Family History

Researching family history, or genealogy, has become more popular then ever in recent years, partly thanks to the Internet making it much easier to find relevant and useful information. Millions of people in the UK are fascinated by genealogy; in the US, it's thought to be the country's second most popular hobby. Family history is quite simply, the history of your family back through the centuries - and one of the best things about it is that just about anyone can do it, often for little or no cost.

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The Lure of Discovering Family History

For most of us, it's instinctive to wonder who our ancestors were, where they lived, and what they were like. Many people who start digging into family history discover that one of their ancestors was someone famous, or perhaps infamous, only adding to the fascination. And it's a hobby that can become quite addictive; the further back in time you look at your family history, the more difficult it can be to find accurate and complete information, making it appealing in the same way as doing a jigsaw puzzle, or painstakingly putting together a model kit. Genealogy also encompasses various elements that make it interesting - history, economics and social studies, and for many people it can be an excuse to travel to the birthplace or burial ground of a distant relative. Millions of people regularly consult a physic reading online, and a reading can give you a valuable insight into your background, and even stimulate an interest in looking at family history.

Where to Find Your Family History

A good place to start is with members of your own family who are still living - parents and grandparents, who can often fill in some of the gaps in your family tree, and who may have access to old photographs, birth and death certificates and other documents. The Internet is also an obvious place for initial research, with many websites providing access to all sorts of online records, including birth and death certificates, along with forums and other useful tools. Much of the information is free and readily available, and your local library is also a good place for research, especially if you don't consider yourself a computer expert.

In the Field Research

However, useful though the Internet can be, you may have to broaden your search if you are serious about researching your family history, especially if you find yourself going back several hundred years. Part of the appeal of genealogy for many people is the chance to explore old archives, look at the names in ancient churchyards, and enjoy the thrill of tracking down an elusive or important document or reference. Electoral records, property records, wartime service records, trade directories and parish records can be accessed online, but there is arguably something fascinating about seeing the original documents. And to visit the grave of a long lost relative, rather than simply read about it online, is for many what researching their family tree is all about.