How to Start Researching Your Family Tree

Researching your family history is an exciting process. Many of us know our parents, grandparents and even great grandparents, but finding out about our ancestors really helps us to understand our heritage. So, how do we begin researching our family tree? Here’s a guide to set you on the path of discovery!

  • Ask living relatives. Your existing family may hold much of the information you need to get started. If your parents do not know some key details, such as the location or occupation of an ancestor, an auntie, uncle or distant cousin might. Gathering as much information as you can from your family will be useful for getting into the deeper research. You may also find that another family member has already done some research, and able to share it with you.
  • Make a list of things you want to find out. Are there any specific answers you are looking for? For example, did your ancestor elope? What date did they get married? How many children did they have? Or maybe you want to see how far back in time you can go with your family history. Having some goals in mind will help you stay focused while researching.
  • Websites such as Ancestry, MyHeritage, FindMyPast and FamilySearch are great places to begin digging into historic records. Here you will find census returns, ship passenger lists, military records, birth, marriage and death records, and more.
  • Visit local record offices or libraries in locations where your ancestors lived. This may bring up some historic documents and records that are not found online. Libraries often keep old, local newspapers on microfiche or as digitised versions, so that you can look for articles or snippets to do with your family.
  • Organise your discoveries in a way that makes sense to you. You may like to write notes on paper, create a scrap book and add photos and copies of documents, or use online tree making tools. Having information kept in an organised way keeps your research clearer and gives you a better overview of your family tree.


Researching your family tree is a fun and exciting activity, and once you start you might find you are bitten by the bug! It is also nice to share information with other family members, especially older generations as it brings the facts into stories they have heard in the past.

Getting to know your ancestors makes them more than simply a name on your tree, instead you get a glimpse into what life was like at the time, share in their joys and sorrows, and shows you a path that leads to your own existence. Perhaps that is why many people find it fascinating!

Discovering things about your ancestors can lead to more questions and additional research. There may be gaps or missing information in records, or something that doesn’t quite add up. Finding the answers becomes like solving a mystery. Often, this can bring research to a halt, but finding a specialist in genealogy could be the solution.

If you need help with building your family tree, or finding out more about the lives of your ancestors, feel free to get in touch.

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