Gransnet forums


Getting started - help appreciated

(39 Posts)
Esspee Tue 20-Oct-20 14:08:05

I had always intended dipping my toe into ancestry research after I retired but had expected to attend classes to get me off to a knowledgable start.
Because of the pandemic I will soon have the time but no idea of how to go about it.
Can anyone suggest either a book, a class or any other method of getting me started?
I am used to scientific research so not fazed by heavy tomes.
Any and all suggestions appreciated.

Oopsadaisy4 Tue 20-Oct-20 14:37:02

Start with what you know about the family you are researching.
I started with my Grandfather and worked back to his parents and grandparents, because I had his exact DOB and place of birth, so it was easy to find my way around the online information.
I would advise getting a free months subscription on Ancestry and see how you get on, beware , it’s addictive!
There used to be a Magazine ‘Who do you think you are‘ which had hints and tips in it, not sure if it’s still published though.

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 14:56:31

I started with free censuses which I think are still available.
However, my father was a Victorian so was on the 1901 census and I started from there. has a lot of parish records etc free to access and I think all genealogy sites give free access to some records.

Esspee Tue 20-Oct-20 14:59:05

Most of my ancestors are Scottish if that makes any difference.

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 15:05:35

I think there's a site called

vampirequeen Tue 20-Oct-20 15:08:57

Make sure you differentiate on your tree between blood and inlaws. It can get very confusing after a while and you could end up following a wrong line.

Esspee Tue 20-Oct-20 15:13:08

How do you keep coherent notes?

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 15:13:24

I've found WDYTYA a bit disappointing.
It's interesting enough but they seem to concentrate on just one story in detail of an ancestor from the fairly recent past eg a grandfather or great grandmother etc.

They are not delving into older records and tracing origins.

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 15:29:51


How do you keep coherent notes?


Well, I haven't done much recently but I did run everything off and filed it in families.
I joined an online site and put the information in trees too.

Now I need to co-ordinate and write up some stories so that other family members can understand it all. If anyone has tips on that, I'd be grateful.

Do beware if you join an online site like Ancestry or FindmyPast as some people don't research properly and put any old fact or person into their public trees. Do your own careful research and don't copy from anyone's tree without fact checking first.

You can find free templates online to run off and fill in to get you started; there are programmes you can buy too.

Esspee Tue 20-Oct-20 17:09:36

Thank you for all the tips. Is Ancestry the best site to start with or am I better just using scotlandspeople?
I have been on there and located my maternal grandparents but it looks like I am going to have to pay to see the birth certificates to get their parents’ names. This is going to be expensive, isn’t it?

Shrub Tue 20-Oct-20 17:48:01

I've been doing my family tree for years and have used loads of different sites. For Scottish forebears, Scotland's People is excellent, although their pricing is done by purchasing credits, and not by subscription as Ancestry and Find My Past.
I have my own family tree software with all my research on it (which I back up elsewhere) and I only have a very basic tree on Ancestry. As others have said, don't believe all you see on other peoples trees, do the research yourself.

tidyskatemum Tue 20-Oct-20 17:55:31

I’d go hell for leather using the free trial on Ancestry as you get a lot more leads from other people’s’ research though as someone else posted they are not always correct! You can do free searches on Scotland’s People but have to pay to see the actual documents. It helps to download free family tree software to help you keep track. We had a head start on DH’s Scottish forebears as he inherited a family bible with entries going back to 1848.

Esspee Tue 20-Oct-20 18:01:05

I have just googled family tree software. There is a choice. Which is best?

Sar53 Tue 20-Oct-20 18:18:33

I started by using the free trial on Ancestry. They often give 3 free days over a bank holiday. I use the family tree templates on Ancestry. The only certificate I have bought was my paternal grandfather's. This came through as a PDF and is saved on my desktop. A lot of the research is trial and error but it does become addictive. Good luck.

Treebee Tue 20-Oct-20 18:58:48

I found this free genealogy course on FutureLearn extremely useful.
Helpful and clear teaching and supportive community.

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 19:46:38


It was me and, even after pointing out nicely that my Great-Grandmother does not belong in their tree, she is still there.
It's another Hannah!

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 19:47:05

Thanks Treebee

Pittcity Tue 20-Oct-20 21:40:07

I use to record my tree and photos/notes.
A basic tree is free.

Callistemon Tue 20-Oct-20 22:34:17

I did find some very useful information about DH's family on tribal pages a long while ago and, on double checking, found it was accurate.
Some of that was Scottish ancestry.

Esspee Tue 20-Oct-20 23:24:29

I am definitely going to sign up for that course Treebee and have just registered on tribalpages Pittcity.
After the free trial is over Sar53 can you continue to use the Ancestry tree?
Callistemon I’ll look into Familysearch tomorrow. It will keep me off Gransnet. ?
I’m guessing that I will have to get at least a laptop. I use an iPad at the moment since my laptop died on me and my printer probably needs replacing too.
As it looks like being a very long winter I hope I get absorbed in the research.
Thank you everyone who has responded.

Mamissimo Wed 21-Oct-20 00:04:39

Hello Esspee you can use Ancestry for free in public libraries. You can also use it on an iPad or other tablet at your own cost. Facebook has lots of genealogy pages and there are free birth, marriage and death (BMD) sites and census sites. Search for free bmd on google.

Family search also has a huge collection of records and is free to use - again you can use it on a tablet.

Fascinating way to spend time ?

Esspee Wed 21-Oct-20 07:56:29

Mamissimo. I have been avoiding being indoors where other people congregate so will avoid the library for the moment but thanks for making me aware that is possible. I don’t use Facebook and would need lessons on that.
I don’t mind paying for a service once I know how to use it and would get value for money. With a long winter ahead I need something to engross me. Thanks for the tips.

Alegrias2 Thu 22-Oct-20 11:18:23

Hello Esspee, there are a number of free online courses for beginners from the University of Dundee and the University of Strathclyde. There's also a company called Pharos that does online courses, and they are not too expensive. They have some for absolute beginners, including one on how to organise your research.
Scotland's People is definitely the best place to start, we're lucky in Scotland to have so much online.
Also, try books by Bruce Durie.

ayse Thu 22-Oct-20 11:39:14

I have my own family tree programme so I can keep my research private but I’m very happy to share info privately. I have a basic tree on Ancestry

I’ve generally used Ancestry, FreeBMD, FreeCen(sus) with other sites thrown in. Family Tree Forum is great for getting help when you get stuck. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The folk on there helped me in filling in gaps and solving family mysteries.

FamilySearch run by The Church of Latter Day Saints if free and has huge numbers of births, marriages and deaths from parish records. These are donated by members but if possible check the info elsewhere.

Keep a record of where you find information as you may need to look back.

Good luck, it’s addictive like a never ending detective story.

Good luck

Esspee Thu 22-Oct-20 12:42:54

Thank you Alegrias2 and ayse for all that useful information.
Yesterday I spent the whole afternoon trawling through the genealogy posts on here noting sources of information. I have also registered for a free online course.
I now feel confident enough to make a proper start and feel I have something to look forward to instead of an interminable winter ahead.
Thanks all.