1. Are you certain that you wish to begin?
Your search is likely to take up a great deal of your spare time, some of your hard-earned cash, and possibly leave you incurably addicted. On the other hand, it is likely to lead to meeting new people, discovering new areas of the country, and result in a lifelong interest in history.
2. First steps
Begin by reading all you can about the subject. There are many books in libraries, mainly at the classification numbers 929.1 and 929.3. Search the library catalogue. Then, having read one or two books, if you are still interested you could take two further steps:-
- Join a local family history society, such as the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society, (staff in Information Services will be able to give you a membership form).
- Find a class in How to Trace Your Family, these usually begin in September (there may be leaflets available in the Reference Library).
3. Talk to your family
Still interested? The next step is to talk to your family - best done as soon as possible. The best time to do this is while your grandparents are still alive, but many people start the search late in life and find this impossible. If you are the oldest member of your family write to as many members of as many branches of your family as possible. One of them may have notes, or may have done some research. With luck you will at least end this part of your research with some names, addresses and possibly some dates, as well as reminiscences which may or may not be accurate.
The accepted method of research is to start with the known (yourself) and then to work back one step at a time. So, you would begin with your birth certificate, then trace your parents’ marriage, from that you should be able to trace their birth certificates, then you move onto your grandparents’ marriage and so on. The St Catherine’s Index can be very useful in tracing the registration of births, marriages and deaths from 1837 to date. (Please note, this is not available in this library). Other records can provide details of where people lived, their occupations and who the other members of the family were. You can download some useful guides to understanding the records available by clicking the links on the right.
Good luck with your search!