How The Internet Can Help
The Internet can make researching your family history a less arduous task than if you had to visit each information source. However, although there have been some recent improvements, very few records held by the various government bodies have been computerised - not surprising I suppose given the size of the task. So the Internet should be seen as an invaluable means of finding the source of information, rather than the information itself - unless you wish to pay for it, see the software page. Usually there is a web site that will give you guidance as to how to access the data once in the building, opening times etc. You will then have to physically visit the building - one recent improvement: UK residents can now order copies of certificates from The Family Research Centre (non-UK residents can join in the fun shortly).
Your Family History Research
There are a few genealogical internet search engines -GenealogySearch.com; SurnameFinder.com; GenealogyPortal.com; but these are primarily american databases and I have not found them to be of use when researching a UK family history.
Of course you can use an internet search engine (SE) like google to search for a name. The results will surprise you: thousands of pages! There are various ways to tell a search engine to narrow the search. Whilst researching my own family history I tried searching for my wife's father whose surname is Bivens; the result 52,600 pages. I then added his first name: Arthur Bivens. Google then looked for both names, but not together; result 6,190 pages. By adding "" (speech marks) I instructed google to search for the two words as one search term; the result: a more manageable 23. Other useful symbols you can use to narrow searches are:
+ (the plus sign): use with two or more words to instruct the SE find pages with all the words, but not necessarily as one search term (as with the "").
- (the minus sign): use when you have a surname that has other meanings, for example the name Green is also a colour, the SE will find pages with the name Green but also the colour. Try green -color (remember the internet speaks american!). This will instruct the SE to ignore pages that refer to the colour green.
* (asterisk): use as a 'wild card'. For example Sm*th will produce pages with Smith and Smyth - and any other letter that will substitute for the asterisk.
To return to the 'Family History: Next Steps' page, click here.