Frequently Asked Questions2019-03-09T00:35:58+00:00
What is a GEDCOM file?2019-03-08T18:48:06+00:00

GEDCOM stand for GEnealogical Data COMmunication and the file is created within a family tree programme to allow it to be transferred to another family tree programme – either online (such as Ancestry Trees etc. ) or on your own computer.

The programme dates back to the 1990’s and was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This is a text based file therefore no images are contained within it.

When were births first recorded?2019-03-08T18:47:26+00:00

In England and Wales, births, marriages and deaths were first recorded by the Government in July 1837. These are known as civil records and produce the certificates we are familiar with.  Prior to that baptism, marriages and burials were recorded by individual churches.  Scottish and Irish civil records started much later.

Click here to read more about 
Civil Registration and how you can search the GRO Index. 

When were census return taken?2019-03-08T18:46:50+00:00

The census returns for England and Wales have been taken every 10 years from 1801. Only the returns from 1841 inwards (with a few exceptions) have information to help a genealogist. These were taken on the following dates:

6th June 1841
30th March 1851
7th April 1861
2nd April 1871
3rd April 1881
5th April 1891
31st March 1901
2nd April 1911 – this is the last census return currently available
19th June 1921 – this will be available in 2022 via the Find My Past website
26th April 1931 – Destroyed by fire in WWII
29th Sept 1939 – Register for issuing of ID cards – except service personnel. This is now available on several subscription websites.
1941 – No census due to WWII

Click here to read more about census returns and what you may find on the 1911 returns

How did my ancester vote?2019-12-10T14:23:05+00:00

Not everyone could vote.

Read my blog here to learn more:


How do I access closed Records?2019-12-10T14:52:24+00:00

As strange as it may seem tracing recent generations can be harder than tracing older ones.   One of the main reasons for this is Data Protection here in the UK and within the EU.  Apart from a few exceptions (namely GRO indexes, public electoral registers and telephone books) many records are closed to the public for 100 years.

In general one of three things can be done. For full details read my blog here:


Can newspapers help my research?2019-12-10T14:56:57+00:00

Newspapers can be very useful, as anyone could appear in them. Just remember that not all historical newspapers are online. Check the lcoal archives to see if they have other copies.

This blog may help you:

Why are married names on the 1939 Register when they married after that date?2019-03-08T18:44:27+00:00

Unlike the census returns, this was a working document. After WW11 ended this register was used to set up the new National Health System in 1948 and continued to be updated until 1991. Amendments, such as the change of surnames for women who married, can be seen written near their entry, often with a date of notification scribbled in the first column.

Click here to read more about the 1939 Register.

Did my ancestor leave a Will?2019-12-10T15:04:04+00:00

Most of us know that Wills have been written for many hundreds of years, but originally only those in privileged society, who had sufficient wealth and possessions to pass on, could afford to have one created. Our less wealthy ancestors, however, may also have written a Will.

Wills after 1858 can be purchased for £1.50  via the Probate Service. Some earlier Wills have now been indexed on subscription websites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast.

Read more here:


How will your findings be put together?2019-03-08T18:39:20+00:00

You have a couple of options.

For PAYG research you will receive an easy to read report that is fully referenced, as soon as the agreed period of time has been completed. If you then decide you want further research based on that report, you will receive another report looking at the new research points.

For portfolio work, all of the work is compiled into a smart hard-backed binder, (you can even chose the colour from my supplier’s website). The portfolio will consist of:

A family tree,
A family group sheet for each generation (showing the birth, marriages and deaths of the head of the family, their parents, spouses and children).
A timeline for each head of the generation.
Copies or transcriptions of the documents found.
An appendix showing the document references for each family member.

For more information I can supply a set of sample pages.

Click here to read how a professional report should be written

Will I receive regular updates?2019-03-08T18:27:19+00:00

Generally yes, however I do not pass on any details until the full cost has been paid.

In the case of the PAYG research, payment is required in full before I start the research, and you will be kept informed with regular updates. Usually a full report is given within a few days of the research starting. For those choosing a research portfolio of one or more generations, a deposit is required before research commences and the portfolio will be dispatched after the full payment has been made.

Click here to read more about what you can expect.

How long will it take to complete?2019-03-08T18:23:55+00:00

How long is a piece of string? Some research may only take a couple of days. Longer projects could take a couple of months. If you need the research in time for a special event – Christmas, birthday or anniversary presents etc. please try to give me plenty of notice.

If time is not on our side, I recommend you purchase a gift certificate, which can be redeemed at any time. It also means that the recipient can be involved in the initial stages of the research.

Click here to see what your research options are.

Do you ever get stuck and cannot go any further?2019-03-08T18:19:22+00:00

Few families have a true brick wall they cannot get past. My job is to try to do that but sometimes the records are just not there to solve the problem. In one case a couple of years ago I needed to wait for almost a year for the 1939 Register to be made public to be able to continue with the research.

All of my research is fully referenced so you know exactly where I have found the information, and crucially where I have looked, but could not find anything. Sometimes research needs ‘on site’ researching an archive office in part of the country I cannot easily access. In these cases I will try to recommend another researcher who can do the work for you.

I will never guarantee I can find any information, but I will use my experience and training to research your family tree.

Click here to read my Terms and Conditions to learn more.

Can you research my complete family tree?2019-03-08T18:15:23+00:00

There is no such thing as a “complete family tree”.

As new records become available, especially online, more details can be found. As an example my own family tree has been growing for over 30 years. New branches have been added, new stories found in newspaper archives, and ‘missing’ people have been located in other countries when there was no indication they had migrated.

You may decide to stop the research but it will never be finished.

How much does it cost to research my family history?2019-03-08T18:12:24+00:00

There are different prices depending on your needs, and this will be discussed with you when you first ask for help. All of the prices are fully inclusive and any added extras such as the purchase of certificates will be approved by you first, and only obtained if the research needs them to continue.

The number of hours you pay for depends on what you want me to research – just one record to be found in an archive office, research concerning one person or all four family lines of your grandparents. For these situations I have a ‘pay as you go system’ so you can decide how much you want to pay.

Click here to read about what the cost of research to learn more about how the prices are set and why they may appear higher than you expect.

If I have already started my family tree and have got to a sticking point can I hand it over to you to try and solve the problem?2019-03-08T18:51:48+00:00

Definitely! I will double check your information though just to make sure you are on the right track. Everyone likes to think they will never make a mistake, but it is so easy in family history research. Once the basics have been confirmed I start where you have finished.

Another way is just to give me the details of the last generation or two you have managed to research, however in these cases I cannot be held responsible if the prior information is incorrect.

What information would you need from me to get started?2019-03-08T18:52:37+00:00

Whatever information you already have is always useful, but don’t worry if you don’t have much at all. If you give me as much as you can I can then confirm the information (sometimes dates are remembered incorrectly), and it means I do not waste time and your money looking for information you already have.

The least I need is the details (names, dates & place of birth, marriage dates and deaths if appropriate) of your parents and grandparents if possible.

Click here to read about what you should know before requesting research.

What are your Terms and Conditions?2019-12-10T14:46:12+00:00

You can read my T & C’s here:

How can I become a Professional Genealogist?2019-12-10T14:40:09+00:00

Genealogy is not an easy business to run, and for many it is a side-line as few can make a living out of it on its own. You would need much more than a couple of years’ experience doing your own family tree research. I have 30 years. You really need to do some free work for friends before you get started. I did family tree research as gifts for the birthdays and weddings of family and friends first.

You also need to be able to specialise in an area that other genealogists rarely cover. Play to your strengths. Are you good at reading old handwriting or translating Latin texts? Do you have access to less commonly used resources? Due to certain TV programs many people do think they can do it themselves without leaving the house. You cannot run a professional business using only online records even though many people think that is all you need.

I would also recommend you do some formal training so you can learn about the background to the records (which is very important) as well as learning about less used resources and research in different countries, palaeography (reading old handwriting), Heraldry, DNA and Latin – all of which can be very useful as you never know where the research will take you. In addition you need to understand the report writing formats, citing sources and recording positive and negative searches etc., and copyright issues.

Three organisations do post graduate level courses:

Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies –
University of Dundee, Centre for Archive and Information Studies –
University of Strathclyde –

All of these courses are done online. Passing these at Diploma level will allow you to be a member of the Register of Qualified Genealogists:

Further Reading

If this has not put you off, I recommend you read other blogs I have written.

Do professional researchers update their skills?2019-12-10T14:28:50+00:00

One thing that is common across most professions and occupations is the need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. Lawyers need to know about new legislations, medics about new treatments and mechanics about new technology etc., but what about genealogists? Do we need to update our own skills and knowledge?  After all the past never changes – does it?  Of course we do.

Read more here:


How do you write a research report?2019-12-10T14:33:49+00:00

All professional researchers write some kind of report for clients. Unless you work for an organisation the format is up to you. Read my tips here:

What is the difference between private and professional research?2019-12-10T14:44:02+00:00

Perhaps one of the hardest concepts I have had to explain to amateur researchers is the difference between private and professional research.  With many records now being available online and indexed for us, some clients do not fully appreciate how long trawling through non indexed records can actually take.   Added to that, professional researchers have a set timescale and a duty to try to prove relationships rather than rely on assumptions and best guesses.   For these reasons this blog will look at three areas that I have commonly found that clients may not fully appreciate – research time, report writing and the records available.

Read more here:

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