Understanding the concept
Developing your Family Tree
The Records Office
Once you have collected as much background information as possible, you are ready to start searching for birth, death and marriage certificates, parish records, and wills left by your ancestors - among other things. Most of your research will take place in archives, local libraries or specialist family history centres.
If you are not used to these places they can seem daunting, but the job of their staff is to help you, and usually there will be someone to get you started. Contact an archive before visiting, as they often require you to bring some form of identification.
Once you have registered as a user at your chosen archive or records office, read the relevant information leaflets before you start work. Your first port of call should be the enquiry desk. Summarise what information you want - be it a birth certificate, record of baptism or a will - and who the person is that interests you.
Many county records offices have compiled basic name indexes. Check these first, in case you uncover immediate references to an ancestor. Work from known facts and move backwards from the most recent piece of information. Then you can use other catalogues and reference works, to identify material that might contain information on relatives.
You can then ask to see the original documents and work through them, looking for the information you think might be there. Look for concrete proof for information you know a little about already, and avoid assuming a link between individuals just because the place or name appears to fit.