Are you a fan of the BBC 1 programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ If you’ve felt the urge to trace your family history then why not use Ancestry? Of course to find out more about your family history you can always ask family members and you will find out all sorts. However this isn’t always possible.
There are lots of family history databases online. Some are free to use but they only contain a small amount of information compared to Ancestry. You can access Ancestry free of charge from any computer in our libraries.
So what can you find out with Ancestry?
Well there are some great resources including the Census, records of Tax, Birth, Marriage and Death, immigration, military and travel, Electoral Registers and more. These can provide you with a great breadcrumb trail taking you from records of you and your close family (it’s always a good start to try to find a record of for instance your own birth), to ones from the 19th century when the Census and other record keeping began (you can go back even further if you are lucky; there are records which go all the way back to the 16th century).
If you have managed to follow your ancestors back to 1911 or before you will be in luck as after 100 years the Census records become available. This contains a wonderful amount of information including your ancestor’s address at the time, their age and birth place, occupation, who was living with them and their relationship to them.
Putting your detective cap on you can follow all these clues and create a whole family tree with the help of relatives, including perhaps some you don’t even know yet! Nevertheless, it can be a bit tricky to use. Bear in mind that there are literally millions of entries in there. Furthermore, Ancestry tries to put them in order of relevance but this can have both a positive and negative effect; putting the names which meet your search criteria better higher up the list than those that don’t but at the same time putting American results often higher up than those from outside e.g. English results.
Top tips for your epic searches include:
• Don’t put in too much especially if you have an unusual surname
• Search specific databases e.g. the 1911 census
• Put in information such as year of birth, location
Do be warned tracing your family history does take time! If you need any assistance – pop into your local Kensington and Chelsea library or visit the Local Studies Library at Kensington Central Library.
The Local Studies Library will be having an Open Day on Saturday 8 December. Staff will be on hand to demonstrate how to use Ancestry as well as showing the other resources they have that can help with tracing your family history. You will also have a chance to tour the archives.
If you can’t make that date, Marylebone Library in Westminster has a family history group which meets once a month. They share tips and experiences about researching family history. For more information please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Owen Grey, Reference Librarian
Kensington Central Reference Library and Marylebone Information Service