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Who are you? Discover your family tree online with Plusnet

Who are you? Discover your family tree online with Plusnet

Who are you? Discover your family tree online with Plusnet

You have to know where you come from to know where you're going, or so the old saying goes. This year on 24 - 26 February, thousands of amateur genealogists and seasoned researchers will descend on the Olympia London for 'Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012 - each looking to discover more about their family history. As the world's largest family history event in the world, there will be exhibitions, workshops and presentations on researching genealogy and building family trees. But, with Plusnet broadband, you don't have to go to London to find out where you come from. Read on for our guide on how to research your family history online and tips for getting started on mapping out your own family tree.

Researching your family history online

Discovering who your ancestors were and where they came from used to involve flipping through the dusty pages of parish records, census returns and civil registration indexes of births, marriages and deaths. T'internet has now changed the face of genealogical research as websites and family history services now let you access most of this information over the web.

  • is self-described as "the UK's favourite family history website." The site offers its members access to over 7 billion records and 29 million family trees. As you build your family tree, the site searches for information on your ancestors and helps point you in the right direction for further discovery. You can also get expert advice, load photos and information and connect with other members. When you sign up you get a free 14-day trial, after that the site offers three membership levels.
  • Deceased Online Deceased Online is a fairly morbid sounding name, but as the first central database of burial and cremation registers for the UK and Republic of Ireland, it's a pretty handy asset for family history research. The database includes computerised data, digital record scans, grave details, photographs of memorials and headstones and cemetery maps. There's no fee to register or to search, and you only pay to download specific records.
  • was established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is the largest genealogy organisation in the world. The site offers free access to its resources and services online, making it one of the most heavily used genealogy sites on the internet.
  • focuses solely on data from England and Wales. The site has easy-to-search records on English and Welsh censuses from 1841-1911, as well as parish records dating back to 1538 among its 750 million online records. The site offers several subscription levels.
  • also offers England and Wales census data from 1841-1911 and the civil registration indexes of birth, marriages and deaths from 1837-2005. The site offers several membership levels, and was named "Best Value" by Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.
  • Genes Reunited Genes Reunited is the sister site to the popular Friends Reunited. Members can build their family tree for free and investigate which ancestors they share with other members, as well as search historical records.
  • specialises in unusual, hard-to-find and older records from Britain and Ireland - including the National Wills Index, Censuses, Electoral Registers, Marriage records, Apprentice records, Griffith's Valuation, images and maps. The site offers hourly, monthly and annual subscriptions.

How to get started…

A lot of family members will have come before you, but don't let the scale of the thing put you off from researching your family tree. In honour of their annual event, "Who Do You Think You Are?" have put together some First Steps to point you in the right direction down the genealogical path.

  • Step 1 - Find out what you already know If you already know where some of your family came from or you have family documents hidden away at home - use these to get your family tree started.
  • Step 2 - Talk to other family members It may seem obvious, but your family is one of the best places to find out about your family. Talk to other family members about any family secrets or stories they might know.
  • Step 3 - Explore birth, marriages and deaths The internet has made researching birth, marriage and death (BMD) indexes much easier. Use one of the above websites to start researching BMD certificates; they can reveal helpful information like full names, dates of birth and occupations.
  • Step 4 - Use the census Census data tells you where your ancestors were living, who they were living with and what they did for a living at 10-year intervals. Once again, the above websites can help you trace this data all the way back to the first UK census in 1841.
  • Step 5 - Explore military records War has played a large role in society, and it's very likely one of your ancestors was a member of the armed forces. Genealogical websites can help you track down information about their military experiences online.
  • Step 6 - Next Steps It's always good to stay in touch with others also looking for their ancestors for encouragement and advice; you might even find family members you didn't know you had. Set up a new email address specifically for your searches, to keep all your genealogical info in one place. If you're a Plusnet customer and don't already have a Plusnet email address you can create one here. If you already have one, why not create a new mailbox to keep everything together. Or, head down to London for Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2012 and purchase a Beginner's Ticket for helpful tips and workshops by the experts.

Are you using your broadband connection to research your family history? Do you have any recommendations for mapping your family tree online? Please leave us a comment and let us know …    

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You've missed a major resource This led me to establishing contact very quickly with a cousin who our family had not spoken to for about 60 years.
You can access the information at free from most libraries.