Let me say straight away that tracing your family ancestry is a great hobby but very addictive, so unless you want to get well and truly hooked, don't start.
When I travel around the country to Family History Fairs, I am amazed at the number of people who say quite cheerfully, "family history is so easy, I did mine in half an hour on the internet." If they are happy with that, then good luck to them, but for me, if I cannot prove it, it doesn't count.
Family history is not about just collecting a pile of names and then trying to fit them all together like a genealogical jigsaw puzzle. You must start with what you know to be true and that is your birth certificate. On that will be the names of your parents, so, if you do not already have access to it, it shouldn't be hard to obtain their marriage certificate. From there until 1837, you can travel back fairly safely with hatched, matched and dispatched certificates from the Family Records Centre in London. Pre 1837, you have to be able to access parish registers, and this is where the going can get tough. If you are unsure of the area your forbears are from, census returns can be very helpful.
In case you are planning to have a go at compiling your family tree, be aware that you could be in for a few surprises (shocks). Just because granny always seemed prim and proper to you, doesn't make it so.
Pam Drake, Parish Chest.
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