What stories would your ancestors tell?

I deliver an engaging talk for beginners on how to start discovering your ancestors using proven research techniques. The talk explores the key techniques, resources and top tips for finding your ancestors and their stories. Below is a flavour of this talk and its contents.

Talk overview


Why research your family history?

I started my research as I had a small family; I didn’t know my extended family. I was curious; where were my ancestors, who were they, what did they do and where did they live; where do I originate from?

I discuss a number of common reasons people start their family history during my talk.


Principles of family history research

There are some basic principles to bear in mind

+ Prove links from one generation to the next

+ Spelling of names may not always have stayed the same

+ Seek out advice

+ Sift through family legends for the truth

+ Enjoy your research


Record and write everything down

Relatives will know people you don’t, or they knew people at a different stage in their lives. Sometimes they were present when precious nuggets of information were revealed. Sometimes another family member is the guardian of the family archive (information, photos etc). They may maintain contact with other relatives or distant relations. They can add further detail and stories to your family tree.


Creating your Family Tree

Do create a Family Tree as soon as possible. This will help you picture your research, identify gaps and give you a sense of achievement and confidence.

Be careful though, some relationships can be complex. If we move back through our family tree, back through the generations we double our number of grandparents at each step. So even going back 8 generations you will have up to 1,024 ancestors! Assuming each of our ancestors had siblings, people descended from them could be living in the same town or village without them knowing each other.



Use online databases/indexes for locating family history information. Computer research heralds a golden age in genealogy. It’s so easy you can chart a family tree of several generations in one evening! However, there is a danger you will ‘collect’ the wrong ancestors so always go back to the original source of the information in the index.



Birth, Marriage and Death (BMD) is the bread and butter of family history. Read as much background information as you can on the website you are using and take the site tour if one is available.

freebmd.org.uk is a fully searchable, online database built by volunteers. Coverage is not complete so check the website for details. This project was started in 1997 and over 3,500 volunteers are involved worldwide.

ukbmd.org.uk offers links to all known websites offering indexes and information about UK BMD. Check which counties are covered, this website is also reliant on volunteers.


Vital Records

Collect the vital records that document BMD’s. Remember these records weren’t made with the family historian in mind, so they may not make it easy to find an individual. Generally information detailed here is for England and Wales (not Scotland or Ireland). Pre 1837 = parish registers, post 1837 = civil registration.


The Census

A most important source for research in conjunction with BMD records. These provide a snap shot of a family on a particular night, showing whole family groupings. The UK Census has been conducted since 1801 every 10 years. 1801 – 1831 is only a headcount, so of no use to family historians. You can access 1841 up to 1911 indexes and images online.

Book my talk to discover:

+ Where and how to start your family history

+ How to record your research

+ Common acronyms

+ Other sources of Birth, Marriage and Death indexes

+ What civil registration records reveal

+ How to use the UK Census and where to find it

+ Other sources of information

+ What to do/not do

+ and much more


View all my talks and book me

Robert Parker is a Genealogist and Trainer, based in Kent. He delivers courses, guidance, talks and research services for those interested in tracing their ancestors. See https://myfamilygenealogy.co.uk/guidance/ for his 5 steps to discovering your ancestors. Contact Robert to discuss your requirements without obligation.

What stories might your ancestors tell?

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