How do I start a family tree from scratch?
Would you like to start a family tree and find your ancestors but don’t have much to go in the way of names and dates? Not to worry, our guide for beginners will get you started and you’ll soon be discovering more about your family’s past and maybe even finding relatives you never knew you had.
Even if you know literally nothing about your family it’s possible to get started on tracing your family tree because the first step for anyone new to family history is always to start with yourself. All you need to begin with is your birth certificate. Don’t have that? If you’re in the UK you can visit the gov.uk website to get a copy.
How to use a birth certificate to trace your family history
Once you have the certificate you’re on your way as this will list at least one, and hopefully both, parents. You can find out more about what information is on a birth certificate here.
The birth certificate will list the names of your parents, their place of residence and your mother’s maiden name. This latter item is your clue to taking your family tree back another generation because you can use your mother’s maiden name to search for her marriage certificate.
Keep track of your findings
As you discover names and dates remember to keep track of these, as they are the first branches of your family tree. Starting with yourself, you can draw up a family tree and more details about this can be found in our guide here.
So, now you know the names of your parents you can look for their marriage certificate, either using a genealogy website or on the Gov.uk website.
Your parents’ marriage certificate will include details of the name of both the bride and the groom, their age, place of residence and also the name and occupation of the father of both the bride and groom. So now you’re already at the third generation (grandparents) of your family tree and you can keep working backwards in this way.
Continue your family history project
Explore our website for lots more free help, advice and information. Our getting started section is a good place to find the key records you’ll be using as you discover your family’s past. And don't miss Family Tree Live, our brand new genealogy show at Alexandra Palace - tickets on sale now.