Unlock the secrets hidden in your past by tracing your family tree… as the Mail teams up with genealogy website
23:40 GMT, 14 September 2012
The Mail has teamed up with leading genealogy website findmypast.co.uk to offer you the chance to trace your family tree. It’s easy, it’s free – and you never know what you might discover…
Have you ever wondered whether you could be related to nobility Was one of your ancestors a war hero Or have you ever been tempted to seek out the truth about those rumoured skeletons in your family closet
Genealogy has never been more popular, with TV shows such as Who Do You Think You Are firing the public’s interest in their lineage.
Bruce Forsyth, for instance, discovered his great-grandfather was a rogue who abandoned two families and JK Rowling wept when she found out one of her ancestors was a hero during WWI. And it’s not just celebrities who have family secrets – every one of us has a past rich in untold stories just waiting to be discovered.
You could unlock your family secrets and find your ancestors
Now, thanks to the advances of the internet and websites such as findmy past.co.uk, it’s possible to research your family history with the click of a button. Findmypast.co.uk is one of the most trusted genealogical websites, with a spin-off TV show on the Yesterday channel, also called Find My Past.
It gives you the ability to search more than 750 million records to piece together a portrait of your family’s history. And as we’ve seen on TV, tracing your family tree can throw up all manner of surprises – imagine the thrill of discovering a long-lost relative or a forgotten fortune.
Now the Daily Mail has joined forces with findmypast.co.uk to offer every reader a chance to use the resources on its website for free. See our Step-/09/13/article-2202713-14FF96E5000005DC-945_634x419.jpg” width=”634″ height=”419″ alt=”It gives you the ability to search more than 750 million records to piece together a portrait of your family's history” class=”blkBorder” />
It gives you the ability to search more than 750 million records to piece together a portrait of your family's history
‘Now everyone can research back through several generations very easily with the help of the internet. There’s no limit to how far and wide you can go. Nor is there any limit to what you can discover, from links to royalty to the poorest of the poor, from war heroes and heroines to murderers and criminals.
Whether your ancestors left Britain to go to the New World, or came here from Europe, Ireland or further afield, there are records you can find from the comfort of your own home.’
Don’t worry if you’re new to genealogy or not a regular user of the internet – our two-part series in Weekend magazine will guide you through how to get started tracing your family tree, and you’ll soon be uncovering extraordinary insights into your ancestors.
You will learn how to search records of births, marriages and deaths and how to navigate your way through the country’s fascinating Census returns. Plus, there’s a host of specialist databases that will help bring your family tree to life.
Create your family tree with findmypast.co.uk
Once you’ve registered for free with findmypast.co.uk (see the panel below), you’re ready to get started on your family tree, with 20 free credits that The Mail has given you. Most experts agree that the best way to begin is to ask members of your family for any details of your ancestors. Start with the present and work back. Search your home for old birth, marriage and death certificates and hunt out old photos, as you may find clues scribbled on the back.
Ask members of your family about your ancestors
When you’ve written down the names and dates you’ve found, you’re ready to start trawling the vast archives stored on findmypast.co.uk. The website also contains helpful videos and tutorials.
Once online, the first step is to place yourself on your family tree. Click on ‘My family tree’ on the bar which runs across the top of the homepage. Here you’ll see lots of information and a video tutorial. To start your family tree click on the box ‘Create or view tree’ which is in the middle of the page.
You will see a box that says, ‘Start by adding you’ – simply follow the instructions on the screen, entering your name, year of birth and gender. Once you’ve pressed the button ‘Add yourself to your tree’, you may have to wait a few seconds before you see the next page. Here you can add details of your father, mother, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on.
Don’t worry if you’re unsure about the information – you can always edit or delete anything at a later date. If, at any point, you want to return to the home page of findmypast.co.uk, you can simply close the family tree window and then click the findmypast.co.uk logo on the top left of the page. The data you have entered will be saved and you can access it by clicking again on ‘My family tree’ at the top of the page.
You’re now ready to use the Births, Marriages and Deaths database on findmypast.co.uk (see our section on the opposite page).
Unearthing the secrets of the Census
Once you’ve done a little research using the BMD index, your next step is to flesh out your family tree with help from the Census. These returns – which provide a snapshot of a day in the life of your ancestors – really are a treasure trove of information.
Taken every ten years since 1841, the records show details of where your ancestors lived and with whom, together with what they did for a living. The documents also show the names of your ancestor’s siblings, and by using them you can build up a rich and detailed picture of your past.
Census details are only made public every 100 years, meaning the last one released was for 1911.
Viewing the records of any return prior to 1911 costs five credits with findmypast.co.uk. For the 1911 Census you’ll need ten credits to see a list of the details on the Census form.
As the returns can be searched by name or address, you can also use them to research the history of your home and who lived there before you, as well as your ancestors.
The 1911 Census was unusual in that it
included questions about ‘fertility in marriage’. Because of a falling
birth rate, as well as the large number of people emigrating, the
Government at that time was concerned about the future state of the
However, it’s important to remember that as the Census was designed to record the location of individuals on one specific day, it may be the case that your ancestor was in a different town or county to the one in which he or she lived. Experts at find mypast.co.uk recommend that when searching, less information is better – you can always refine your search later.
To search the Census, simply click over the ‘Search records’ icon in the blue bar that runs across the top of the screen at findmypast.co.uk. Drag the cursor to ‘Census, land and surveys’ and you’ll be presented with records for England and Wales dating from the most recent, 1911, back to 1841, and Scottish Census transcripts from 1841-1901.
The 1911 Census was unusual in that it included questions about ‘fertility in marriage’. Because of a falling birth rate, as well as the large number of people emigrating, the Government at that time was concerned about the future state of the nation.
Women were asked to state the ‘years the present marriage has lasted’, the number of children born alive to the couple and how many offspring had died. Look out for the following clues – if the ages of the children are more than the ‘years the present marriage has lasted’, or if the total number of children is more than the number born to the present marriage, then it suggests your ancestor may have been married before.