British Genealogy Network Logo

Genealogy and Family History are interesting and rewarding pastimes. In the past researching usually involved a lot of travel to visit remotely sited churches and various record offices. Now, more and more information is finding its way online. This opens up the hobby to a far wider audience and can greatly reduce the costs incurred.

How and where do I start? What do I do first?

These are the usual questions and there are many web sites with comprehensive guides online to steer you in the right direction - see the links below.

In the UK the main resources for genealogists are:

  • Civil Registration births, marriages and deaths.
  • Census returns
  • Parish Registers

Once you have found the basic details then there are many more resources to help you.

The web sites that you can find online can basically be divided into two categories:

  1. Private and voluntary.
  2. Commercial.

Private and Voluntary web sites

These are, as their name suggests, web sites that are run by volunteers, e.g. from family history societies, and other private individuals.

GENUKI is an excellent starting point for learning about genealogy and family history in the UK and Northern Ireland. It is a mine of information and its Getting Started guide is one of the best around.
UKBMD logo
UKBMD provides links to a large number of web sites that have online data for births, marriages and deaths, covering civil registration and parish register periods. Both the original registrars' indexes and the GRO's secondary indexes are accessible via UKBMD links. The article by Tony Foster explains the benefits of looking through the primary indexes first. Many sites with Census and other related data are also available here.
UKGDL logo
UKGDL complements UKBMD by aiming to fill in the gaps in your family history by providing links to many web sites that have online data relating to the lists and directories the help you learn what your ancestors did and where they lived.
UKMFH logo
UKMFH aims to help with any military family history connections by providing links to many web sites that have online information relating to the vast topic of military family history.
Family Search logo
FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. For over 100 years, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide. Patrons may freely access our resources and service online at, or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the renowned Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
FreeBMD logo
FreeBMD is a project to place online the secondary indexes to the civil registration births, marriages and deaths, based on the indexes held by the General Register Office. This project has national coverage but is still work in progress. If you cannot find a birth, marriage or death in the primary indexes then visit this site.

Commercial web sites

A huge number of online databases and lists are made available on a commercial basis. When you consider the costs that you might incur in travelling to remote records offices and other such repositories, these commercial web sites offer great value for money. Their charges vary from Pay-Per-View options to full annual subscriptions. In many cases they will have the same sets of data online, e.g. the census for 1841, but if you can afford it, we recommend you subscribe to more than one as this will allow you to compare transcriptions -- none of these can claim to be perfect !

Comparing which commerical company to subscribe to can be difficult. Our comparison of subscriptions websites page may help you make this decision.

Ancestry UK
Ancestry have a wealth of information online, with hundreds of databases covering births, marriages and deaths from both the period for civil registration and parish registers before that. They also have most of the major censuses documents from both World Wars and other military data, and myriad other lists. Their World-Wide subscription gives access to records from all around the world.
Find My Past were one of the first commercial sites to list the GRO birth, marriage and deaths indexes but now have expanded to include the censuses, including the latest 1911 census. They also have military and migration records. With millions of family history records online, Find My Past makes it easy to research your UK ancestry and create your family tree. Search census records and trace births, marriages and deaths to bring your family history to life.
Genes Reunited
Genes Reunited are a spin-off from Friends-Reunited and offer civil registration birth, marriage and death indexes, and several of the censuses. You can also make contact with others researching the same names. are specialists in modern-day records, such as Electoral Rolls, but they also have civil registration indexes for births, marriages and deaths, along with various censuses.
The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online
The Genealogist offer GRO birth, marriage and death indexes, census transcripts, parish records and a variety of other directories and lists etc.
Forces War Records where you can find military records of over 10+ million British Armed Forces personnel exclusively cross matched with over 4000 Regiments,


Give it a try! Enter a name into the box below and then see what can be found.

Search the major commercial genealogy companies' websites:
Ancestry's Ancestor Search:
Enter as much information as you know about your ancestor and click search:
First Name:
Last Name:
Find My Past: