This guide should help you with your family history research. Whether you are a complete beginner or have been doing it for a while; there will hopefully be something of interest to you here.

The complete Family History Guide. Bespoke Genealogy

I have put together links to some of the best genealogy articles on the web (and a few of my own) in 8 sections; seven of which make up the essential steps in successful family history research.

The first articles are about the preliminary work that should be done. We then move onto documentary evidence, research strategies, then look at some of the major document types and archives before going into DNA testing and putting your research into context.

Finally there are some articles on report writing, family tree software and other resources.


Section 1 – Getting Started


Why you should start your family history research

The first steps to take

Questions to ask your relatives

And how to record interviews

4 Reasons to Research Your Family History

Family History Daily

Four really good reasons why you should research your family history.


10 Steps for Starting your Family Tree

Bespoke Genealogy

For beginners: the first steps you should take at the start of your family history journey.

10 steps for family tree. Bespoke Genealogy

Top 10 Tips for Starting Your Family History

Society of Genealogists

Here are 10 good tips from the Society of Genealogists for getting your family history started.


50 Questions to Ask Relatives About Your Family History


One of the first things to do when starting your family history is to ask your relatives what they know. Here are 50 great questions to ask them.


How to Record Family Stories


It’s a great idea to record the family history interviews with your relatives if they are OK with it. Here are some top tips for doing that.


Section 2 – Documentary Evidence and Genealogical Proof


Making sure facts are correct

Genealogical Proof Standard

Primary and Secondary sources

Understanding Provenance

Get Your Genealogy Facts Straight: Proof-Checking Tips for Records


There is some great advice here for cross checking facts and verifying that they are correct.


How to Cite Sources

It’s good practice when researching your family history to use a system for citing sources. By doing this you and future generations will always know where your facts came from. This article shows how this can be done.


Using the Genealogical Proof Standard in Your Research

Family Search

This in-depth article from Family Search explains the Genealogical Proof Standard and why its a good idea to follow it.


Primary sources

Family Search

The difference between primary and secondary record sources is explained.


Understanding Provenance

Lisa Louise Cooke

The importance of understanding the history of the records you are using and why they were created.


Section 3 – Research Strategies


Developing research plans and strategies

Search techniques

Getting the most out of Google for family history

Genealogy databases

Think Like a Detective – How to Develop a Genealogy Research Plan


Using clues to develop a family history research plan.


 5 Tips for Effective Genealogy Searching

Family Search

Amy Johnson Crow gives some great advice on how to search more effectively.


Can’t Find Your Ancestor? 6 Tips for More Effective Genealogy Searches

Family History Daily

More tips for effective searching.


Are You Making The Most of Google For Genealogy?

Bespoke Genealogy

How to make the best use of Google for family history research.


25 Google Search Tips for Genealogy


More tips for effective searching on Google for family history research


Genealogy Giants: Which Genealogy Website should I use?

Lisa Louise Cooke

This article compares the large genealogy database sites.


Section 4 – Major Record Types and Archives


The different types of records

Vital and church records

Census records

How to use archives

Genealogy Checklist: 13 Types of Records to Include in Your Research


The key record types for family history are discussed in this article.


U.S. Vital Records Class Handout

Family Search

This detailed article from the Family Search Research Wiki explains the US system of official birth, marriage and death records at Federal and State levels.


How to find English and Welsh Vital Records

Bespoke Genealogy

The English and Welsh system of civil registration of births, marriages and deaths is explained as well as the options for finding historical documents. There are also links to articles explaining the Irish and Scottish systems.


United States Church Records

Family Search

A great overview from the Family Search Wiki of US church records.


How to find English Parish Registers

Bespoke Genealogy

This article links to a directory showing where you can find church records for each county online as well as in physical archives. There are also links to articles about Irish, Scottish and Welsh records.


Your Best Ally in the Hunt — The U.S. Federal Census

Census records can be the most rewarding of recent family history records as they yield so much information. This is a detailed account of the US Federal census.


The Complete Guide to the British Census

Bespoke Genealogy

This detailed guide looks at every British census between 1801 and 1931 and how you can access them.


A Beginners Guide to Archives


This is an article I wrote for OnGenealogy and highlights the different types of physical archives and how to get the most from a visit.


Section 5 – DNA testing


DNA testing is the latest tool in the genealogists collection. Used with documentary evidence, DNA results can take a family tree much further back than was previously possible. These articles look at what it’s all about as well as compare the products of the big players.

What is genetic ancestry testing?

U.S. National Library of Medicine 

An overview of the different types of genetic testing with links to videos and more detailed information.


DNA Testing – Is it worth it?


This article looks at the history of DNA testing for family history and how it has improved over the years.


Best DNA Test for Ancestry

Honest Reviews

This review site has looked at the 5 big players in this market and tested their products.


Section 6 – Putting research into Context


Family history can be a bit boring if all we are doing is collecting names and dates. Knowing more about the times our ancestors were alive, where they lived or where they worked adds layers of interest to our research and puts it into context. These articles can help with that.

Learning local history will help your genealogy research


This article shows how learning about the local history of where our ancestors lived can be really interesting in itself and also helps us find records that we may not have been aware of.


Resources for Researching Local History


This article discusses some of the sources available for researching local history.


Mapping Your Ancestry With Google Maps


This article shows how you can use Google Maps for family history and trace the movement of your ancestors.


Free British Industrial History for Genealogy Research

Bespoke Genealogy

If your ancestors were from Britain and you have an idea where they worked, then a great free resource is Grace’s Guides. This site will put your ancestors working lives in context and this article discusses the industry and company information that can be found here.


How to Find Free Historical Images of England

Bespoke Genealogy

Finding historical images of where ancestors lived can help add a rich layer of detail to your family history research. If you have English ancestors, this article shows where you can find free pictures.


Section 7 – Documenting and Communicating


Documenting and communicating our results is a key part of family history research. Doing this helps us share our work with our family and other interested parties. It also helps us organize the work and prevent going over the same stuff more than once. These articles look at ways to create reports, books and family trees as well as tips on organization.

Writing Genealogical Reports

Society of Genealogists

Great advice for writing genealogy reports.


Creating a Family History Book

Top tips for putting your family history research into a book.


Best Genealogy Software Programs – Your Top 5

The Genealogy Guide

My knowledge of different genealogy software packages is fairly limited as I’ve been using the same (although regularly updated) program for many years. So for a comparison of five of the current best selling products; here is an article from the Genealogy Guide.


How to Organize Your Genealogy Files


Useful tips on getting organized with your research files.


11 Creative Ways to Share Your Family History

Fuzzy Ink Stationery

Here are some brilliant ways to share your work with your family.


Section 8 – Other Resources


Finally, some other family history resources that you may find useful.

Firstly, here are some guides from Britain’s National Archives to help you with very old documents:

Old Scottish Handwriting

Here are some of my previous posts with links to other useful genealogy sites:

20 Totally Free UK Genealogy Sites

20 Plus Essential Online Irish Genealogy Resources

Where to Find Online Canadian Genealogy Records

50 Useful English & Welsh Genealogy Websites

See the Resources page for more links and other useful genealogy related things.

Happy researching!

For further reading, you may find these books interesting:

There are more Genealogy books in the Resources section here.

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The Complete Genealogy research Guide. Bespoke Genealogy
The Complete Family History Guide. Bespoke Genealogy
Free Genealogy Research Advice. Bespoke Genealogy
Helpful Family History advice. Bespoke Genealogy
Free Family History and Advice. Bespoke Genealogy
How to research your family tree. Bespoke Genealogy
Your complete guide to family history. Images of 19th century cartoons depicting various middle class people.