Sources for Family History and Genealogy


Tracing family history and genealogy sooner or later requires the use of various genealogical sources which enable you to find your ancestors as well as learn more about their lives. If you would like to make a family tree or/and learn more about your family history, you will need an access to the following sources:

Birth and death certificates. In addition to revealing the date of birth and death, respectively, birth and death certificates reveal a number of information which can help you trace your ancestors further back. Besides the date and place of birth, birth certificate also reveals full name and maiden name of the mother as well as full name and occupation of the father if he was married to the mother. Death certificate, on the other hand, typically reveals the place and cause of death, occupation of the deceased or occupation of the husband if the deceased person is a female and some other personal information.

Marriage certificates. They are another highly valuable source of information needed to find a particular person as well as to find out more about your family history. Marriage certificates are almost a must if you would like to trace the female line because they also reveal the maiden name of the bride. In addition, they show occupation of both the bride and groom as well as occupation of the couple’s fathers, witness names, address of the married couple and other information that are very helpful for further research.

Census. It reveals lots of information about population in a particular place at a particular time. But it also shows a lot of information about particular residents which can be taken advantage for making a family tree and to learn more about your ancestors’ lives. Unfortunately, the first modern census in the UK was carried out only in 1801. In addition, the first censuses were not as thorough as they are today. Nevertheless, they offer a great insight into the 19th century life.

Emigration records. If you lose track of a particular person, it is worth to check the emigration records. They are also an excellent source for people who live outside the UK but have known British origin.

Immigration records. The UK’s residents whose ancestors came from other country should also go through the immigration records which hold data about people who arrived to the UK. It is also worth to check immigration records if your family history suddenly comes to an end because it may mean that your ancestors came from elsewhere.

Military records. If you would like to know whether an ancestor may have played an important role in military history, military records are the place to look for such information.

Other sources. Examples include wills, religious records, maps, newspapers, physical evidence such as gravestones, postcards, letters, photographs, maps, etc. Also, do not ignore family stories but take them with a reserve, especially if they date back several generations.