Genealogical resources

This page has links to a number of useful resources on genealogy and family history that may of help to you if you wish to research your family tree. Some of these resources are free to use; others are subscription services, although many of these offer free access to their indexes while charging for access to records. Most of the links given here have a UK bias; many of the larger genealogical sites are international but in practice dominated by the huge interest in the USA.


The BBC website has resources on family history and a practical guide to researching your family history

GENUKI is the UK and Ireland Genealogical Information Service and is an important website for any UK research. Beginners should look at the sections on Getting started in Genealogy, Guidance for first-time users, and FAQs. There is also a section containing links to newsgroups and bulletin boards. The main content is found under Contents and Search, which leads to mainly primary source material and indexes.

The Federation of Family History Societies is an umbrella organisation of local and regional societies. It has an introductory section on Help with research and is a good route to finding local societies.

The Society of Genealogists is a UK-based national society. Their website links to their Library collection of transcriptions of primary sources; unfortunately not all of the catalogue is online. There are also links to their bookshop, volunteer projects, events and mailing lists (hosted by RootsWeb).

Genes Reunited is a rapidly growing UK genealogy site based mainly on contributed family trees.

RootsWeb is a major free genealogy website, international but with a strong American slant. (Although RootsWeb is free, it is supported by the commercial which can lead to some confusing cross-linking.) There are tempting name search boxes, but also a wealth of background information to browse. RootsWeb hosts large numbers of mailing lists (and an archive of old messages) and message boards

Cyndi's List retains the look of a site built by an enthusiast, but is well respected as an excellent source of links to other genealogical resources. There is a search engine and a classified listing of topics. is another large genealogy site with an American slant. It is linked to the popular Family Tree Maker software and you can upload your family tree to a World Family Tree. Some features require a subscription or purchase of the software.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often abbreviated to LDS and known as the Mormons) provide excellent electronic access to genealogical sources, both online through their FamilySearch website and through CD-ROM resources available for sale or at their local Family History Centres. Links from the home page of the FamilySearch website explain the purpose and background to the Church's interest in genealogy. There are also some introductory pages, including research guidance which suggests types of record to consult for different periods and places of interest.

FamilySearch hosts the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which contains information about 285 million individuals transcribed from primary sources. The Pedigree Resource Files are contributed secondary sources that record family relationships. These databases and others are searchable online; more than 900 million names are recorded.

FamilySearch also provides the free Personal Ancestral File genealogical software and useful paper forms for maintaining your records.

The British website of the LDS gives information about the local Family History Centres where you can consult many genealogical resources including microfilm and microfiche copies of parish records. The site also has information about software and CD-ROMs, including the 1881 Census and British Isles Vital Records Index.

Census information

The 1901 census for England and Wales is available online from the National Archives You can search the data for free, but there is a charge to view the records either as a transcription or as a scanned document. The home page has a link to a guided tour of the site.

There is a project underway to digitise the 1891 UK census hosted by Access to records requires payment although there are free trials available.

FamilySearch contains a complete transcription of the 1881 UK census. It also contains the 1880 US and 1881 Canadian censuses.

Census Links has links to census information from other countries.

Births, marriages and deaths

Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths started in England and Wales in 1837 and became compulsory in 1875. Copies of certificates can be obtained from the Family Records Centre The full indexes are not available on the Web but may be consulted at the Family Records Centre or on microfiche at LDS Family History Centres. The FreeBMD and the UK BDM Exchange are two volunteer transcription projects that are putting some of this material online.

Mailing lists, message boards and newsgroups

The Family Chronicle website has an introductory article about mailing lists in genealogical research.

RootsWeb hosts large numbers of mailing lists and their archives and message boards. also hosts a large number of message boards.

Usenet newsgroups are archived on Google Groups Most genealogical groups are in the soc.genealogy and alt.genealogy sections. Here is a useful list of the genealogical newsgroups giving links to FAQs, archives and web pages associated with each of them.

Other search sites collaborates with other bodies to provide access to British genealogical resources. There are separate subsites for England, Scotland and Ireland. Their site includes a focused search engine which searches web pages for surnames and place names, including variant spellings.

WorldConnect is a large lineage-linked database created from family trees uploaded by individuals.

Surname Helper on RootsWeb will search for surnames on many other genealogial sites.

Publishing sites

Many of the large genalogy sites such as FamilySearch and WorldConnect encourage the submission of your family tree in the form of GEDCOM files which are produced by all family tree software packages.

Other resources

Familia is a directory of family history resources held in public libraries in the UK.

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness hosts a community of people who will volunteer to photograph tombstones, search a local library etc.

There are several family history magazines available. Ancestors is produced by the Public Record Office. Information about Family Tree Magazine and Practical Family History can be found on the publisher's website

There are also many books available on genealogy and family history. The following suggestions focus on using the Internet; the first two have a US slant, but the third has a good coverage of UK resources.

  • Crowe, E.P. (2003) Genealogy Online, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, Emeryville (7th edition) ISBN: 0-07-222978-0
  • Hendrikson, N. (2003) Finding Your Roots Online, Betterway Books, Cincinnati. ISBN: 1-55870-635-6
  • Peacock, C. (2003) Good Web Guide: Genealogy, The Good Web Guide Ltd, London (3rd edition) ISBN: 1-903282-48-9

Further study

The Open University course A173 Start Writing Family History offers a practical introduction to family history which would also give you a good grounding in historical methods.

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Last modified: Thursday, 2 August 2012, 12:30 PM