Useful Websites

Ancestry

Search for your ancestors amongst Ancestry’s extensive collections – their 820 million online records include census returns, BMD indexes, parish registers and probate records. There are also less familiar gems: discover your ancestors’ WWI military service records and medal cards; find your family popping up in the occupational records or on passenger lists; and connect with distant relatives (whether living around the world or around the corner).

Take a look at how Ancestry helped uncover George Robinson’s job as a postman in the 1840s.


Blurb

Ever fancied publishing your own family  history book? Well, now it’s easier than it has ever been using the Blurb self-publishing platform. Choose from a range of formats, including photo-books, magazines and e-books. Use their online tools and templates or upload ready-made files. And off you go. The website incorporates options for selling and distributing your book, but if – like many family historians – you’re simply looking to print a handful of copies for your relatives then that’s fine too. As a guide, a 64-page softback landscape photo-book we produced recently for a family gathering was beautifully printed and came in at about £25 a copy; as well as hard copies, you can make a preview version available online, and create pdf versions to email around. Well worth a look to get your creative ideas into print.

British Newspaper Archive

Until recently, searching newspapers used to be a needle-in-the-haystack experience; you needed a pretty clear idea of what event and date you were looking for, and then – with a bit of luck – you might find something after a long trawl through microfilm at the local archives or at the British Library’s out-post at Colindale. It was an eye-straining, time-consuming process. These days, thanks for the BNA’s online access and ‘Advanced Search’ functionality, you can quickly track down family events from your home computer.

See how The British Newspaper Archive helped reveal Uncle Harry’s history as a swimmer and water polo player. Dip into the archive yourself – you’re likely to find material to enrich your family stories.


Deceased Online

Finding the gravestone of an ancestor or other family member can be a thrilling experience. But often it’s tricky to know quite where our predecessors were actually buried. Help with tracking them down is available with the Deceased Online website, which holds UK burial and cremation records mainly from the 1850s onwards. Geographically speaking, the coverage is not complete, but they are continually adding new records, so it’s worth revisiting from time to time. A basic search is free but you’ll need to buy credits if you want to look at the records themselves – transcriptions or images of the burial registers.

Family Search

With an astounding collection of 3.3 billion records, the Family Search website might give you a few fresh leads on your family history research. It’s free, but you’ll need to register with basic log-on details. Then get searching: start by only entering a few search terms – to keep an eye out for unexpected discoveries – but if your initial search yields too many results then you can easily narrow it down by life event (click Birth, Marriage, or Death in blue) or by relationship (click Spouse or Parents in blue). The latter can be especially helpful in tracking down a number of children linked by the same parents. Expect to find plenty of parish register entries; you’ll generally see indexed transcriptions, rather than images of the original registers, but that might be enough to steer your research in the right direction. Take a look too at their wiki section for further strategies and resources (click on the map to get started: here’s the England genealogy wiki, for example).

Historical Directories

This free website contains 675 digitised trade directories for England and Wales, covering the period 1750 to 1919. Trade directories are a vital source for the study of local and family history. As well as providing A-Z listings of private residents, traders, trades and professions, many directories typically include descriptions of cities, towns and villages, and information about local facilities and  institutions. Browse by location: click on the county (then on ‘period covered’ to get an ordered listing), click on a directory of interest, and use the blue ‘Text Search’ box to enter a surname or other keyword – it can be a bit hit an miss, but is often well worth a go.

Moo

Create your very own set of high-quality family history postcards, business cards, greetings cards or stickers using photos from your album. The Moo website allows you to upload up to 50 different images for business cards (or 10 different images for postcards). Add some text on the reverse using one of their templates, and Bob’s your uncle – you have a set of family history cards that you can hand out at family gatherings, use as a prompt for storytelling, or just to brighten up your mantlepiece. The printing quality is pukka, and you can choose between rounded or square corners, and several different finishes (matt, gloss, eco-friendly). Take a look at the set of Auntie Mabel cards we created here.


Who Do You Think You Are? 

You’ve seen the BBC television series, Who Do You Think You Are? Now you can try to capture and convey your own family stories using the resources on their free website.  There’s an excellent guide to getting started with your family tree using six simple steps. More experienced family historians will find their tutorials really handy; look here for a steer on progressing your research into your ancestors’ jobs and occupations, military service, religious affiliations, and life overseas. Other pertinent themes are explored on their features page, and for ongoing inspiration, subscribe to their monthly magazine.

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