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Tracing Family History

Tracing family history is an absorbing, mentally stimulating, educational and frequently obsessive pastime.

This article has been written from the perspective of UK family history research but many of the points raised are applicable to countries with related histories and cultures such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

Occasionally, genealogy may be financially productive - an unexpected legacy left unclaimed, as featured in the television series 'Heir Hunters', for example. But, more likely, it is an activity that may cost money as some of the best sources of information charge for access on a subscription or 'pay-as-you-go' basis. Many amateur genealogists take out subscriptions with Ancestry, FindMyPast, The Genealogist and other database compilers. We will discuss some of these sources later in this article.

Genealogy can absorb the researcher for decades. The further one goes back into family history, the more ancestors and lines of inheritance there are to be traced. Leaving second marriages, adoption and other less common circumstances out of the equation, it is easy to see the exponential nature of enquiry. A person is most likely to have:

  • 2 parents
  • 4 grandparents
  • 8 great-grandparents
  • 16 great-great-grandparents
  • 32 great-great-great-grandparents, and so on

If their children and their children's children are all traced, we can count the relatives and ancestors in their hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands.

Arguably, we can restrict lines of enquiry, perhaps to immediate ancestors and their siblings only. However, we will later that families have always interacted in complex ways. Casting a wider net can produce spectacular returns as, for example, 'visitors' on distant relatives' census returns turn out to be a key individual in a researcher's own ancestry.

Genealogy in the UK has been popularised by the BBC series 'Who do you think You Are' which follows various celebrities as they trace some of their more interesting ancestors. Obviously, each episode has been pre-prepared by production staff and professional genealogists. Less interesting ancestors are skipped over and there have been cases of celebrities being dropped from the series because their families were deemed to be too ordinary, as was the case with Michael Parkinson.

But most people's families are ordinary. Does it matter?

Next page: Your Family History.

Genealogy Articles

Tracing Family History
Your Family History
Genealogy Information
Organizing Family History
The Victorian Apprentice
The Victorian Character Reference
Victorian Appointments - including the Admiralty and Custom House
More Victorian Appointments - including the Inland Revenue, Post Office, Bank of England and East India House
A Victorian Domestic Servant
The Victorian Employment Relationship

Family Histories

Walter Walter Family - Babcary, Somerset
Lucy Penny nee Leach
Daniel Walter Family - Babcary, Somerset
Philip Walter and Susannah Trotman
William Gillett - Brailes, Warwickshire
John Gillett - Brailes and Cheltenham
The Family of Mary Walter and Edwin Oliver Locke
Albert Walter - Illinois
Hugh and Robert Walter - Kansas
David Walter - Babcary and Swansea
Family of Thomas Rosser of Coychurch, Glamorgan
Caroline Walter and William Whittle
Benjamin Walter - Slough and Eton
Gaius Penny Walter - Somerton and Southsea
Susanna Walter and Philip George Hayes
Jacob Walter and Eliza Gillett
Henry Walter - Liverpool
Jacob Walter - London and Liverpool
Harold Philip Mcleod Walter
Horne Family - Careby, Lincolnshire
The Horne Family of Combe, Oxfordshire
Caroline Williams - St Hilary, Glamorgan
William Thomas Davies - Brynaman, Glamorgan and Perth, WA
Davies Family - Lower Brynaman, Glamorgan
John James, Grosmont
James Price and Jane James - Cwmyoy and Grosmont
Tom James Price and Rosa Madia Thomas, Llanfihangel Talyllyn
John Walter Price and Lilian Jenkins, Abercanaid, Merthyr Tydfil
William and Mary Williams, Cayo
John and Susanna Davies, Llansadwrn, Cayo
Arthur Price and Elizabeth Ann Davies, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen
Thomas family, Oakfield, Llanfihangel Talyllyn
Prosser family, Talgarth
John Jones and Rebecca Thomas, Cwmaman
Thomas and Jemimah Jones - Brynaman, Glamorgan
Thomas Family - Banwen, Glanaman, Carmarthenshire
John Jones and Mary James, Clydau, Cilrhedin, Llanelli
Rees Rees of South Wales, Illinois and Iowa
Samuel and Sarah Jones - Llanelli, Ebbw Vale, Glanaman
Hannah and William D John - South Wales and Scranton, Pa
Daniel Jones and Anne Rees
Mary Jones and Watkin Williams
Lillicrapp Furrier
Barber Family of South Stoneham
Letter from Elizabeth Saffhill 1927
Saffhill Family Tree

Wills and Probate Records: A Guide for Family Historians

Wills and Probate Records: A Guide for Family Historians

Tracing Your Ancestors from 1066 to 1837

Tracing Your Ancestors from 1066 to 1837

The Genealogist's Internet

The Genealogist's Internet: The Essential Guide to Researching Your Family History Online

Family Photographs 1860-1945

Family Photographs 1860-1945 (Public Record Office Genealogist's Guides)

Family Photographs and How to Date Them

Family Photographs and How to Date Them

Writing Your Family History: A Practical Guide

Writing Your Family History: A Practical Guide

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