Geneology data research sites

  johndrew 19:45 18 Sep 2012

For some time I have toyed with doing research on my family but have done little about it. The Daily Mail is currently doing a promotion of a site which has a substantial level of data; this has stimulated me to have a better look at the research.

I know several here are also involved in researching their histories and wondered if there are better sources than Findmypast and Ancestry which appear to be two of the larger sites.

Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated.

With thanks in anticipation.

  Woolwell 22:34 18 Sep 2012

I have been working on family history for more than 10 years. IMO Ancestry is the best but if you want military history then findmypast is better but both come at a cost. If you have the time and can get to London much of what is available on websites is available at Kew and through the GRO. Before 1840 then you have to work from parish records. Many of these are slowly coming on-line but the best source is the local Public Records Office which is free to use.

I have found that the Church of the Latterday Saints had little of use but that may be specific to my family.

Be prepared to search using alternative spellings of first names and surnames. You will almost certainly come across gaps. I have a mystery which after nearly 20 years of research I cannot solve.

Be warned once you start then you will be hooked.

  simonjary 06:50 19 Sep 2012

Also worth checking out are the family history societies of each county, which often have their own online records taken from parishes. Joining doesn't cost much and this can help solve some mysteries from the comfort of your home.

If I had more time away from PCA I'd be in parish record offices a lot more, but have gone back a long way just by online genealogical resources.

  johndrew 09:48 19 Sep 2012

Many thanks to you all for responding.

We live nowhere near our roots which are at both sides of the country and as a result will need to rely on electronic records or an expensive London stay. I have looked at the prices for both Ancestry and Findmypast and although expensive appear to offer a good service which would be cheaper than London or travelling hundreds of miles. The free taster from the Mail and anything offered by the sites will also help.

I have taken your comments/advice on board and will look at all sites you mention to see what is on offer.

Many thanks once again.

  The Old Mod 10:33 19 Sep 2012

Like Woollwell I've been researching my family for many years with trips to local record offices etc, but find ancestry one of the best and so much easier to use, it has many types of records with more being added all the time, I also use other free sites. Starting off can seem daunting but after a while you will learn different tricks to get around blank walls etc, also like Woolwell I have an ancestor that I've traced up to 1901 but no sign of her after that. The best thing is not give up if you get stuck on a certain person and keep going back to them every now and then, sometime more can come to light that may have been added since you last looked. Good luck with your research.

  Bing.alau 10:44 19 Sep 2012

I've often thought of having a go at this and think it would probably turn in to a good hobby. But it also looks to be expensive.

I have a niece in the UK who has been doing it for a long while. She tells me she has gone about as far as she can go, she has told me some fascinating things about her side of our family. she promised to send me a copy of the family tree, but that was about three years ago and although I have hinted at it to her since, nothing has been forthcoming. (It might have got me hooked).

I also have another niece in Australia who has had a few years doing it from her side of the family, if a family has sides. She has had me going to the records offices in Liverpool and other parts of Merseyside looking for answers to her questions. (Guess who ended up paying for that information?) She also said she would send me a copy of the family tree. I then thought, once I get these copies of family trees I may be able to get started and it may be worth while.

But now I guess by the time I get started on my branch of the family, I will be ready to be hung out on a limb to dry.

  Woolwell 11:03 19 Sep 2012

One of the most important sources is relatives and especially parents. Their birth, marriage and even death certificates can prove to be valuable sources of information plus, of course, their memories. I started late and had no one older than me to turn to.

If you have a relative who served in the forces then their service records are available (many on-line) and this gives a really fascinating picture including a description of them when they enlisted. Be prepared for court martial shocks and unanswered questions. My next stop has to be a service museum to see what they have.

One of the problems that you may come across is that the first name is regularly used in a family and you have to be certain that you have the right person. Don't work on assumptions. In my family the same name has been used after the first child died.

You will soon realise that you need software to record the records. I have tried most of them and my favourite is Family Historian but this may be because I am now fairly experienced at family history.

Enjoy it.

  Woolwell 11:07 19 Sep 2012

Remember too that many of your ancestors may not have been able to read or write. Their responses to censuses, baptisms, etc were oral and were written down as heard with some "interesting" variations in spelling. Also some were uncertain of their age or deliberately lied about it.

  Bing.alau 13:10 19 Sep 2012

May not be the right thread for this revelation, but I never found out until I joined the forces that my mum and dad weren't married. So that's why I don't care when somebody calls me a bastard. They are stating the truth. I've just realised I have left myself open to some abuse from my pal Brumas.

  spuds 14:14 19 Sep 2012

Over the years I have tried to do a family history, and at times the results can become rewarding or perhaps misleading with headaches burning the night oil trying to locate connections. It can get very addictive.

If you have a local library, then try there, because the staff might be very knowledgeable on this subject, more than perhaps you may realise.

Another suggestion is to have a look at Amazon or eBay, because there can be some real gems available via those means, especially books that cover the subject in more concise detail. Reading the reviews about the books first will provide even bigger and better results, because someone may have done some of the legwork for you already. Some books will even tell you how to find information from abroad in some of the remotest or off-beat track places, if your family roots and discoveries go that far.

Through my own research I have been able to pick up a couple well out of print local history books, that involved my late father. From that came quite a few surprises, which brought the question of "Why didn't I ask more questions when certain people and family member's were alive". A simple oversight, which most of us do, but well worth considering perhaps now and to the future, if you have past and present family around.

  Brumas 15:01 19 Sep 2012

Bing.alau as if..... ;o}

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