Researching into the past to discover your routes has never been so easy. There are now countless online sources, amazing historical archives as well as books galore to help you. Getting started can seem daunting and so it’s a good idea to begin simply and build on what you already know.
Below is a few tips for getting you started as well as a number of free resources you can use to get yourself going with your family tree. This is really starting with the basics so please feel free to skip ahead.
Getting started with your ancestry
Start with what you already know and write down the basics on to a sheet of paper, start with your own parents, brothers and sisters and then start extending backwards. Even if you don’t know all family names and all dates of birth or dates of death it doesn’t really matter. Online tools will help fill in details later. For now you just want a basic structure.
Build a digital family tree
There are a number of very good reasons why it’s worth creating an electronic version of your family tree. You’ll be able to share your tree with online services by importing the digital file. You’ll also be able to layout your tree and add annotations. Once you’ve added your information there are a number of ways you can display your family tree that your software may be able to do automatically and that can help throw up conflicts our anomalies. Printing your tree clearly so you can show it to other relations is also easier with the correct software.
Here is a list of some of the best free apps for your family tree. I’ve listed them in order of my own personal preference but you should have a play with a few and see how you find them.
My main suggestion would be to look at Gramps. It is free software from an web community project that produce a genealogy program that is both intuitive for hobbyists and feature-complete for professional genealogists.
Gramps (Mac, PC and Linux)
Other free family tree software is:
Family Tree Legends (Windows Only)
Family Tree Builder (Windows Only)
ScionPC (Windows Only)
Roots Magic Essentials (Windows Only)
Fill the family records with your ancestry information
Look for any old birth or death certificates to start creating a more accurate tree. Speak to other family members, they’ll be able to add to what you know and will also offer advice on where else you can look. Looking at old photographs will also help bring you closer to your ancestors and will also give you an idea of their prosperity and social standing.
If you have any old medals take a closer look. These will give you an idea of any military records you could later research.
Other free online ancestry services
Now you’ve got all the basics in place you can use some of the free trial offers extended by the top genealogist websites. All of these sites need you to sign-up and cancel before the end of the trial period but if you’re organised then it’s a good starting option as you’ll also learn which website you prefer.
Watch out for coupon codes online as well because these can give you great discounts and also extend free membership.
Find My Past – Offers a 14 day free trial
Ancestry – Offers a 14 day free trial
The Genealogist – Offers a 14 day free trial
So if you’re inclined to, you can access these superb research sites for a month and a half for free.
Alternative Free Ancestry Resources
Other places you can search for free which can yield some very helpful information would be your local family graveyard. We’ve got a blog about searching for your ancestors in a graveyard.
Local news papers will also have back issues which will include announcements of births and deaths.
Your local library will also hold a good collection of books on the best ways to build your family tree whether it’s in England, Scotland or beyond.