Dictionary definition of Genealogy.
Genealogy - The study or investigation of ancestry and family histories. An account or history of the descent of a person or family from an ancestor. The word Genealogy is derived from Middle English genealogie, from Old French, from Late Latin gene.

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A free online resource with advice and guidelines about
searching for ancestry and family histories

Glossary Genealogical Terms

Genealogy - Tracing family History
The subject of Genealogy is becoming increasingly popular. We are curious about our roots and what roles our ancestors played in their lifetimes. The process involved with Genealogy can be extremely time consuming but the information available via various Genealogy websites on the Internet has made this process much easier. 

Genealogy - On a baby names site?
The logical progression of many people when searching for baby names is to take a long look at their family, or surnames and their family ancestry. The section on Surnames and their meanings and origins helps with some basic information which is useful when studying Genealogy. The subject surrounding the search for family ancestry is vast and the advice we offer is for those starting out on genealogy research and tracing their family trees and family history.

Genealogy - Preparing for Future Generations
Genealogy is usually regarded as purely historical. But anyone who traces their family ancestry is also doing this for future generations of the family! Imagine how your great, great, grandchild might feel when they read your Personal Ancestry File. You will then be the ancestor! It is important to remember this often forgotten fact! Your Personal Ancestry File will be read with avid interest by the future members of your family.

Family Genealogy Search Guidelines

Genealogy - Where do I start?
The first question to genealogy is "Where do I start?" Research is the key to success! There are no quick answers to genealogy research and tracing family trees and family history but the following information will certainly reduce the time required. 

Essential Information required to undertake a Genealogy search
Before any Genealogy research can begin it is essential to have some key information about your ancestors. This information will give you a clear starting point. The vital information required to undertake a Genealogy search is as many of the following details as possible:

  • The correct name and spelling of your ancestor, this must include their foreign spelling
  • Name changes with dates, if possible
  • The exact place of origin of your ancestor
  • Dates - full dates of births, marriages, deaths and immigration details
  • Details of friends or relatives who still live in the 'old' country
  • Family history

Gather as much of the above information and your Genealogy research will be made so much easier. Make a note of every piece of information you obtain and ensure that this is stored in your Personal Ancestry File.

Genealogy - understand the history, origins and meanings of surnames
A couple of minutes reading through our section on Surnames will help with this task!

Genealogy - understand the category of name
Understanding the category of a surname will help with research into the genealogy. It will provide a good starting point and eliminate any unnecessary areas of research. How would the name relate to or describe your ancestor?

  • Did it relate to a place?
  • Did it describe a profession or trade?
  • Was it an 'adopted' name?
  • Was it a descriptive name - describing a physical or characteristic attribute?
  • Could it have been derived from a nickname?

Family History and Genealogy
Talk to members of the family! Research into your own family history will provide you with excellent genealogy information about events and places. And will, no doubt, provide some fascinating insights that are just not available from any other sources. Give them a copy of the Genealogy Research Checklist!

Language and Genealogy
Ensure that you are clear on which language the Surname belongs to. Family members can help with this type of confirmation.

Surname Spellings - a Genealogy minefield!
Many of our ancestors would have been illiterate! How were names recorded in the past? Many administrators spelled names incorrectly - so many official documents have resulted in different name spellings leading to a genealogy minefield! This can be illustrated by looking at a name that is known throughout the World - William Shakespeare. The name Shakespeare was spelt in an astonishing variety of ways including Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, Shaxpere, Shakstaff, Sakspere, Shagspere, Shakeshafte and even Chacsper. The name of William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, occurs 166 times in the Council Book of the Stratford corporation, and appears to take 16 different forms! Our thanks go to for this and the following information about the English Alphabet.

The English Alphabet has changed!
To add to the general confusion of surrounding the spelling of surnames, there is also the additional problem in that the English alphabet has changed over the years! This can make the task of reading old English documents extremely confusing! The Tudor alphabet contained 24/25 letters, as opposed to the present day alphabet of 26 letters, and the letters "u" and "v" were the same letter as were and "i" and "j". The "j" was usually used as the capital form of the "i". The "u" was used only in the middle of a word, and the "v" was used at the beginning. The other difference was that there was another letter which resembled a "y" which was used to represent the "th" sound. So the word "the" was written in a similar way as "ye" would in the present day. Some words were also spelt with and additional "e" at the end. And finally, numbers were frequently given in lower case Roman numerals, with the last "i" in a number written as a "j". For example, viij March. This vital, but little known, piece of information about the alphabet is essential when looking at copies of original manuscripts of the period. Yet another piece of information for the Personal Ancestry File.

Changes of Name - Voluntary Immigration - Forced and 
Many of our ancestors left their homelands for the chance of better opportunities in different countries. The USA welcomed many such people. However officials were unable to understand the many different languages and so names were often registered in a phonetic fashion by using the closest spellings that sounded similar to the original names. Such name change experiences would have happened to many of immigrants entered America through Ellis Island and the Port of New York. In just thirty years, between 1892 and 1924, 22 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island and the Port of New York. The number of immigrants in American totals more than 50 million. Many immigrants entered the country before 1892 and the first of such immigrants arrived on the Mayflower in Plymouth Massachusetts, from England, on 26th December, 1620.

Changes of Name - Forced Immigration
Many of our ancestors, however, had no choice in their lives due to the practice of buying and selling people into slavery. One of the most famous books relating to the forced slavery of an African in America was 'Roots' by Alex Haley. According to research into genealogy compiled by Alex Haley his ancestor was a man called Kunta Kinte who was an African from the Gambian town of Jufferee. A vital element in the story of Kunta Kinte is that he desperately wanted to keep his own name rather than take on the adopted name of his owner. Name changes obviously make investigations into family genealogy more difficult but this is certainly not an impossible task.

Family Genealogy Research Information

Essential References for Genealogy Research!
There are many reference books that can help - it's just knowing which ones to ask for! Check out Surname Dictionaries and Place Name dictionaries in your local library. There are also many online resources that you can access - using Surname Dictionaries and Place Name dictionaries as you search words.

Official Records for Genealogy Research
Official records will help provide detailed information in relation to genealogy - massive databases can be found via the following:

  • U.S. Federal Census Records
  • Birth, Marriage & Death Records
  • Social Security Records
  • Court Records
  • Land Records
  • Military Records
  • Naturalisation Records
  • Immigration Records
  • Passports
  • Wills
  • Tax Records

Official Terminology!
When you undertake Genealogy research you will come across some Official terms. Some of them date back many centuries! Some of the terms are therefore difficult to understand. We have therefore included a Glossary of common Genealogical terms to ease this problem. Please click the following link for Glossary of Genealogical Terms. Please print a copy of the Glossary and remember to store it in your Personal Ancestry File.

Unofficial Records for Genealogy Research
Unofficial records such as newspaper content can be invaluable when conducting Geneology Research:

  • Historical Newspapers dating back to the 1700's
  • Obituaries in newspapers
  • Passenger ships
  • Passenger Lists
  • Family Records / information
  • Family Bibles

Church Records for Genealogy Research
Church records are invaluable when tracing the origins of your immigrant ancestors. European countries did not keep National central records. Official records were kept at local levels. Church records together with cemeteries are a source of excellent information. A Genealogy search can therefore require that these records are considered:

  • Church Records
  • Cemeteries

Genealogical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known as Mormons)
A extensive source of additional genealogical information is the International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) compiled by the Genealogical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have undertaken this massive task as they believe that they can offer Temple blessings to the deceased which will bind the family together throughout generation after generation. This is an on-going project and is yet incomplete but the work of the Mormons is admirable in gathering vast amounts of data which could prove very helpful for those undertaking searches into genealogy.

Genealogy - a fascinating subject!
We hope that our guidelines will help with your interest in genealogy and assist you in searching for ancestry and family histories. We would be delighted to hear about your stories relating to this great hobby!



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