Your step by step guide to getting started with Findmypast

With our collection of over two billion records, we understand that making a start on researching your family history with Findmypast can seem a bit daunting. So we've put together this quick and easy guide to help you get started.

You can also find lots of help and advice on a whole range of subjects - from starting your tree to breaking down tricky family history brick walls - over at our video library, and keep up to date with all our news and new records at our blog.

The basics

Getting started

  • First things first; sit down and write everything you already know about your ancestors, making sure you stick to the facts and don’t get carried away with rumours and anecdotes. This will form the basis of your initial family research.
  • Ask your family what they know. Every detail can help your research, not matter how trivial. Ask older family members, they’re more likely to have encountered some of the people you’re researching, or to have heard stories about them. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our list of 20 questions to ask your relatives.
  • Search the attic. Check old photographs, letters or documents and other heirlooms for clues to the past
  • Start your 14 day free trial with Findmypast. You’ll have instant, free access to almost 2 billion records including birth, marriage and death records, census records, military records, travel and migration records, millions of newspaper pages and much more.

Search our record collections

  • Our collections of billions of records are sure to contain a wealth of vital information concerning your ancestors. When searching our records, it’s always best to start with broad search terms, such as a name and a year of birth, and to narrow down from there.
  • For information on how to efficiently search the Findmypast record collections, visit our search help section here.

Building your family tree

  • The best place to store the information that you discover is in a family tree, and we offer the perfect solution. The Findmypast family tree builder is free, easy to use and jam-packed with features that make it the ideal online repository for your family history. It’s also totally secure, so no one will be able to access it unless you want them to.
  • • Once you’ve set up your family tree, add all of the information that you have. Relations, dates of birth, marriages, deaths, any addresses and occupations you’ve sourced from census records. If you have any photographs or scans of documents, you can also upload these to create a more vivid account of your family history.

An introduction to our records

Birth, marriage and death records

  • Our birth, marriage and death records (BMDs) are the building blocks that will form the foundation of your research. They’ll give you the basic information that you need when exploring your family history.
  • They can tell you:
    - where and when your ancestors were born, married or died
    - mothers’ maiden names
    - family names you may never have heard before
    - much more
  • You can use the information you source from BMDs to order birth, marriage or death certificates, and so they’re a vital resource when bringing your past to life.
  • For tips on how to search our BMDs, visit our expert advice section here.

Census records

  • Censuses have been taken in Britain every decade since 1841 (barring 1941, when war prevented it). Due to the way data protection works, we can only view these censuses once 100 years has elapsed, so until 2022 the latest census we can browse is from 1912.
  • Censuses give us a wealth of information about our ancestors, including:
    - names
    - ages
    - addresses
    - places of birth
    - occupations
    - the names of other people at the same address
    - much more
  • For tips on how to effectively search census records, visit our expert advice section here

Newspaper Reports

  • In collaboration with the British Library, we’ve helped to build an online repository of over 9 million historical newspaper pages that date back to 1710. If you’re searching for family members, you can find them in notices of marriages and births – or, if they were famous or infamous, in the articles themselves.
  • In addition, our newspaper archives can add context to your family history, telling you more about the events, discoveries, tragedies and everything else that happened during your ancestors’ lives.
  • For more information, hints and tips on how to search our newspapers, visit our help section here.

Parish Records

  • Between 1538, when Britain split from the Roman church, and 1837 when the responsibility for keeping records was taken on by the government, the chief source of records of daily life are parish records.
  • These parish records are a fascinating look not just at your family history, but also at the history of our society, with details of birth, marriage and deaths dating back centuries.
  • For more information on how to effectively search the Findmypast parish record collections, visit our expert advice section here.

What to do next

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