Family Tree Folk Free Family History Course: Beginners Course

Starting out in genealogy by Dr Kathryn Senior

1  Genealogy and family history: what's the difference?

If you are thinking about starting your family history, you are not alone. Family history, or genealogy is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the UK as most people are interested in discovering where they came from, and who they are descended from.

The question used as the title to this class is often asked by beginners. Family history is a term that is easy to understand - most people knows it means studying your family, your ancestry, starting with your parents and working backwards. In contrast, some people think that genealogy is a kind of gynaecology!

So what is family history?

Family history is about finding out what sort of people you are descended from, not just names and dates. What sort of woman was your great grandmother? If you great great uncle died in World War I, where did he fight? Where did he die and where is his grave? What did his family do after they lost him?

Family history is about detail of real people's lives. It is fascinating because it is social history but it is personal because it is about people that are part of you. Without your ancestors, you would not be here, so they are a crucial part of your life today.

So what is genealogy?

Strictly speaking, genealogy is the study of your ancestry, concentrating on names, dates and places. It involves building a family tree that doesn't contain many personal details, it sets out how different people are related, and when and where they lived.

Genealogy is part of family history, but family history is a lot more.

Genealogy can be important for legal research, or medical research. In families in which one person is found to have a genetic disease, finding out the members of the extended family tree are can help in the study of that disease, and it can identify people at risk, who might benefit from prevention treatments.

You are probably wanting to start out on the journey to find out about your family history. It is exciting and you are probably keen to get going. But try not to rush and go too fast. Taking in some information at this stage will help a lot later on and can prevent you making mistakes that will discourage you.

In this free online family history course, you can get some of the basics, and learn how to start off logically, finding out what information you and your family already have, before you start spending money on birth certificates, or ancestry subscriptions! All of which are very useful, but make sure that you make the right choices before you rush in with the credit card. Free genealogy or free family history is not a reality, but, as with all things in life, with a bit of care the budget you have to spend on pursuing your family history can stretch a little bit further.

A small amount of preparation can save you money and, more importantly, time. With some basic genealogy knowledge, you can avoid mistakes that could lead to you to study the family tree of the 'wrong' ancestor, following a line that is not your own. It is very common...

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