How to start tracing your Victorian ancestors

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09 December 2016
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Nature-and-Art-British-Library-Flickr-collection-40418.png The Victorians loved outdoor activities such as ice skating - discover more about their lives in the Christmas issue
A beginner's guide to help you trace your ancestors during the reign of Queen Victoria

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a beautiful sepia photo or two showing ancestors from Victorian times. Maybe you even know their name. But if you’d like to find out about the lives they led and the world they inhabited it’s time to start researching the family history of your Victorian folk.

The Victorian era can seem an age away, and it’s true Queen Victoria did come to the throne almost 180 years ago (in 1837, when she was just 18). Yet the lives of our Victorian family members aren’t so very distant. Perhaps you can personally remember some of your family who had been born during her reign?

And if we’re fortunate our Victorian ancestors can seem remarkably close to us, from personal memories we may hold about them, anecdotes cherished and passed down through the generations, and, of course, from those old, brown, family photos.  

So, how do you get beyond the photo, to unpack the story of their lives?

The Victorian era (1837-1901) is remarkably rich in paper record collections - the most valuable of which (for family history researchers) have been digitised and made available online. These are the topmost useful, to kickstart your family history searching during the 1800s, with links to our free online how-to guides:

Birth records

Marriage records

Death records

Census records

Parish registers

Passenger lists

Old newspapers 

To go beyond the basics and really get a feel for the lives of your Victorian ancestors, check out the Christmas 2016 issue of Family Tree – it’s a Victorian Special edition brimming with beautiful period illustrations, key records and free online leads for all fans of family history and the Victorian era.

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