Researching your family tree will be a lot easier than when I began researching my family tree in the 1980’s. I had just left high school and decided I wanted to know more about my surname. I spent hours and hours in the library and the archives looking things up. When I passed my driving test at 18 I drove all over to other archives and libraries. Things are much easier now.
You may want to find that out, or you might have a different reason for wanting to trace yours, and I have heard lots of them. For example, you might have been told you are related to royalty, or your parents know very little about their parents, and now it’s too late to ask. Or maybe there’s a family story you want to prove, or one you want to disprove, or an unusual first name that is passed down the family, but no one knows where it came from, or maybe you want to see where you came from. Here I will say a little more about each reason and what you might find out.
I want to know where my surname comes from.
If you have an unusual surname, tracing that line back is quite easy. My maiden name was Simcoates, and there have never been many of them, so getting back to 1770 in the UK is quite simple, as it would be in many English-speaking countries. Before that, you can continue with church records, many of which are online. If your surname is a more common name, it is harder, but it is still possible to do yourself.
Am I related to royalty?
I am sorry to tell you, most likely. Why am I sorry? Because many, many people are. It’s not as unusual as it sounds. It all depends to which King, or Queen you think you are related. It has been claimed most of the people in Western Europe are descended from William the Conqueror (1028–1087)! But they are as likely to be descended from his groom. In America at least 650 early colonists had royal roots. It doesn’t sound like many, but there could be as many as 1 million descendants from them. Add to that mix all the other Western Europeans that have arrived since and the numbers are very high.
Your parents cannot tell you about their parents.
People knowing nothing about their grandparents is more common than I ever imagined. I found one of the problems was my grandparents didn’t know much and kept a lot secret. Anything they found embarrassing, or wrong, or upsetting they kept to themselves. Many things can be found out by looking at the records available and many things grandparents hide come out in other ways. I always remember my father telling me my grandmother, his mother, didn’t like me tracing the family tree. When he told her he was interested, and he couldn’t see any harm in it, she announced to him the woman her father (my great-grandfather) lived with, and had a child with, was a prostitute, and she didn’t want me to know! Unless she had been arrested or admitted the fact on the census return, I would never have known. I found out because my father couldn’t wait to tell me!
My Husbands mother had a daughter who she had adopted. She was a single mother, having a daughter before she married, who was adopted by her parents, and another while she was married. At the time her marriage had broken up, and her youngest daughter had meningitis. She felt she couldn’t cope and had the child adopted. She later had another child out of wedlock, a son who I married. I found the other daughter but by this time the mother was dead. All the children were shocked that she had never known, but the eldest was surprised she had never realised. Shockingly my mother-in-law’s cousin, to who she was very close at the time still denies it all, even though the daughter has a birth certificate with her birth mothers name and address on. The house is the same one I live in today!
Don’t expect family stories to be totally true, Many of them are not, but they are usually based on some facts. They are, however, expanded on and exaggerated with time. Keep them in mind though as they may help you with your research. My grandfather always insisted there was a plaque on the wall of a cathedral with the name Simcoates on. He was correct, and it is on the wall of Lincoln Cathedral, commemorating the Lincolnshire troops who had died in the Battle of the Nile in 1898. He was a relative of ours.
An unusual first or Christian name.
A lot of unusual first or Christian names come from the maiden names of wives or mothers when children are born. There were a few children called Simcoates as a first name, the poor things, and we had another line of people called Hardy as a first or middle name. Keep them in mind as they may help when finding the right partner in marriage before registration came in.
I want to know from where I come.
The further back you go, the fewer people moved around, but they still moved. People moved due to persecution, poverty, crop failure, lack of work and many other reasons. At different times people moved countries for various reasons, and not always voluntarily. The UK has sent convicts to many places, and we have also done the same with orphans, and they weren’t all orphans!
. So with the comings and goings over the years it is not always clear.
Despite all this, if you are wondering how to research your family tree, it is possible to do it yourself, and I can help you with that. I can also help you with website reviews to help you decide which to use for free and which to pay for. There are many good sites, in all countries that are free that you can use and many groups you can join and share information. You just need pointing in the right direction.
Please leave any questions or comments here.