Where to find Family Tree information

Sources of information to help you research your family history

Local Archives

If you are lucky enough to now have traced your family back to 1911 by talking to your family then you may not need to order certificates unless you wish to.

If you live in the same area as your ancestors then your local record office/archives is well worth a visit. I recommend phoning first to check their opening hours. Late evening visits may only be possible once a week. If possible, try to book your microfilm reader in advance to avoid disappointment, as demand can be very high.

The information you can obtain varies, but local Parish Records are usually available to view and print. There is normally a small fee for this service, but this is much less expensive than ordering certificates and it enables you to see the signatures of your relations. Some Parish Records are unfortunately unavailable, having been lost or damaged. Here in Coventry the Parish Records of the Old Cathedral of St Michaels suffered some damage during the Blitz, thankfully most pages are to some extent readable having been burned along one edge only.

See my Local Resources page for examples of information that can be found in your local archives/central library.

Certificates

You may wish to order birth, marriage or death certificates for a variety of reasons. Wedding certificates can be very useful in most cases, providing father's names and occupations. Occupations can be useful in determining if you are looking at the correct family when you come to look at census information; comparing information in this way helps to increase accuracy when building family trees for more common surnames.

Ordering Certificates

To order a certificate from The General Register Office you will need the reference number for the event you are looking for, be it birth, death or marriage. These reference numbers can be obtained by searching the GRO Index which is available at The Family Records Centre in London and also from some large local Libraries. The index is generally available on Microfiche and there is usually a charge for this service. Searching the indexes can be very time consuming and for those who don't have the spare time available for extensive searching of the indexes I offer this service. (Certificate ordering).

Census

Census information can be of invaluable help with your research. The first useful census for family history research purposes was taken in 1841. Unfortunately this census is not as detailed as those that follow; relationships between those residing in the same household are not given and place of birth only indicates if they were born in the same County or Country. Ages of children are often accurate however adults are usually rounded to the nearest five years.

From 1851 onwards a place of birth is usually given for each family member, as are their names, relationships, ages and occupations. Other information given: whether paralyzed, deaf, dumb, blind, imbecile, idiot or lunatic. Census Enumerators were given definitions for these terms:

Imbecile - Mental age of an infant.
Idiot - Congenital mental deficiency.
Lunatic - Sometimes of good and sound memory and understanding, and sometimes not (Mentally ill Person).

However it is important to remember that Census information is often not accurate. Ages can be incorrect and may vary by as much as 10 years between Census returns. Names can be nicknames or middle names, spelling my vary (e.g.: Gilks, Gilkes, Jilks, Jilkes). Place of birth is often the earliest place they remember, and not actually where they were born. The quality of this historical data means genealogical findings may not be 100% accurate.

Census Dates

Knowing the exact date a census took place is helpful because it helps to calculate when a person was born. Here are the dates of the available census returns:

1841 - 7th June
1851 - 30th March
1861 - 7th April
1871 - 2nd April
1881 - 3rd April
1891 - 5th April
1901 - 31st March
1911 - 2nd April

Online resources

I have compiled a list of genuine free census sites. Please follow this link to access my list of free census resources.

Who Do You Think You Are?" Family Tree Maker (New Version)

An unbelievably cheap and cheerful software program to accompany the famous TV serious. This budget program is useful, and comes from Avanquest, the people behind the best selling Family Tree Maker software.