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Online Search Techniques

The internet can be a useful source of records and information connected with family history research. There are a number of useful sites available and knowing which to use and how to use them effectively can be confusing.

Which sites to use can depend on a number of factors, a brief overview of the popular sites are shown below. They are not comprehensive site descriptions as space is limited but a visit to the sites mentioned will reveal more information.

Trying to find specific records can sometimes seem impossible but by using the screenshot examples in this section knowing how to search for a birth record or locating a missing family in the census is explained. The examples given are based on actual searches and demonstrate how researchers found the results they needed to continue with their trees. A screenshot guide to search options for the Familysearch, A2A and The National Archives websites are also included.

Site Reviews

  • Ancestry Free access to England and Wales birth, marriage and death index from 1837-2004 Pay per view (PPV) and subscription packages allow access to all records including census, a partial parish and probate index and much more. Too much to list in the space available.

  • Free BMD Free site covering England and Wales birth, marriage and death records. Although incomplete it is useful for records from 1837 to around 1915, more results are added on a regular basis. Also gives reference numbers to use for ordering certificates and scans of the index allow you to verify the entry. Marriage results also list the spouse which is a useful feature other sites lack.

  • Find My Past (Previously Called 1837 Online) A pay per view site, (PPV) Comprehensive birth, marriage and death index, plus census details are available along with migration and military sections, death duty registers etc. Again there is too much to list in the space available.

  • Family Search (LDS) A completely free site operated by the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS). The 1881 census and both pre and post civil registration results can be found. The database is far from complete however and submitted entries must be treated with suspicion until verified against the original records. Extracted records are more reliable but again should be verified as correct.

  • A2A A free site with a searchable database, describing many of the archives and documents held throughout England and Wales and listing where they can be found. Updated frequently the site currently lists over 10 million records. It is not possible to view any documents on the site.

  • The National Archives Similar to A2A but a more comprehensive collection, the site lists the archives held, in addition some documents such as pre 1858 wills and many medal cards can be downloaded from the site for a modest charge. The site is fully searchable and has online research guides into specific subjects.

  • ScotlandsPeople Pay per view site.(PPV) Purchase credits to view results. The most comprehensive site for online Scottish records including birth, marriage and death records, census returns for 1841 to 1901 and parish records and probate records. The site also allows you to download certificates and census images for just £1 each.

  • UKBMD Project Free sites for many English counties, searchable birth, marriage and death database. The sites are a volunteer project and updated regularly, well worth a visit to see how well your county interests are covered.

  • Family History Online On-line records compiled by Family History Societies - over 66 million records including parish registers, memorial inscriptions, censuses, poor law documents and others. PPV but very reasonably priced - most records cost a few pence to view. Includes the entire National Burial Index (NBI).

General Hints & Tips For Online Searching

Family History Detectives - Step by Step Guides

Searching for Hatches, Matches And Dispatches

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