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Researching your family history and family tree (genealogy)

Old family group photo (old woman with seven grandchildren)

Tracing your family history is a rewarding and exciting hobby which many people enjoy, but it can also be time consuming, complicated and frustrating.

You can either read through the introduction to family history research below (so where do you start?), or skip that and jump to the useful family history research external websites (further down this page)

So where do you start?

Old family group photo (married couple and elderly mother)

The best first step is to gather as much information you can from your living relatives and family friends, especially your older relations. You are looking for as much information as they can remember about your relations including: names, dates (of birth, christening, baptism, marriage, divorce, work, death and burial or cremation), addresses (of places lived or worked), occupations, military service, religion(s) and places of worship they may have attended, criminal records, countries they came form (or went to, or visited or worked in) and also any health problems or disabilities they may have had.

They may also be able to give you other types of valuable information that will be very difficult to track down from official records, such as hobbies or interests, nicknames, personality traits, exploits they were involved in and other interesting bits of information (if they were builders then what did they build and where, eg schools in Brighton, houses in Tunbridge Wells, etc). Unfortunately when your older relations die this sort of valuable information will go with them and be lost unless it has been written down and recorded.‌

The next step is to track down and make copies of as many documents as possible that are still in the family such as birth, death and marriage certificates, wills, family bibles, photographs and newspaper cuttings. These documents will allow you to confirm what you have been told so far and will also help you fill in dates and gaps - and sometimes uncover family secrets!

Old family group photo (woman with two granddaughters)

Next start to draw up a family tree based on the information you have found so far. This may help jog your relations' memories and they may also be able to fill in gaps and add more details. Add photos if you can so you can spot family likenesses and put a face to a relation's name.

Next you will need to further verify what you have found out and take your family tree further back. You can do this by tracing and applying for documents for your relations from archive sources. This will help you make sure people really are related to you. If, for example, you know your grandfather's date and place of birth, you can apply for his birth certificate. Doing this will give you full names of his parents, including his mother's maiden surname, and possibly other valuable information (such as addresses or occupations). Your could then search for his parents' marriage certificate and so on. Remember that there may well be a cost associated with getting copies of certificates and documents.

It is always worth trying to find out more general background information about your descendants, rather than just the hard facts, that way they become 'real people' rather than just names on a tree, and you will end up with a fuller more interesting family history.

The links below will help you in your searching - but most of all remember to take your time and enjoy your searching!

Useful family history research external websites

Old family group photo (married couple)

Note:

  • Most of the websites below are free to use, but some of them make a charge to fully access the information or use the services they provide. Please make sure you read their rules and scales of charges before using their websites.
  • Adur & Worthing Councils do not recommend or endorse the websites listed below, and cannot be held liable for their content or services offered.

The links below have been grouped into 'types' of sites. Either click on a heading below to jump to that section, or feel free to browse down the whole list.

Apply for copy certificates:

Family history (genealogy) research websites (sorted by category):

See also - other useful links:


General information and research sites

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Archive and record office websites

See also:

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Burials, cremations and cemetery records

On our website:

External websites:

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Censuses on-line

See also our facts and figures section for population and census data

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Directories (including parish transcripts)

Modern directories:

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Family tree sites

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Genealogy websites

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Maritime, shipping and passenger lists

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Military, cemeteries and war sites

See also: War memorials webpage on our site

Current armed forces external website links:

Other miscellaneous:

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Name research

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Other countries or nationalities

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Miscellaneous

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Ancient research

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top

Heraldry, armorial bearings and coats of arms

On our website:

External websites:

Go back to family history links index list or Back to top