Puts Family History Research Tools in the Beginners Hand.

Beginning Family History Research on the Internet

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist.

Delving into our ancestry on the Internet has become one of the most popular pastimes in the 21st century. Not so long ago, however, the family history researcher, intent on tracing their family tree, would be faced with having to plan several visits to various libraries, record offices and, perhaps, some family history centres. Now, even though for the serious genealogist this is still an important part of family history research, the exponential growth of genealogy websites with searchable databases has made it possible to do much of the footwork researching our ancestors online. From the amateur, trying to find an elusive ancestor, to the professional doing a family genealogy project for a client, resources such as those provided at www ancestry.com or co.uk and a host of other providers have made life so much easier for us. The sheer volume of information already made available is being added too all the time with new releases of old records and indexes. There are sites offering us access to census collections, parish records (church records of Christenings, Burials and Marriages), monumental transcripts, BMD sites providing data on births, marriages and deaths, family history societies, old maps, genealogical resources such as parish registers, old town or trade directories and so on.

In the UK the 1841 census records are the earliest to be found on-line and now sets are available to search on the net right up to the census of 1911. Census records are available on a host of commercial sites, most of which require you to pay-as-you-go, or to take out a subscription of some sort. You will typically be able to search transcripts and then pay to view actual images, of enumerator's books, for the various censuses taken every ten years between 1841 and  the 1901 census. Lately, the 1911 census for England and Wales has gone on line earlier than the normal hundred years before release. This is under a Freedom of Information ruling but the sensitive data as to mental state has been blacked out. The unusual feature of this collection is that, for the first time, we can view an image of the household's return, not just the enumerator's book and so can see our ancestor's handwriting.

The availability of the various types of family history data, on-line, has encouraged an ever-growing number of people to make a  foray into the world of genealogy websites. Most are trying to find out who their ancestors were and what they did. Quite a few people have been encouraged to begin looking for themselves after the success of the BBC's series called: Who do you think your are?
They may be encouraged by the many books on the subject, the various magazines on the newsagent's shelves and the family history events, such as the annual show at Olympia and a host of others held up and down the country all year round. But while some research is easy, a good few of our ancestors are frustratingly difficult to find and so often a beginner does not know where to turn.

There are still many people, out there, who simply do not know how to even take the first steps to doing their family research on a computer. Then there are others who, having made a start, do not know how to get past the inevitable brick wall that they have encountered.

Brick walls can be frustrating, but when you find a way to smash through the logjam it can be immensely satisfying. I have learnt how to do this, for some of my ancestors, by taking e-courses in this fascinating subject. What I have discovered is that the family historian needs to be made aware of the various tips and tricks to using the Internet resources to best effect. While the easy information can be obtained by using the straight forward search box on a website, to find elusive ancestors may require a certain application. The good news is that someone has probably come up against the same sort of problem as you are having and so a means of working around the difficulty may already have been devised. For example, I was taught how to use the freeBMD website to locate missing siblings of one of my grandmothers.

Many researchers will have used the LDS or Latter-day Saint's familysearch.org site. Finding your ancestors, by using the search tools provided by the site, can be difficult; even if they are included in the International Genealogical Index, which is not always the case! The problem is that a search by last name only is not permitted, unless you search within a single batch of records at a time or across the entire country. A search of the whole of Britain is overwhelming, unless you have a rare name. What if, however, you are looking for a Smith or a Jones? I have learnt how to use a tool provided on a website to search the IGI batches and it is really easy to do, once you know how.

The world wide web has made researching ancestors so much easier to do. As more and more data finds its way onto the Internet many more lines of research are opened to us. But, conversely, there is the danger of information overload. The new family historian may become frozen in the headlights as the data juggernaut races on towards them. My advice is to carefully log your research at each stage, so that you know the blind alleys that you have gone down and the various people that you have researched mistakenly, as well as the ones you have had success with. In the long run you will save yourself time and quite possibly money on certificates bought, or pay-as-you-go searches on the Internet. Next tip, is that it is well worth continuing to learn as much as you can about this fascinating subject by taking courses or reading around the subject. The best family historian is one that thinks of themselves as an advanced beginner. That is, they are always open to learning more skills. The more skilled you get, the better you will be able to find those elusive ancestors!

If you've been searching for your British Isles ancestors, as have I for several years now, then you too have probably hit some brick walls.

You probably concentrated you efforts on all the easy connections in your family tree and put aside all the frustrating ones to do later. I know how you feel as I continuously came up against all sorts of brick walls when I do my own family history. In the beginning I didn't know how to get past some of them, even though now I realise that they were relatively easy to crack. It is annoying as I missed out on a lot of leads that I would otherwise have found and followed sooner.

That is why I have published

Family History Researcher English/Welsh course:


Take a look at what is in "Beginning Family History Research" by Nicholas Thorne

I don't just sell my valuable information... I also give it away!

You can access to some of my Free stuff here.

To start off take a look at the podcasts to the right... and then the video: Brick walls

Also, there are Articles added all the time to my Blog: "The Nosey Genealogist".

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Audio Family History help files


To listen now press play.

Podcast: 1.Five Golden Rules.

Podcast: 2.Stumbling Blocks.

 Podcast: 3.Non Conformist in the Family?

Podcast: 4.IGI and Using Hugh Wallis' site.

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