Once the study of history and delving into the archives were left to academics. But no longer: today, millions of people in the UK are investigating their family trees, their towns and villages, even their houses.
Try these websites – they’re great for both beginners and the more experienced!
This government site can point you to various types of documentation and has guidance on what to look for when you start to trace your family. You can order copies of birth or death certificates and also access armed services records, employment registers, adoption, wills, records of migrants and more.
This website contains a record of everyone living in England and Wales in 1911. It’s easy to search, but once you’ve located a record you’d like to read, you need to buy credits in order to view it. There’s further census information available going back every 10 years to 1841.
Allows you to sign up for free and build your family tree online. Has over 515 million family history records and enables members to link up to other family trees and build a picture of their past and present families. Additional premium tools and services available on a subscription or ‘pay per view’ basis.
An easy-to-search site with guidance, tips, a forum for advice, and international records, as well as access to UK family tree data. You need to register to access the information. They request a small subscription fee for ‘premium membership’, which then allows access to more records.
The first company in the world to publish the complete birth, marriage and death indexes for England & Wales online. To access the records, you need to pay a subscription. The site claims to have records that are much more accurate than its competitors’.
Here you can access almost 80 million Scottish records. As with most of these sites, searching is only sometimes free and you have to pay a charge to view documents.
Although fairly basic and unofficial, this is recognised as one of the better sites for searching records in Ireland.
This huge government directory of public services includes some useful tips on where to look for resources and documents. Type ‘search family history’ into the search box at the top of the page and you’ll be taken to a list of information and pointers.
This website is run by volunteers, many of whom are members of Family History Societies around the UK. It has a vast array of information, broken into countries of the UK and further into counties, so that information can be narrowed to your field of interest. It gives advice about where to find information in each county as well as online.
Siobhan O’Neill is an experienced freelance writer living in Surrey.
Last updated 4 July 2022