What is family history? The alternative guide. Join a forum of family history society


26 October 2017
600-53106.jpg Family History: The alternative guide - join a forum or family history society
In the latest in our family history blog series, Paul Chiddicks explores how joining a family history society or online forum can have big benefits for enriching your family tree research.

In the latest in our family history blog series, Paul Chiddicks explores how joining a family history society or online forum can have big benefits for enriching your family tree research.

This is the third in my series of alternative guides to family history and today we are looking at forums and associations. So what are the benefits of joining an online forum, a family history society or even a specialist association, for example a society covering military history?

During the course of your research you are inevitably going to stumble across questions that you will not be able to answer yourself, or maybe you will need some extra help in a specialised area of your research. This is where a family history society or family tree forum can prove invaluable.

Although a lot of answers can be found online, (I hope that you're still using my Google tips from September?) No matter how good your online research skills at some point you will not find the answer to all the questions that you raise.

The benefits of joining a family history forum

There are lots of benefits to joining an online forum or society. Access to online expertise can prove to be a real asset to you in your research into your family history.  There are many resident experts on these forums or within societies, who are only too willing to help and assist you with your queries.

Whether it’s a forum or society local to where your ancestors lived, or whether you are researching military ancestors and looking for some specific expertise, you are sure to find the help you’re looking for. You can also share your own experiences, tips and ideas and help others with your own knowledge.

If you are unfamiliar with how a forum works, let me explain in a little more detail. A message board or a forum is an online discussion whereby messages are posted back and forth, as if in a conversation. The actual conversation is known as a “thread” and one can follow that thread back to the very beginning and pick up all the clues and information along the thread to reach a conclusion or an answer to a problem.

One big advantage to these online discussions is that they are archived and can be searched long after the thread has finished.

Most of these forums are full of a variety of questions and different subjects and offer a whole breadth of different experience levels, from complete novice to resident expert. There is normally a whole range of help sheets and guides on forums and frequently asked questions (FAQs), which can be browsed to give you the help that you need. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for here, don’t be afraid to ask for help, by raising a question. The family history community are a friendly bunch and we are only too willing to help and assist others.

Why join a family history society?

Joining a family history society that’s local to you can enable you to get involved with the many varied projects that local family history societies undertake, get involved and meet new friends; it can be a lot of fun.

Family history societies usually hold regular monthly meetings, normally with a guest speaker on a specialised subject. Your local society also allows you to share common research interests, such as member’s interests.

You could also consider joining projects such as monumental inscriptions, which can make you feel a part of the wider family history community.

Alternatively consider enrolling into an online subscription project, which can be done from the comfort of your own armchair. Getting involved is a lot of fun and can make you feel like you are putting “something back” into your hobby. My Wife often tells me that I spend far more time with the “dead” than `I do with the living! So put that myth to rest and go and meet some real people!

You could look for forums in specialised areas such as military history, and maybe take that one step further - is there a forum for your ancestor's regiment?

Or maybe your ancestor had an occupation that has an online trade association forum? Is there a forum specifically for a town or area that your ancestor lived?

Don’t be afraid to sign up and join in the discussion. I regularly use a wide and varied number of forums and have benefited over the years from lots of good advice and help. Many of my finest eureka moments have actually come from members of online forums who have kindly helped me solve a family history puzzle. Just recently I benefited from a kind reader of Family Tree magazine who solved a mystery about my Daniels family of Dublin.

Most of the well known research sites have their own message boards and discussion groups, these will certainly keep you up to date with everything going on in the genealogy world. The wide range of discussion topics covers an enormous amount of subjects. There is sure to be something there for everyone.

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There are a whole variety of forums and associations out there, from general genealogy ones, to specific forums dedicated to individual topics.

Don’t delay join one today, it could help you find that vital clue to knock down that brick wall.

Below are just a few suggestions of forums to join.

The Federation of Family History Societies has a full and updated list of family history societies to join, and see the links below for more ideas.


Dublin Forum

Gallipoli Association Forum

Royal Dublin Fusiliers Forum

Family Tree Forum

Italian Genealogy Forum


Great War Forum

Paul Chiddicks

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Researching the names: Chiddicks in Essex; Daniels in Dublin; Keyes in Prittlewell; Wootton in Herefordshire and London; Jack in Scotland.