10 Ways You Can Trace Your Family Tree

Finding out where your ancestors originate from can be a truly life-changing discovery in finding out who you are. Here are ten ways you can trace your family tree.

There is much that can be discovered from delving deep into your family history, from who your ancestors were and where they came from to providing useful insights into your health and genetics.

From talking to family members and looking through old family albums to researching national archives and connecting with distant relatives, there are plenty of ways you can find out about your family history.

If you want to take a deep dive into your past, here are ten ways you can trace your family tree.

10. Talk to your relatives – a step in the right direction

The first step in tracing your family history is talking to your relatives. Stories from parents and grandparents of what they remember of their own parents and grandparents can point you in the right direction for taking on further research.

Find out if there are any useful family photographs or documents lying around your house that you can use to trace your ancestors. Further, you may even find out that your relatives have already researched your family lineage.

9. Visit your local library – a handy resource right on your doorstep

Your local library can prove incredibly useful for one of the ways you can trace your family tree.

Particularly if your family have lived in the same town or area for generations, your local library may have useful resources on the town’s history that can give you an insight into the role your ancestors may have played.

Local libraries often grant card-holders free access to useful genealogy websites that you would typically have to pay for.

8. Find out the history of your family name – names all come from somewhere

This could either prove very helpful or completely useless depending on how common your surname is. If you have a particularly unusual surname or distinctly indicates its origin in one area, it may be easier to narrow down your ancestors by looking into the history of your family name.

Surnames often provide a useful insight into what jobs your ancestors may have worked or what ancient clan you may be descended from.

If you have a family name that originates from a specific country or area, you can gain an insight into where your ancestors came from. For example, if your family have traditional Irish surnames such as O’Neill and Kelly, you will know to look at Irish Public Records.

7. Take a DNA test – a surefire way to find out your family history

A DNA test can be one of the most useful ways to discover your family history. It can give you an exciting insight into where your family may have originated from.

Through heritage sights, you can easily order a DNA test kit, send off a saliva sample in the post, and get your results back in just a few weeks. This is also a useful way to connect with others around the world who share your DNA.

6. Meet with other Family Historians – a shared interest

Whether or not you have any relation to other Family Historians, it can prove extremely useful to chat with others looking into their own family backgrounds.

Societies such as The Society of Genealogists are worldwide, and there are many people around the world who are part of these societies.

Check to see if there are any societies based around researching genealogy in your local area. Here, you can meet people who will be able to share tips and places to look that they have learned along the way, and you may even be lucky enough to find an unexpected family connection!

5. Check Poor Law records – thanks to the 1815 Poor Law

If you think your ancestors may have been poor or had a criminal record, then thanks to the 1815 Poor Law, your search could be much easier.

The law was established to help those unable to find work by making sure they were fed, clothed, and housed in workhouses. You can easily find historic workhouse records online for the U.K. and Ireland from government websites.

4. Check Public Records – find the paper trail

Public Records keep information on births, deaths, and marriages stretching back hundreds of years, so this is one of the best ways you can trace your family tree.

Some of these records or available online, while for others, you may need to take a trip to your local Public Records office.

3. Search online – just a quick search

Today we are lucky enough to have a wealth of information available at the touch of a button, saving us from hours of trawling through huge books to find the one bit of information we are searching for.

The internet makes it easier than ever before to find out any information you need. Simply enter a relevant search term such as your family name and where you live on Google or websites like or MyHeritage to find out all you need to know.

2. Check social networks – search your family name

One of the best ways you can trace your family tree is through a search on social media. Start by connecting with people who share your family name on Facebook to determine if they are related and can shed any light on your family history.

You can also make use of specialised ancestry sites like GenesReunited, FamilyRelatives, and LostCousins, which will connect you with relatives who may have already researched your family background.

1. National archives – check census records

National archives can prove very useful in finding out all you need to know about your family history. Here you can gain access to public access documents such as census records, immigration records, and military service records.

Some of these are readily accessible online, while others are only available at certain National Archive facilities.