Planting the seed of your family tree

Genealogy was transformed by the internet. Information that once took cross-country trips to record offices or churches to find can now be accessed with a few clicks. It’s probably why genealogy is now one of the most popular online activities. If you want to give it a go, where can you start?

​Many genealogy sites encourage you to build your family tree directly on their site. While it makes finding new connections easy, there are privacy issues doing this as you may not want to make details of living relatives available online. Instead, try Chronoplex’s free My Family Tree which offers many of the capabilities of paid software.

​If later you find you want to either share your tree or have extra functionality, you can export your tree from this to an online or a paid package.

Start building your tree by talking to family and recording their information. Once you’ve got the bare bones, you’ll want to fact-check and add to it. I suggest starting with While some of its finds are locked behind the paywall of its sister site, its collection is comprehensive and transcriptions of many records can be viewed for free. Then there’s; from 1970s phone books to Tudor probate records, you’ll find something about your ancestors here. For details that are behind the paywall, take advantage of the occasional times they offer free access or login for free at the library.

There are also sites where genealogy is done for passion not profit. Run by volunteers, they focus either on making records available free or on amalgamating information to move you forward in your research. A few to check out:

  • has millions of free records from the Birth, Marriage & Death registers, 19th-century census data and entries from parish registers dating back to 1530. Coverage is patchy, but for some records you can download a scan of the original document, which is a bonus.
  • If you’re looking for the bigger picture about your ancestors’ lives, you may stumble across a gem on, a “virtual reference library” of genealogical information. fills in some of the gaps in genuki.
  • WorldConnect has a staggering number of family trees you may match with. A caveat: do check that the information is correct before adding it to your tree.
  • The ultimate resource is the award-winning with over 336,000 links to worldwide genealogical sources.

​“Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some have just a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking.”








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