Help ! Where do I start ?
I am often asked "How should I go about my research and which websites would you recommend ?"
It is very difficult to answer that question as it really does depend what you are looking for. Assuming you are doing a tree or branch of a tree from scratch I would go about it in roughly the following order :
First of all find out as much as you can from living relatives. It may be just jumbled memories but even vague memories could well come in useful when you get further down your research. Draw up a rough tree from what you know. From here on you will need to get online. Finding out about your families past is one of the most interesting projects you might ever undertake but, beware, it isn't going to be cheap and it is adictive !
Find out the basics by looking at ALL census records from birth to death, where they exist. Ideally print out the results but certainly make a note of all household members, their ages, occupations and place of birth as well as their current address. I subscribe to www.findmypast.co.uk (annual subscription currently £109.95 per annum or you can buy pay as you go credits) which is easy to use and has good screens.
If you donít know the year to look for, use either www.freebmd.rootsweb.com (if the year is after 1837) or www.familysearch.org (if before). This will hopefully enable you to find your targetís birth, marriage or death details (BMD). After 1837 it became compulsory to record every BMD but before then you will be relying on Parish Records.
If you find a BMD after 1837, make a note of the quarter in which the BMD took place, the district concerned and the General Registry Office register volume number and page number. If the birth is after 1911, you will obtain the added bonus of the motherís maiden name.
You may or may not want to go to the cost of obtaining copies of the BMD certificates (currently £9.25 each). Although expensive, they are sometimes worth it for the information you might not find elsewhere, especially names of witnesses, informants etc who could be family members you hadnít come across before. The place to get these is on the General Registry Office website www.gro.gov.uk.
Before I go any further, I must say that in my opinion an Ancestry subscription is a must for any serious researcher. www.ancestry.co.uk (worldwide annual subscription currently £155.40 per annum). Apart from finding invaluable data which canít be found elsewhere, you can upload your tree and have a very good chance of making contact with others who have the same individual on their tree. The online Ancestry chat community is also a good resource.
While talking about online trees and communities, another site I belong to which provides good results is Genes Reunited www.genesreunited.co.uk. However, this is the poor mans option and tends to be populated by less serious researchers who just collect names.
Most of us have relatives who fought in one of the World Wars and there are some very good websites which might give you what you are looking for. www.military-genealogy.com (annual subscription currently £39.95 per annum) and www.ww2talk.com are worth looking at. For the Boer War try www.angloboerwar.com.
Half my relatives are from Scotland and I am still struggling to find things as easily as I do south of the border. However, www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk seems to be the font of everything Scottish, so go there as a start. You will need to buy credits so the cost depends on your likely usage. As an example, 30 credits costs £7 and you will need quite a few !
The information available online is increasing exponentially and so much more is available than there was. One such site is www.deceasedonline.com which is slowly digitalising cremation and burial records. The Gravestone Photographic Resource www.gravestonephotos.com will eventually photograph every gravestone in the country.
Another new resource is found on the British Newspaper Archive site www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk (£79.95 per annum) where so much detail can be found and flesh put on the bones so to speak !
There are obviously dozens of other useful sites which you will find such as :
British Association for Local History www.balh.co.uk
Pathe News www.britishpathe.com
Charles Booth Online Archive http://booth.lse.ac.uk
British Library Online Archive www.bl.uk/onlinegallery
Victorian London www.victorianlondon.org
Historical Directories www.historicaldirectories.org
London Gazette www.gazettes-online.co.uk/home.aspx?GeoType=London
Old Bailey Trials www.oldbaileyonline.org
Measuring value of money www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare
And if all else fails, www.uk-genealogy.org.uk/index.html will provide links to dozens more sites to explore.
Hope this was useful. It is limited to those sites which I use on a reasonably regular basis and would recommend. Good searching !
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