Just a few decades ago, genealogical research was a time consuming process that involved hours spent note-taking at your local records office.
Today, thanks to the huge growth in genealogy websites, you can now do most of this research from the comfort of your living room – all you need is a computer and a good internet connection.
But with so many websites to choose from, where do you start? Here’s our pick of the top sites for genealogical research in the UK.
Free genealogy sites and advice
If you’re just starting out – or you’re unsure of whether genealogy is a hobby you’ll stick with for long – you’ll find plenty of websites offering free resources and advice. One very useful site is Cyndi’s List, which includes details of categorised genealogical resources from all over the world. Its UK and Ireland section is particularly comprehensive, with category indexes for each country and territory in the UK and Ireland, as well as a category for UK military research. It’s a completely free site and runs on donations – so if you find it useful, it’s worth making a contribution so it can continue.
GENUKI is another comprehensive free genealogy site for families in the UK and Ireland. Like Cyndi’s List, it points you towards further sources of information so you can find and access online records quicker than if you were starting from scratch.
Not sure whether to choose a free site or pay for a membership? The BBC’s guide to genealogy sites is worth a read. Not all the links here may be up to date as the page was last updated in 2011, but there’s some solid advice here that will come in handy whether you’re making your first forays into genealogical research or if you’re already established but want to access more detailed records. This article by Digital Trends also has some sound tips, but beware that the sites it recommends are for US users and may not always have UK counterparts.
Becoming a member of a genealogy site
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and pay for membership of a genealogy website, there are some great choices out there. Ancestry.co.uk is one of the best; it has a simple search function enabling you to find your ancestors with ease. It also lets you create a family tree in a simple and straight-forward manner, so you can present your research in a professional way. Feeling like you’ve hit a brick wall? Ancestry.co.uk’s active message boards mean you should be able to find an answer to your question from their community in no time. There are also three different membership plans – Essentials, Premium and Worldwide – so you can choose one that suits your budget.
Find My Past has a lot of fans too. This site also has a simple search function and lets you create a family tree online. It’s also got an active news site and prominent notifications when new records are available. Although it doesn’t have as large a community as Ancestry.co.uk, it still has loads of benefits for members.
Ancestry.co.uk, Find My Past and Genes Reunited offer two week free trials – so if you decide that membership isn’t for you, you still have a chance to continue with your genealogical research elsewhere, before you’ve parted with any cash.
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