Add a gen­er­a­tion

As part of a cam­paign by Who Do You Think You Are? Live to teach peo­ple how to take their fam­ily his­tory back be­yond their grand­par­ents, Sarah Wil­liams has put to­gether a sim­ple guide to help begin­ners un­cover their great grand­par­ents

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The Who Do You Think You Are? Live team re­cently car­ried out a sur­vey that re­vealed that al­most three-quar­ters of those ques­tioned (71 per cent) can only name two or fewer of their great grand­par­ents, and only 11 per cent could name all eight of them. When wee think of the af­fec­tion­ate mem­o­ries many of uss have of our grand­par­ents, it seems amaz­ing that so few of us can name their par­ents.

Of course, most of our reg­u­lar read­ers would have no trou­ble nam­ing all eight of their great grand­par­ents (records al­low­ing) but this month, we are of­fer­ing es­sen­tial ad­vice to read­ers start­ing out in fam­ily his­tory who would like to un­cover de­tails of those eight peo­ple and add a gen­er­a­tion to their fam­ily tree. In fact, we’re go­ing to make it our mis­sion to en­cour­age the na­tion to un­cover the names of their great grand­par­ents and, in the spirit of branded cam­paigns, #adda­gen­er­a­tion.

A fam­ily Christ­mas and New Year is a great time to em­bark on a pro­ject like this. How­ever, al­though it’s tempt­ing to hop on­line and start Googling your sur­name straight­away, that re­ally isn’t a good way to kick off your re­search and you could end up wast­ing a lot of time. It’s best to start with a tar­geted ap­proach: write down what you know al­ready and get in touch with fam­ily mem­bers to see what gaps they can fill in. If you are vis­it­ing rel­a­tives over the Christ­mas break, ask them what they know about your fam­ily’s past.

Old pho­tos can be great for prompt­ing mem­o­ries. If they aren’t la­belled al­ready, it’s worth get­ting a soft pen­cil and writ­ing names on the back of them while you are talk­ing to some­one who knows who’s in them. When lis­ten­ing to el­derly rel­a­tives, take notes and type up the ‘in­ter­view’, record­ing the date and who gave you the in­for­ma­tion. Your notes, or any record­ing of the in­ter­view will be­come a ‘pri­mary source’ as im­por­tant and valu­able as the records you will find in an ar­chive. It’s also worth send­ing an email to fam mily mem­bers to tell them yo ou are car­ry­ing out some re­search.r If you’re lucky youy may find some­one else who has al­ready done some of the leg-work and is will­ing tot share their re­search withw you, or you may prompt some­one else in the fam­ily y to join you in your quest and d help share costs.

Make a plan

It’s at this early stage that you need to start think­ing about what you want to achieve. Re­search­ing your fam­ily his­tory is ac­tu­ally a hobby rather than a pro­ject as it has no de­fined end. There is al­ways more to dis­cover, es­pe­cially as many records are be­com­ing more ac­ces­si­ble. How­ever, the nice thing about set­ting your­self a spe­cific goal is that it can give you more fo­cus and a greater sense of achieve­ment. In this fea­ture, the ob­jec­tive is to un­cover the names of your great grand­par­ents, but don’t worry if you get side­tracked. Fol­low­ing chance leads that take you down a com­pletely dif­fer­ent path is one of the joys of fam­ily his­tory!

Record your find­ings

Al­though it’s fine to sketch out a rough fam­ily tree on pa­per, most peo­ple nowa­days find it eas­ier to keep track of their re­search on their com­puter, smart­phone or tablet. There’s some great fam­ily tree soft­ware you can buy, but if you are just start­ing out in fam­ily his­tory the free on­line tree builders of­fered by the main ge­neal­ogy web­sites are a good way to dip your toe in the ge­neal­ogy wa­ter in­stantly with­out hav­ing to fork out any money.

To build your tree, you will need to reg­is­ter with the site you want to use, but you do not need to take out a sub­scrip­tion to use the tree builder. If you change your mind later and want to use a dif­fer­ent site, or start us­ing soft­ware on your com­puter, then you can ex­port the fam­ily tree that you have built up and im­port it into a dif­fer­ent on­line fam­ily tree builder. It’s im­por­tant to know though that this process may not move pho­tos or at­tached doc­u­ments, so it’s worth putting a bit of thought into which tree builder suits you best be­fore you start.

The three main UK ge­neal­ogy sub­scrip­tion web­sites ( ances­, find­my­ and the­ge­neal­o­gist. all of­fer free fam­ily tree builders, and Ances­try and The­Ge­neal­o­gist both have ac­com­pa­ny­ing apps for greater flex­i­bil­ity.

Once you’ve cho­sen an on­line fam­ily tree builder, it’s time to get stuck in. Start with your own de­tails and then add those of your par­ents and grand­par­ents. In­clude any middle names if you know them. Add as much in­for­ma­tion as you can about your fam­ily his­tory – in­clud­ing any dates of birth, mar­riage and death you know – and you will soon get a feel for what you are miss­ing and what you would like to un­cover.

Let’s sup­pose you’ve man­aged to fill some­thing in for both of your par­ents and your four grand­par­ents but you are stuck on great grand­par­ents. Where would you find this in­for­ma­tion? To an­swer this de­pends on what you know al­ready but it is al­ways worth go­ing back and ask­ing your fam­ily. Re­mem­ber that your par­ents’ cousins or their chil­dren will share the same great grand­par­ents and may al­ready have the in­for­ma­tion you re­quire.

If this is not pos­si­ble (per­haps your par­ents or grand­par­ents are de­ceased), then you have a num­ber of op­tions de­pend­ing on what in­for­ma­tion you have.

Fill­ing in the gaps

If you know the full names of your grand­par­ents (ie your grand­moth­ers’ maiden names) and prefer­ably where and when they wwere born, then you can or­der their birth cer­tifi­cates. Cru­cially, th­ese will name their par­ents (your great grand­par­ents).

See page 31 for our step-by-step guide on how to or­der a cer­tifi­cate. This will cost you £ 9.25 but it is the most re­li­able op­tion and should give you full names of both par­ents of an in­di­vid­ual (un­less they were il­le­git­i­mate). You can find out more about birth cer­tifi­cates here: whodoy­ou­thinky­ popup- page/birth- cer­tifi­cate- 0.

If you don’t know one or both of your grand­moth­ers’ maiden names then you will need to or­der your par­ent’s (her child’s)

Us­ing th­ese key tips you should be able to find de­tails of your great grand­par­ents

birth cer­tifi­cate. Again you can fol­low our step-by-step guide to do this. This cer­tifi­cate will show her her maiden name, and you can then or­der her own birth cer­tifi­cate us­ing the same process as above.

If you don’t know which year your grand­par­ents were born, but they died be­fore 1991, it might be worth try­ing to find them on the 1939 Reg­is­ter ( find­my­past.­is­ter). This will cost you £ 6.95 but will give the ex­act date of birth and may place your grand­par­ents with other fam­ily mem­bers you can iden­tify (and add to your tree) so you can be sure they are your an­ces­tors and not just some­one who shares their name. You could al­ter­na­tively or­der a copy of their death cer­tifi­cate, which will tell you their age at death but will cost you £ 9.25 and isn’t as ac­cu­rate as a birth cer­tifi­cate.

You may also find your great grand­par­ents on the 1911 census. We’ve all had to fill in a census form be­fore, and so did our an­ces­tors! If you can find your grand­par­ents on the 1911 census, then you will prob­a­bly find them liv­ing with their par­ents. If there are too many pos­si­bil­i­ties then it will help to have your grand­par­ents’ birth cer­tifi­cates so that you can be sure you have found the right fam­ily. The­Ge­neal­o­gist, Find­my­past and Ances­try all of­fer com­plete ac­cess to the English and Welsh census for 1841-1911, with im­ages of the orig­i­nal pages. Ances­try and Find­my­past of­fer tran­scrip­tions of the Scot­tish census up to 1901 – you will need to visit pay-as-yougo site scot­land­speo­ to search the 1911 Scot­land census. All three of the main sub­scrip­tion sites also of­fer a free two-week trial pe­riod and most li­braries of­fer free ac­cess to Ances­try Li­brary Edi­tion.

Us­ing th­ese tips you should be able to find de­tails of your great grand­par­ents.

The next step is to track down your great grand­par­ents’ mar­riage in the civil reg­is­tra­tion in­dexes on The cer­tifi­cate will name two of your great great grand­fa­thers. Us­ing this you can then set about try­ing to un­cover your great grand­par­ents’ birth cer­tifi­cates with their fa­thers’ names as a check. Th­ese will give you the names of your great great grand­moth­ers, too. You can now or­der their mar­riage records and go back even fur­ther.

Us­ing the census records avail­able on the sub­scrip­tion web­sites in tan­dem with the BMD records, you should be able to find their fam­i­lies and keep adding names to your tree all the way back (if you are lucky) to 1841 – the ear­li­est census avail­able.

Of course, it’s not al­ways that sim­ple. Tran­scrip­tion er­rors, name changes and com­mon names are among the many dif­fi­cul­ties that can throw a span­ner in the works. This mag­a­zine fre­quently in­cludes tips for overcoming th­ese ‘ brick walls’, and you can visit our fo­rum (whodoy­ou­thinky­­rum) where ex­pe­ri­enced fam­ily his­to­ri­ans are happy to point new mem­bers in the right di­rec­tion. Civil reg­is­tra­tion ( birth, mar­riage and death cer­tifi­cates), the census and parish records are the main­stays of fam­ily his­tory re­search. Once you’ve got the hang of th­ese key doc­u­ments, you should quickly be able to trace fur­ther gen­er­a­tions of your fam­ily back to the middle of the 19th cen­tury.

How­ever, fam­ily his­tory isn’t just about adding names to your tree. Your an­ces­tors’ real sto­ries are of­ten found in other doc­u­ments, from mil­i­tary ser­vice records to news­pa­pers and wills. In the pages of this mag­a­zine and on our web­site we of­fer ad­vice on where to look to find th­ese amaz­ing re­sources. Many have been digi­tised and put on­line, but most are still in the ar­chives. As you get more con­fi­dent in your re­search and de­cide to go deeper into the lives of your an­ces­tors, you will need to visit ar­chives (see our next is­sue), but for start­ing out, there’s plenty that can be achieved on­line.

Once you’ve added a gen­er­a­tion to your fam­ily tree, you may have caught the fam­ily his­tory bug and be itch­ing to find out more. We’d love to hear what you un­cover! Share your dis­cov­er­ies with us by email or on Twit­ter us­ing #adda­gen­er­a­tion and come along to Who Do You Think You Are? Live at the NEC in Birm­ing­ham this April. There’s plenty more to dis­cover but an­other gen­er­a­tion is a very good start!

Us­ing our tips you can soon add an­other gen­er­a­tion to your fam­ily tree and go back even fur­ther

Old pho­to­graphs like th­ese can help you add con­text to the names and dates you find in records

Birth cer­tifi­cates are per­fect for go­ing back a gen­er­a­tion as they show the per­son’s par­ents

You might find your great grand­par­ents on the 1911 census house sched­ules

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