Whether you've only just developed an interest in your family's past, are trying to track down a long-lost relative, or are just a tad obsessed with Who Do You Think You Are? - you've come to the right place. Findmypast is an amazing resource for building your family tree, and our hints system will offer a helping hand wherever possible, but there's no getting round the fact genealogy can be a testing pastime. Like an endurance sport, it requires patience, stamina and dedication, but unlike an endurance sport there isn't even a finish line to aim for. Remember: each generation back you go, the more people you need to discover, with four grandparents becoming eight great-grandparents and so on and so forth (and that's before you even consider the lack of contraception back in the day). How far you go depends entirely on you, your research skills and dedication. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's start with the basics.
What is Genealogy?
First things first, just what the heck is genealogy, anyway? The fancy name for family history, it's the discipline encompassing anything and everything that contributes towards building a clearer picture of where you came from. Want to build your family tree? You'll need to employ genealogical research techniques to do it. But it's not just about filling in names and dates in an ever-branching diagram. Although it's satisfying to be able to map out your ancestral past, most genealogists will tell you it's the stories they discover on the way that make it such an addictive hobby. And be warned: it really is moreish, almost like the crack cocaine of historical research (complete with the mood swings, but minus the health risks).
Why Can It Be So Tricky (and Consequently So Rewarding)?
The first step in building your family tree is to ask the oldest relatives you have for all the information they can share on their elders. Not got any living older relatives? That's your first stumbling block, right there. Got older relatives, but they can't remember exact dates and names (you'd be surprised at the amount of older people who only know family members by nicknames)? Problem number two. And that's only the previous couple of generations.
To have any hope of going further back you're going to have to get your best detective hat on to piece together clues. An actual hat isn't necessary, but if you do want to get yourself a deerstalker then please, please don't let us stop you. But that detective work is also where the fun, and horribly addictive, bit comes in. You won't just be searching censuses, and birth, marriage and death records for elusive ancestors. You'll need to trawl employment records, military data, and even newspaper archives, using powers of deduction along the way to identify family members.
Why Do I Need to Pay for Genealogy Websites?
Paying for the information needed to research your family history might seem cheeky until you understand the costs associated with acquiring and archiving records. At Findmypast we have comprehensive records that go as far back as the 16th Century (some even further) and to preserve them we need to carefully and painstakingly digitise them, extract the data to make them searchable, and store them on servers (and back-up servers) before they crumble to dust and are lost forever. All that, sadly like most things in life, costs money.
OK, but why do we have a subscription model? Surely a one-off fee should cover our costs? It might do, if we had already collected all the world's records, but genealogy is an industry in constant growth as we negotiate with the archives that hold records to be able to digitise them and make them available to our subscribers. Yes, they would generally be free to view at the various archive locations (assuming they aren't too old and at risk of falling apart) but the travel costs to go and personally investigate them all would far outweigh the cost of a subscription. Plus, staring at microfiche screens for hours at a time might seem cool when people do it to crack a case in the movies, but, sadly, real life isn't a snappily scored montage and mental and physical fatigue soon sets in.
Don't fancy subscribing? We also offer a pay-as-you-go system to unlock records sets relevant to your research.
Where Do I Start?
Right here. Good luck!