Top free websites for learning about ancestors’ childhoods


05 September 2016
vintage-1501537_1280a-84987.jpg Discover your ancestors' childhoods
See how much more you can learn about your ancestors' childhood years

Don’t just settle for finding an ancestor’s birth certificate and baptism record, see how much more you can learn about their childhood years. From schooling to hobbies, discipline to diseases, and even employment, there are so many things to discover, to grow your understanding of their young lives. In Family Tree October Emma Jolly guides us through some of the best free websites for uncovering your ancestors' life-shaping early experiences - get your copy here!

One of the things we frequently mention, when thinking about families in the past, is the vast number of children that families often had. As you research your ancestor back through the census records, you may well find them nestled alongside many other siblings, often over a very large age span. So rather than just concentrating on your direct ancestor, look out for details of their brothers and sisters too (your great-great etc aunties and uncles!) – these will give you a real flavour of their family life. Were they a cherished only child? Or one of a bubbly large brood? Did any of their siblings die as a baby? And was your ancestor put out to work while still a youngster? Finding answers to all these questions, and more, will really help you gain a better insight to their childhood.

Here are three helpful free websites to help you explore your ancestors’ childhoods:

Hidden Lives Revealed

In the days before modern healthcare, many parents died young themselves, leaving their children as orphans. Find a century of information about the waif and stray children who were rescued by The Children’s Society at – which spans 1881 to 1981. Explore anonymised records to get a feel for the information that may exist in the archives about your orphan ancestor.

The Army Children Archive

Britain has a long history of military might, and with this Army heritage, many children were born to soldier fathers. The lives, experiences and memories of such children are recorded on The Army Children Archive website, – if you had a father in the forces, don’t hesitate to share your memories too.

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V&A Museum of Childhood

For memorabilia and historical artefacts of children’s toys, see the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood. With a charming online collection of photographs of the goodies to search online at the website is informative, and a visit to the museum itself could well be a trip down memory lane (don’t be surprised if you see toys you are familiar with there, particularly if you’re over a certain age!).

Don't forget to grab your copy of Family Tree October for the full guide to researching your ancestors' childhoods: Buy now!