Getting Started

The first thing to do is to talk to your relatives. We have designed some Questions for children to ask their Grandparents that can be printed and carried around. Adults could use these questions as a basis when talking to other relatives.

When you have got as many answers as possible, you can start to put details on your Family Tree.

Here is an example of a Family Tree which can be printed and completed by hand.

There are a number of computer programs available where you can insert the details and the program will assemble various tree styles for you. Dorset FHS has copies of one such program – Family Tree Maker – for sale from the Sales Area.

Compiling your own History – Quick tips

  • Make sure you keep precise records of where you found your information.
  • Do not swallow everything you read or hear – questioning accepted ‘facts’ may lead you to a new dimension of understanding.
  • Be open to disputes and tragedies, not just successes – all history is not rosy!
  • Do not try to cover everything, keep your scope small so that you can complete it.
  • You will need determination and persistence, research will take time and effort, and there will be obstacles to overcome.

You should always try and confirm the information you collect by obtaining documentation such as Birth, Marriage and Death certificates. Also, Census records can help to confirm where your relatives were living at that time. A Census has been taken every 10 years since 1801, although only those from 1841 contain any useful information such as names and addresses, and the latest available to view is for the year 1911.

See our Parish Registers page for further information on how these records can help.

The 1939 Register was compiled at the outbreak of WW2 and used to issue identity cards and ration books. It was updated with subsequent marriages and deaths and also used as the basis of patient details on the formation of the NHS. This is available to view at Treetops Research Centre, although the records for living persons are redacted.

Joining a local Family History Society can give you access to research facilities, as well as the opportunity to meet others with similar interests and talk through ways to get round your obstacles. To join the Dorset Family History Society, see our Membership page.