Family Tree FAQ

FAQ (Frequently asked questions) about family tree research

  1. What is a family tree?
  2. Why research your family tree?
  3. What information should I provide in order to start my family tree?
  4. How should I give you my family information so that you can start researching?
  5. What is a Medical Family Tree?
  6. I am on a very tight budget. Should I shop around for a bargain basement family tree package?
  7. Have you seen website (x), it looks like a copy of yours?
  8. Is there anywhere I can search census records for free?
  9. I have found an old job title or profession in my family tree. What does it mean?
  10. What dates were the UK Censuses taken?
  11. What is a GED file?
  12. How can I obtain army records for World War 2?
  13. How can I obtain a copy of an ancestor's will?
  14. I was happily researching my own family tree but I am now stuck. Can you help me past this brick wall?
  15. Why do other people's websites have the same text as yours in search results?

1. What is a family tree?

When we delve into records of the past to research someone's family history, we uncover information about their ancestors, such as births, deaths, marriages, occupations, and so on. A family tree is a chart designed to visually depict relationships and information about members of a family, going back through time. The family tree chart is a nice way to present the findings of a research project, especially if it is accompanied by certificates and other additional information discovered which bring it to life.

2. Why research your family tree?

There are several common reasons why people are motivated to research their family history and build a family tree. These include:

  • A family tree gives you a sense of identity; the satisfaction of knowing who your ancestors were, what they did, and where they lived. This knowledge often gives an individual a sense of where they came from into this world, and what their place and value is in life. It also provides a sense of continuity, recognising that we are all a link in a chain of real people passing down through the centuries.
  • Curiosity! The idea of discovering information about your relatives in an earlier century can be intriguing.
  • For medical reasons, if your doctors suspect you may have a hereditary condition.
  • To create a family heirloom to pass on to your children or grandchildren.
  • As a unique gift or present for a close friend, relative or loved one. The gift of a personal family tree can be of great sentimental value.
  • As a hobby or past-time.
  • To prove or disprove the family belief that you are descended from or related to a famous historical figure. Many families pass down stories through the generations that they have noble blood, or are connected to a noted historical person. If the story is true then researching your family history is the best way to prove the fact.

3. What information should I provide in order to start my family tree?

You will need to provide me with some facts so we can start researching your family tree. If you know the names of your grandparents and where they may have lived, that is a good place to start your research project. Any additional information you may have, such as approximate dates of birth or marriage, and where these events may have taken place would be really helpful.

Though not essential, any similar information you have about older ancestors, such as your great-grandparents, would be even better! If you do not have any family details as far back as your grandparents then we can look into ordering certificates to trace them.

4. How should I give you my family information so that you can start researching?

When we start researching your family tree, you could simply email the information to me. If you prefer, I can email you blank forms to fill in, which are a simple way to send me the details I need in a clear and easy way.

5. What is a Medical Family Tree?

A medical family tree is a special type of family tree, researched for the sole purpose of discovering any genetic problems in your family history.

Possibly a doctor suspects that a member of your family may have a hereditary condition, or you may have noticed that some branches of your tree seem to live longer than others. When I research a medical family tree for you, I focus upon tracing a person's ancestors and obtaining death certificates, to provide today's doctors with potentially useful information to help them diagnose and treat a patient.

6. I am on a very tight budget. Should I shop around for a bargain basement family tree package?

I would suggest steering clear of websites offering unrealistic sounding prices such as unlimited research time for small sums of money, e.g. £5 - £55. For the budget-conscious my price for 3 - 4 hours research time works out similar. The difference is that with me you are getting genuine research and quality results from an established professional researcher rather than gambling on an offer that sounds too good to be true.

7. Have you seen website (x), it looks like a copy of yours?

I do hear about such websites from time to time, sometimes from past customers. When I started www.familyresearcher.co.uk I created a unique, original website which I branded 'UK Family History Researcher'. I chose a sepia and brown colour scheme which I felt was in keeping with the nature of old family photographs and family history. I made my website banner from my collection of historical photographs from various families, the resulting design was personal and unique. When I chose my site name, I searched online to be sure that it was original, and was distinctive from other UK genealogists.

My website quickly became a success. Over the years since then other websites have appeared, some bearing similar sounding names and sometimes with familiar sepia / brown schemes. At least one new site started using a website banner which looked suspiciously similar to mine.

In 2009 I replaced my website CSS theme to use a clearer and more modern design. It retains my original website banner, while blending colours of my old design with a Coventry blue border (in honour of the local silk-dying industry of yesteryear.) I also changed from trading as 'UK Family History Researcher' to 'Jane Hewitt Family Tree Researcher'. I hope these two changes will keep my site fresh and distinctive from imitators.

8. Is there anywhere I can search census records for free?

Yes indeed. In response to this question, I have compiled a list of resources offering free census searches, which you can find by following the link. Do get in touch if you should you notice one of these external links stop working, or better yet, if you can recommend another free online resource for searching census record to add to the list. It is good to help other family tree researchers in this way.

9. I have found an old job title or profession in my family tree. What does it mean?

In response to this question, I am compiling a free dictionary of old occupations, which you can find by following the link. A lot of time and effort is going into this, but is becoming possibly the largest collection of free definitions of old trades and job titles online. I do this voluntary work to help fellow family tree researchers, so I hope you find it useful. As always, if you have useful information to add to the dictionary, please get in touch.

10. What dates were the UK Censuses taken?

I have information about UK census dates and terminology on my site, follow the link for further info.

11. What is a GED file?

It is a computer file for storing genealogy data. Follow the link for more info about GEDCOM.

12. How can I obtain army records for World War 2?

If you are a family member looking for information about deceased soldiers, write to:
Army Personnel Centre,
Historical Disclosures,
Mail Point 555,
Kentigern House,
65 Brown Street,
Glasgow,
G2 8EX

13. How can I obtain a copy of an ancestor's will?

I can usually obtain copies of wills after 1858 for you. You will need to know the name of the person, and the date and place of their death. However, if that person died intestate, it means they left no will.

14. I was happily researching my own family tree but I am now stuck. Can you help me past this brick wall?

Don't worry, this happens a lot. I am happy to help a fellow family tree researcher in need of assistance! Sometimes all it takes is an hour or two of my time. Please contact me for more information.

15. Why do other people's website show up in search results on Google, Bing etc. with the same or similar wording as yours: "Family Tree Researcher available to research YOUR family history, and build YOUR family tree. Genealogy, family tree research and family history research - I provide a range of friendly, cost effective research services."?

Whilst I was building my website, my husband and I brainstormed the wording to go on my site www.familyresearcher.co.uk to describe the family tree research services I provide. He thought up the wording for the 'meta data', which is the technical term for the site description text which shows up in search results on popular search sites such as Bing and Google. So technically he is the original author of these sentences and owns the copyright, but of course he gave me permission to use them online.

Sadly, as so often happens on the internet, less scrupulous people have copied and re-used whole sections of text from my site without permission. Sometimes they change a word or two, sometimes they copy the first sentence and sometimes people have even copied my entire site description verbatim, unusual capitals and all, and pass it off as their own. This tends to confuse the public. Occasionally my husband contacts site owners, and the more honest ones replace his work with original text of their own.

The Greatest Genealogy Tips in the World by Maureen Vincent-Northam

This book is invaluable to all budding genealogists! Written by family history researcher, Maureen Vincent-Northam, it is chock-full of great tips on tracing your forebears, from ways to gather background evidence to understanding and deciphering old documents and records.

With the information on less well-known sources, advice on creating your own family archive and all of the most useful websites and addresses, your family tree will flourish!

Jane Hewitt is an experienced, professional family tree researcher and genealogist providing full ancestry research services at competitive prices.