Tracing Family Histories

Genealogy, or tracing family history, can prove to be a fascinating hobby, revealing details about the past, and family members going back generations. For someone new to this, it can seem like something of a minefield, but there are plenty of sources of information and advice out there to help you build up a family tree.

The best place to start is always with what you know, so grab a notebook and pen, and start to note down details of all your family members currently alive, and try and work backwards from there as far as you can. Names, dates and places of birth, medical details, marriage certificates, and details of any significant events can all help build up a picture of your family.

When you’ve gathered as much information as you can, you need to take your research to the next stage, and start looking for other sources of information. The census records, along with birth, death and marriage archives are all popular with family historians, though they are by no means the only sources of information. You may also find documents like military records, phonebooks, business directories, parish archives, and immigration details useful.

Thanks to licenses, there’s a lot of research material that you can access online, from websites for the National Archives and UK Census Online, or from sites like Ancestry and Genes Reunited. Although some of the more recent records and census information is not yet available, all these sites combined, hold a range of information that dates back over 1000 years. Also look out for tips on conducting your research, and downloadable documents, to help you record details of your family tree.

It’s also possible to visit the National Archives, located in Kew, London, and most counties will have libraries and record offices, with plenty of books and microfilm records available to visitors. In Herefordshire there are guides and encyclopaedias available in Hereford Library for family historians, and the local record office is also open to visitors. This office in Hereford holds parish records up until the 19th century, local government archives, the electoral roll dated up to 1990, the census from 1841-1901, and details of wills from people who bequeathed property before 1858. There are also court of law records held there, which includes case notes and prisoner lists from 1679 to 1975.

Herefordshire also has the Herefordshire Family History Society, a member of the Federation of Family History Societies. They have a worldwide membership and publish a quarterly journal full of news and advice, and are available to answer queries. On a local level, they also attend or organise family history projects.

So, whether you are researching in Herefordshire, online, or via national resources, there is a wide variety of information available to help. The key thing is to be organised, take your research step by step, and enjoy watching your family tree grow. Who knows what you’ll find out about past generations?!