Researching your family history

Researching your family history can be a rewarding and exciting experience and is a very popular pastime. We hold a lot of information and records which can help with your family history. 

First steps

Before beginning your family history there are a number of points worth noting:

  • create a chart entering dates and places for each person - this helps you to construct your family tree
  • start with your present family and work backwards to previous generations
  • try to prove the link between one generation and the next
  • don’t assume that a name found in a record is your ancestor just because they have the same name as you. It is better to look for individuals with a clear relationship to people already in your family tree
  • mistakes can occur in records. Names can often be spelt differently; people did not always know their age or did not tell the truth when asked. Think about different spellings and broaden your search to include more years and places than you may initially be looking for.

Remember to write down everything you find out and record where you found the information, which web sites or records you have looked at, so you can go back to check again if necessary.

Ask family members for help

Before visiting Nottinghamshire Archives or your local library, try to find out as much information as possible at home. 

Stories and memories can be a good starting point, but remember they may not be accurate and should be checked in official records. Listen to family stories, but don’t always assume they are true. People’s memories can play tricks! 

Check whether anybody else has done any work in your family.

You can also try looking for the following information at home:

  • birth, marriage and death certificates
  • wills
  • any official army, navy or air force records
  • records of membership of a professional body or trade union
  • photographs: although people may not be named in photos, clues can be obtained - group pictures could show possible siblings or children; uniforms or medals could be identified
  • diaries: the diarist may record information about relatives
  • bibles: these were often used to record birthdays and ages
  • medals, awards and uniforms can be used to identify regiments.

Do your research online

A wealth of family history websites are available to search. Whilst much information can be found online, it is always worth checking the information against the original record where possible, as errors do occur in indexes and transcripts.

A number of online resources are available free of charge at Nottinghamshire Archives and Libraries.

Visit Archives and Libraries

To get advice on tracing your family tree and to get access to records you can visit the Archives free of charge.

Libraries also have lots of useful information and resources to help you with your research. Find your nearest library.

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