Tracing your family history is fascinating. Most of us want to know where we come from and what our ancestors were and did. But the people who lived in house can also offer tantilising glimpses into the past. If you happen to live in a very old house then this is straightforward to understand if not to achieve. But even if you live in a more modern house then who owned the land before it was developed, it would have formed some part of a Saxon estate at the time of the Norman Conquest so in theory at least, its history can be traced back ot then.

Tracing your family history – where do you start?

First of all get all the information together that you already have access to. Write down what you already know and ask other family members what they can remember. It’s vital to organise the information so that whatever you learn is recorded. Get family trees organised for each branch of your family you are planning to research.

Starting Family History Research

This is when it really starts to get interesting. One of the best online resource is Ancestry.co.uk . This now lists all the English census returns that are available, that is for 1901, 1891, 1881, 1871, 1861, 1851 and 1841. Our timeline will give you an idea of what was happening when each census was taken.

Ancestry.co.uk also provides information on births, deaths and marriages from 1837 as well as several other resources that are useful once the basic work has been done.

Numbers of Ancestors

A generation is usually taken as being 33.3 years, which means that it takes 24 generations to get back to the twelfth century. The number of ancestors doubles each generation so that means we should each have nearly 17 million ancestors who were alive in the 1300’s. But the population of England was only two million at that time! The only way this apparent paradox can be reconciled is by intermarriage. Many of our ancestors are duplicated so that we are actually descended from a particular relative through more than one line. The corollary of this is that many of us must be related to each other, at least distantly.

Tracing your house history

To begin with the census returns will be helpful although bear in mind that services such as ancestry are set up to trace people not addresses but census records are researchable by address if you know how.

Wills and other legal documents are invaluable and it is surprising from how far back many have survived. Sixteenth century wills are quite common although they can be hard to read and understand. Manorial records and leases go back well into the fourteenth century but again become harder to read the futher back in time you go.

So happy researching and may you find many interesting people and not too many tradegies.

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