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Getting started

Last updated: 07 August 2008

Unearthing the past, digging up your roots and nurturing your family tree can be an enjoyably addictive hobby.

Genealogy is the study and tracing of lines of descent, and the growth of technology and online resources has made the process of researching Welsh roots and family history more accessible to many people in Wales.

Researching your family tree can help to place your ancestors in a historical context and help you celebrate your Welsh heritage. In bringing your family story to life for those alive now, and for future generations, you can make it as rich an experience as you choose.

Beginning to unravel your family history may seem like a daunting task at first, but having a clear plan of how to achieve your goals could see your family tree soon bearing fruit.

Family members are key when setting out on your background research. Talk to as many relatives as possible to gain first-hand details, accounts, memories and stories that will bolster your research, especially from older generations. They can often provide details of names, dates, origins of family members if they were from outside Wales, key family events and possibly family documents that will aid your investigation.

Sketching out a rough plan of what you know before you begin more in-depth research is a good move. Keeping notes on lines of investigation and individual ancestors is also useful. Place your immediate family at the start of your family tree and work from there: it's best to start with yourself and your children/grandchildren and move backwards through your siblings, parents, grandparents and so on.

Gathering more specific biological information and concrete evidence on ancestors strengthens your family tree, and vital information can be found in births, marriages and death records. Civil registration for these events was introduced in England and Wales in 1837: it became a legal requirement for every birth, marriage or death to be officially registered and a certificate issued as proof. Prior to this date, registers of baptisms, burials and marriages that were maintained by each parish can contain information that may be of use to your investigation.


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