Top tips for finding out about the lives of your Black British ancestors


05 October 2023
To mark Black History Month 2023, Ancestry present their five top tips for finding out about your Black British ancestors.

If you are hoping to discover if an ancestor came to the UK as part of the Windrush Generation, contributed on the battlefield or homefront during wartime, or worked in the NHS in its foundational years, these tips from Ancestry can help you navigate your journey to discovery:

1 Speak to Family: Ask questions about your ancestors, how and when they may have migrated, names, dates and locations. These clues can help you begin your research journey. 

2 Browse your family collections: Most families will have photographs, letters, diaries or memorabilia stored away. These records can offer helpful contextual information, especially if they include dates or addresses or names. 

3 DNA: For some people, like those in the Black British community, there may not be a wealth of written records available for their ancestors. DNA testing is a great way to make connections with family members that may hold information on your ancestors that you didn't know existed. 

4 Consider name variations when searching for your ancestors: You may notice that your ancestor's name is spelt differently across various records. Try using wildcards when searching. Wild cards can help you to factor in spelling variations when searching. Don’t forget to consider nicknames too!

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5 A part of the Ancestry brand, can be a valuable source of cultural and contextual information. Some newspapers had sections that featured news from the Black British community in that area. 


Further resources

Ancestry hosts a number of collections that can be beneficial to those in the Black British community embarking on their family history journey.

A great starting point can be the UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960, which documents passengers who arrived in the UK and Ireland from foreign ports. Passenger lists can offer a wealth of details including a person's age, occupation, boarding port and occasionally the address of where they settled in the UK. These are all helpful clues when identifying ancestors and their next steps once they arrived.

Other useful collections include; England and Wales Civil Registration Marriage Index, England and Wales Civil Registration Death Indexes or the UK & Ireland, Nursing Registers, 1898-1968

Find out more about tracing your ancestors at Ancestry.

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