How to use Online Resources to Reconstruct your Family History

Image by: Tom Brandt

Are you related to Jane Austen?

Do you have royal blood?

Do you know?

In a world characterised by rapid change and complex family ties, looking into your family tree can be both one of the most emotionally impacting and rewarding experiences of your life.

If discovering more about your own family history is something that’s important to you, you’ll get a lot more information online now than you would have just 10 or 15 years ago.

The internet puts information we once had to travel far and wide to find, right to into our hands.

Genealogy has got a whole lot more trendy since the spread of the internet and Google in particular; it’s no coincidence that ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ burst onto our screens when it did

But the question is: Are you ready to find out where you really came from?

If you are, here’s how to get started right:

Facebook: An unlikely tool

Write everything you already know: Detail as many family members you can think of and sketch out a rough family tree from this information.

If you’re like me and have countless young cousins seemingly born by the day, it’s hard to keep track of your present family, let alone the past.

Facebook is the most widely used online social networking tool, meaning it’s a great place to consolidate what you already know.

Have you got family to contact the other side of the world? Do you need to get in touch for one small detail?

Facebook is a great way to make contact and get quick clarification on a few things.

Organise

Family stories are unpredictable and you’ll need to keep track of the narrative twists and turns.

So organise.

Set up a folder for each family member that you can look up or add details to whenever you want to.

It also makes sense to start from a logical point in time. Don’t just pinpoint a distant relative and decide to find out everything you can about this person. Use something you already have proof of, a birth or a marriage and start with the youngest in your family.

Now you’re ready to work your way backwards up the family ladder.

The best online resources

There is a wealth of information on the internet to be mined. If you search carefully, you’ll find loads to help you.

These first few examples will get you started:

 The Ancestry.com collection

Ancestry.com, as well as its Australian (.com.au.) and UK (.co.uk) subsidiaries, is owned by the largest genealogy company in the world.

Ancestry.com also operates Genealogy.com, MyFamily.com, ProGenealogists.com, Rootsweb.com, and owns Footnote.com, the largest selling genealogical software in the world.

All these sites provide subscription-based genealogy research, containing over 5 billion records online.

MyFamily.com allows users to creative private family or group website, meaning your search can be shared with other members of your family.

Rootsweb.com is a free community using online forums and mailing lists; it’s a great indication of the growing research viability of online crowd sourcing.

If people have already looked for what you’re now looking for, can you piggyback on their research to save time?

The Society of Genealogists

SoG’s online catalogue is another great tool for finding documents and historical records and is open to anyone who pays an annual subscription.

Be a sponge

If you’ve followed the advice above, you’re on the way to putting the jigsaw pieces of your family history together.

But don’t forget to explore the context of any discoveries you make.

Official records alone won’t be enough to fill in the gaps of your family’s history; you’ll just end up with arbitrary names and dates; try to fit the individual lives you explore into the period in question.

You have to soak it all up.

If you do this bit right, you’ll identify more with personal triumphs and struggles and see how they combined to produce your own existence today.

Genealogy can be a deeply captivating and rewarding process, so why not jump on the internet and uncover your family roots; you too are part of the story.


Amalia Dempsey blogs for White Pages, an address finder UK. Amalia is interested in the ways the internet has usurped the authority of the old heavy paper BT phone book, especially evident in the way genealogy is researched these days. Are the old phone books good for anything except standing on anymore?