Getting Started

Setting Out

Uncovering your family’s past is simple when you follow Orla Thomas's, from BBC's Who Do You Think You Are series, step-by-step guide. Orla's excellent insight offers vital research tips and helps you avoid the potential pitfalls.

Set out with what you already know

Whether you are well-versed in your family folklore or not, it is important to start by setting down all the information you already have. Sketching out a rough family tree is a good way to begin - or you could start building one online. A number of commercial sites let you build your family tree online for free, including, and Start with yourself and your immediate family then work backwards methodically. Each time you go back a generation, your number of direct ancestors will double. Keep adding names and any other biographical details you’ve mustered until you run out of information. These “gaps” will alert you to where your research should begin.


When sketching out your tree, common terms can be abbreviated to save on space and keep things clear:

  • Born = b
  • Baptised = bapt
  • Marriage = m
  • An “=” between two names denotes that those people were married
  • A [1] or [2] above the “=” indicates a first or second marriage
  • Died = d
  • Buried = bur

Dates about which you are unsure should be prefixed with c (for circa).

Next Page - Talking To Family


Getting Started


The Next Steps


Genealogy Site Reviews


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