community which your family might have lived, or indeed the cotton mills, which was prevalent in the mid nineteenth century onwards. A lot of people also look at the ancestral home, the place where their family grew up, and that's quite an emotional journey, trying to work out your roots by tracing the various houses in which your family would once have lived in. You'd be quite surprised to compare modern housing with the way we used to live many centuries ago.