Family History Federation

How To…

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Some useful How To... guides for beginners

Beginning my own Family History?? What useful records can I find and where??

Before embarking on researching your family history, the best advice is to speak to older relatives to find out what they can tell you and to gather old photographs or copies of documents which contain details of your family. However, it is always best to check what you have been told by consulting records to verify facts, as recollections can fade over time.

There are many types of records available, but those new to family history should usually start with the following:

Birth, Marriage, and Death (BMD) records

Parish Registers

Census records

1939 Register

First, some history about these records…

Birth, Marriage, and Death records

The General Register Office (GRO) was created in 1837 and the civil registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths (BMD) began in England and Wales on 1st July 1837. Initially England and Wales were divided into 619 registration districts, although the number of districts and the boundaries have changed many times since then. Unfortunately, the registration of birth and deaths was not universal until the law was tightened in 1874. Records of BMD are held by local registration districts with copies sent to the GRO. From 1837, a quarterly index of BMDs for all of England and Wales was compiled by the GRO and these indexes are now available online on many websites, some of them are commercial sites which require a subscription.

Parish Registers

In 1538, King Henry VIII formed the Church of England following a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church over the annulment of his first marriage. Soon afterwards, a law was passed which required each parish priest to record each baptism, marriage, and burial in a register. These parish registers continue to the present day though, sadly, not all the early registers have survived. From 1598, each parish was required to send a copy of their register to the bishop of their diocese each year. This is useful as sometimes these Bishops Transcripts, as they are known, have survived where the original register has not. Bishops Transcripts are usually available until around the mid-19th century.

Census records

The first census for England and Wales was compiled in 1801 and has been taken every 10 years since, except for 1941 during WW2. However, it was not until 1841 that the first UK census of individuals exists nationally in reasonable numbers and condition. There are earlier records for some parishes but these are very few and far between. The 1841 census was a simple list of names in each household, their ages, occupations and whether they were born in the same county. Ages of those people over 15 were usually rounded down to the nearest 5. The type of information collected varies from one census to another, with the most recent seeking more detailed information. Census records are only released after a 100-year privacy period so the 1921 census is the most recent census available. The 1931 census records were destroyed in WW2 so the next census to be released will be the 1951 census, expected to be released in 2052.

1939 Register

Shortly before WW2 in the summer of 1939, a Register (not a census) was taken, of everyone living at that time. It was required to use that information to prepare for war. How many doctors, nurses, farmers, engineers, or bricklayers were there? How many people needed to be fed? How many young fit men and women could be called upon? The information was used for issuing identity cards and ration books and later formed the basis of the original National Health Service records.     


Let us look at the first website which will help you start your family history journey.


FreeBMD Website

This free site has been created by a group of enthusiasts who have been helped by a large number of volunteers who have so far indexed over 292 million records from the GRO indexes. The indexes up to 1989 are now virtually complete.


To use this free, easy to search website, go to:

Start from the Home Page by selecting and reading the Information page:


then find the useful 26-page illustrated online guideDiscover your Family History” produced by the GRO.


To start searching, go back to the FreeBMD homepage and click the Search button.

The best place to start is with what you know. Start by finding your own birth entry. You will know what answers to expect in most cases. Then, in turn, find the births of any siblings you may have, the marriage of your parents, and then and then each parent’s birth.


DO NOT try to fill in all the boxes.

Once you have entered your family names, press Find to search. For common names, there may be a number of possible entries, so you will need to look carefully to select the correct one. When you have found the correct entry, be careful to write down all the details.

Bear in mind that in the indexes, each year is split into four quarters, e.g., the March quarter will include all events registered during January, February, and March. You also need to be aware, that parents had six weeks to register a birth so, for example, a birth on 22nd February could be found in the June quarter, rather than the March quarter.

Likewise, the registration of a death usually took place a couple of days after the death occurred. Therefore, for a death on 30th March, it could appear in the June quarter rather than in the June quarter.

For marriages, they will always appear in the correct quarter.

With luck and careful searching you can find your ancestors back to 1837 when civil registration began.

You will need to check details and get further information by buying certificates, as paper copies posted to you, PDFs emailed to you or from summer 2023, online jpeg images! A much quicker and cheaper idea.

Better still just ask your own older family members if they have the originals.

The data found here is what is required to apply for a certificate to GRO, General Register Office, You will need to register Credit Card details the first time you use that site.

Some notes on

The website covers England and Wales searches only

(For Scotland records, see

(For Ireland records Irish Genealogy)

The Information found here are Indexes.

You will NOT find precise dates/places for events. That is on the certificates.

FreeBMD only contains entries between 1837 and 1997.  More recent records are often available on subscription sites, but not freely available here.

The FreeBMD website is run by volunteers who transcribe the GRO indexes onto this site.

Places are shown only as the Registration District where the Registrar recorded the event. For example, Barnstaple Register Office covers events from Saunton, Ilfracombe and Lynmouth across to the Somerset border and down to Chulmleigh which is halfway to Exeter.

Example FreeBMD search


Good detectives keep back a clue or two. In films they often say to a suspect –

“Aha – Stabbed you say? We never released that fact to the press! You must have killed him!”

Be a good Family History detective!         

Keep back some information that only you would know.

The screen layout varies slightly for each device, PC, Tablet, or phone. Use as large a screen as possible.

Start by finding your own birth.

I know my birthday/place.

Learning to search, you too can start with what you expect to find. Find that and you are on the way to searching success.

I ticked Birth as a type of search and put my full name in.

Capitals or lower case?        Doesn’t matter.

Then press the Red Find box.


Oh No! It didn’t find me!    I don’t exist, I wasn’t born!      “Don’t panic!!

Did I search the way they wanted me to?    Read the RED warning box carefully.

You are ‘learning to search’ – this involves learning the procedures and quirks for each site that you use.

..more than one first name?

Just enter one forename and perhaps an Initial?

Or save that initial as an extra detective clue for me?



I can always press ‘Revise Query’ and add more.

There can’t be many children born with the surname blackaby?



Press Count


The answer is here by the arrow.

862 is too many ‘Blackabys’ for me to look at?

I’ll press REVISE QUERY, type in Peter and press Count.


That’s better! Just a few to read.  Press Find.

But before I do press it…

 ……More detective work.


I know Mum’s Dad was grandad Jones and he lived in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and I think I know which quarter of what year I was born in.

Press Find.

No one was born as Peter Blackaby between 1837 and 1921, after that most of them were Peter D.

Born near Warwick register Office.

Mum was Miss Jones.

Dec1944, that’s me! 

Born in November in the quarter that ends in December.

If I press the blue Warwick, it tells me the towns/villages served by Warwick Register Office.

I know Mum’s Dad was grandad Jones and he lived in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire and I think I know which quarter of what year I was born in.

Press Find.

No one was born as Peter Blackaby between 1837 and 1921, after that most of them were Peter D.

Born near Warwick register Office.

Mum was Miss Jones.

Dec1944, that’s me! 

Born in November in the quarter that ends in December.

If I press the blue Warwick, it tells me the towns/villages served by Warwick Register Office.

Pressing Warwick doesn’t work for you, here on this page that you are reading.

You can make the same entries as I did on FreeBMD, on your own device and see if Leamington is served by Warwick register office.

You can also look up what the spectacles icon and red Info box do on the INFORMATION page.

Now I can find Mum and Dad’s marriage information.

Press NEW Search

Tick Marriages and type in their two surnames.

I sometimes find that I put the family name/surname on the line for the forename/first name. You didn’t do that did you?

Press FIND and let’s find their marriage.

I know both my Grandad and Dad were called Henry Thomas; their family lived in Morden in Surrey. From my birth record, I know Mum was a Miss Jones.


Lots of Blackaby family marriages near Warwick.

Dec 1943 would seem to be correct.

Pressing the 648 would show who else got married on page 648 in Surrey in that quarter, giving me a forename for the bride, Miss Jones too.


Note- Names on page 648 are not shown as couples, or bride and groom together,

simply as an alphabetical list by surname.

Now let’s look for any siblings I may have from a Blackaby/Jones marriage after 1943?

I’ll press REVISE QUERY, delete Marriages and my forename, ———–>tick BIRTHS.

I should know what names to expect,

But I’ll see how FreeBMD writes their names.


lang=EN-US>They’ll be in the correct date order too.

One Grandad was called Harold,

but was registered as Wilfred Harold.

This can be confusing for a new family historian.

Good result!  

All the names I expected are confirmed, with a reminder of which quarter of which year we were born in.

Note- Mother’s maiden name is only given after 1911 on this site.

Maiden names earlier? Go to and sign in for more free records, not quite so easily searched.     

This will be a search of the G.R.O. General Records Office website.

A later ‘How To’ talks about searches on that site.

You will need to spend a few minutes logging in and opening a GRO account. This involves entering your bank card details but these would only be used if you buy a certificate to confirm the exact names, dates, and places of the data you found in the index. Having entered your details once, next time you can just press Sign in and start searching.

I’ve demonstrated how to find reasonably precise Birth and Marriage records, Births to a couple using the brides Maiden name, Places and Dates.   All using the FreeBMD website.

Let’s see if there were any Deaths after my parents’ marriage.


Select Deaths instead of Births.

Delete Jones

Leave Mar 1943 as it is.   

Count button tells me there are over 200 results,

but I know my family were in Morden in Surrey and Leamington in Warwickshire.


lang=EN-US>That might help.

Press FIND

Freebmd reminds me of my search criteria>

An opportunity to check for errors.


My sister, Jennifer died (last but one entry) aged 1 in Warwick Hospital in the first three months of 1951.

Unfortunately, my father was in London at his father’s funeral at the time she died,

Grandad, Henry T Blackaby died aged just 51.

Both entries are on the same page.

Not all your research will find cheerful results, and no-one can change what has happened.

NB. Age at death is only available after 1866 on FreeBMD.

Before 1866 you will need to search free on  or a pay site.

There is an excellent video on YouTube all about using FreeBMD.

I recommend that you watch that too.    


Now it is your turn!

Now YOU try that.

Follow those steps on

Put your family names instead of mine.

1          Start with yourself, find your birth record as shown in the index.

2          Find your parent’s marriage record.

3          Then their children’s births.

4          Dad’s birth record

5          Mum’s birth record.

Decide which line to follow first. Dad’s surname line or Mum’s surname line.



lang=EN-US>Record each person’s data carefully       In a format like this?


lang=EN-US>You could save a family tree template from the DFHS website or download the free My Family Tree pdf there.

An alternative is to use Index cards or look for an Index card app for your computer.

I used Cardflow app on my iPad.

Do use Maiden names for married ladies.

You might use a different coloured file or folder for each surname?

Do record the data carefully.

What happened?



Who was there?      Same date format for each person.

Record siblings on the back of the page or the DFHS free booklet My Family Tree is a helpful pdf for starters to record their family.

A later ‘How To’ deals with recording details of whole families

Talking of families, have any of your relatives done a recent family tree? Might be worth asking? Even so, every day more and more information is published online so it may still be worthwhile updating your information.


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There is always the HELP button on the Search page. So useful!

Spelling Surnames correctly. New family historians often start convinced that the name spellings used by their parents and on their certificates are totally accurate and cannot be either wrong or changed.

Sorry but this is not correct.

Names have been misheard or copied incorrectly since names and surnames began. 

Until the mid-1800’s most people did not read or write.

They passed on what they thought they heard.

If your country relatives moved to a city for work in the Industrial Revolution, then it is likely that their names were not written down officially (outside church records) until they told an official what their name was, for work, housing, or a loan etc. Dialects and accents may have affected how names were written.

The spelling written down then may well have followed your family only since then.

Be open-minded.

My name is simple – BLACK with ABY on the end. I have counted 31 different spellings of my name. My 2x Great grandfather died as a widower in hospital. No one there to correct the spelling. I found his name recorded as Blakely. Seems unlikely? No one used to type in those days, records were done in pen or pencil by hand. Records were copied out into other books; copies were copied again. Try for yourself – write my surname in loopy script and it soon becomes clear that a, c & e could all be misread. A loopy b can be seen as l and e.

Try that with your name. What might you expect to find? Be open-minded.   

Wildcard is a term given to a character used in place of a letter or group of letters.

Most common are * or ?            The FreeBMD information page states –

Wildcard searches

For all the name fields you can use a * to match any number of characters,

e.g., Thorn* will find Thorn, Thorne, Thornton, etc.

You can use ? to match exactly one character,

e.g., Thorn? will match Thorne and Thorns but not Thorn or Thornton.

Please be prepared to accept different spellings of names. It saves a lot of searching.

Smith could be Smythe, or Smyth. I found one JONES family misdescribed as JAMES.

Wildcard use may vary for each site. Do check.

Most Family Historians started exactly as you are now. They made the same mistakes as you have or might in the future.

Do any of your friends research their family history?

Family History societies are generally helpful folk who are happy to offer advice or help if you are struggling. A few pounds spent on a subscription may save you hours of research.

Go to  you may be surprised at what you can find free to visitors.

Then as a member you get:

       Members’ Area Benefits

       Add all your own Member’s Interests online and search the names that Devon FHS members have posted.

       Free – ALL Devon marriages 1754-1837

       Free – Selected Historian articles

       Free – Devon Monumental Inscriptions and Photos.

       Free – Devon Documents

       Free – Devon Strays

       Free – Devon Coastguards

       Free – Devon Parish Maps to print

       Free – Methodist Ministers’ Obituaries

       Free – Miscellaneous Data Sets

       Discounts and Special Offers

       Material continuously added.

Other county societies have similar records which may also be only available to members.

First Learn to Search

Follow the above guide to find your own details, then those of your parents.


Takes you to the Devon FHS Home Page.

Select Free to Visitors

Choose Pedigree Chart (another way of saying Family Tree)


My Family Tree   

both are free pdfs available to download, print and fill in as you start your own journey into your past.


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Download and print the one page –  Pedigree Chart – shown in the background


The booklet –My Family Tree – shown here as a collage from several pages.

32 pages printed intially for youngsters but so useful for starters of all ages

The other guides in this series to help you to are Account for Uncles and Aunties and

Find information on the GRO website.

The Devon Family History Society would like to thank our member Peter Blackaby for producing this guide.

Uncles and Aunties how?  August 2023.


Who should you put on your Family Tree? And where do you keep it?


If you have just started to look at your Family History, you might find it is difficult to fit in your successive parent groups without including their brothers and sisters.

This usually means you end up with far too many people to try and keep track of as a beginner.


Help is at hand!    Try this.


You have to think about terms such as ‘direct descendant’, ‘blood relative’.’bloodline’. ‘Uncle by marriage.’


Here are some online definitions-

A lineal descendant is a person who is in direct line from an ancestor; this includes a child, grandchild, great-grandchild etc.


A ‘blood relative’ is someone who is related to you by birth rather than through marriage or another relationship such as adoption (= becoming the legal parent of a child who is not your own): I’d always known Sam was not a blood relative, but still regarded him as a brother.


Relatives are people who are related by blood or marriage. A family is a group of people, typically consisting of two parents and their children, living together as a unit. This is the key difference between family and relatives. However, a family is always made up of relatives.

Many families have a much-loved lady in the early lives of their children, known as ‘Auntie’, who turns out, when you start looking, to just be a family friend.


It all boils down to understanding that while you are ‘related to’ your siblings and your aunts and uncles, they are all ‘family’.

Your ‘bloodline’, of whom you are a ‘direct descendant’, is only your parents, their parents and their parent’s parent’s line through the generations.

Your Family Tree follows those folk that you ‘descend from directly’. The folk shown on the suggested coloured Pedigree Chart page. 

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While you are related to your brother and sister, your direct ancestors are your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents etc.


Those parents, grandparents and great grandparents etc. are also direct ancestors of your brother or sister. If you were person 1 in the tree, your sibling’s names could equally fit into that box instead of your name. Your siblings are not your direct ancestors.



Family Group Sheet          One family group on one page.

As with the FreeBMD pages, it is best to start with yourself first. 

Your own family group is an ideal sample to practise with.

Here is a free FGS (Family Group Sheet) template found online.


A group sheet of family records

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It is a one-page summary of one complete family covering 3 generations.

The information will be familiar as it has already been recorded on your family tree for some relatives. Other examples of an FGS are more complex and include – occupations, military service, and religion details. It is your Family History, choose your own content to suit.


If you are a married person with children, in position 1 on the coloured tree, then FGS 1 will show you as a parent, with your parents’ names and your children in chronological birth order.


You would also appear on either FGS 2 or 3, which would show you as a child of the family, before you married, along with your siblings, the aunts and uncles of your children.

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Description automatically generatedHere is an attempt to show some of my family group sheets using just the numbers from the coloured tree again.

First the numbers. You may have always thought of yourself as ‘Number One!’. In genealogy terms, you are. The numbering system used is called ‘Ahnentafel’ which translates to ‘Ancestor Table’.

You are number 1, your Dad is 2 and Mum 3. Dad’s parents are 4&5, Mum’s are 6&7.Your paternal great grandparents are then 8&9. The parental titles are a bit long winded so if you are talking to another person who has some family history knowledge then person 16 on your tree, is understood to be your Great Great Grandfather on your father’s side. The numbers also mean that the son of 16 is person 8, 8’s son is person 4 and 4 is your paternal Grandad. Your mother’s father is double her number 3. Double a person’s number and add 1 for their mother’s number.


When I married and started a family, FGS1 was started for me and my family, details are there for the BMD’s of us all. Me, my wife, our children are listed in birth date order, it even gives parents names for my wife and I.

Any when/where questions about my own immediate family should be able to be answered from this one page.


FGS2 is the family of my Mum and Dad. On that sheet I show as the eldest child with my younger sister’s names and dates below. My grandparents’ names appear there, but FGS4 is where my grandparents’ details all appear with my Dad as their child.


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For these, I took the basic headings from the earlier example and added some information. I did not find it easy writing on a screen with my finger. I hope it is legible.


My wife’s brother phoned last week, he is being security vetted for a job and needed to check his Mum’s death date and place. The FGS was useful.





You may think about an online tree. Ancestry, Find my Past and other subscription sites, or FamilySearch, a free to use site, allow (encourage) you to type in your family names, places and dates then build an online tree for your family. That tree will include all family members and many of them are able to easily include adoption, second marriages and step parents too.              Those topics are outside the scope of this series of simple guides.

Most of the sites allow a free trial time, when you can see if you like the way the SEARCH works? Or there are lots of records for the area your family came from etc.

Most sites have most of the same records, then one may have the only online baptism records for that church from 1873 to 1893, and that is the one that could be so helpful. 

Do you subscribe for the minimum period? Ask a friend to look up the record? Subscribe to a different one each year?

Be prepared to use different sites as they each have differences that could be important to you. You could always search online – ‘Where would I find records of the…….’? Sometimes an online search will find obscure references. If a family story says Gt Uncle Bill was murdered in Okehampton.  Google it.  ‘Okehampton murder William Stickers?’ may be enough to kickstart your next research mission. You could add a year etc. if there is no result at first.


Once you have an online tree on a pay site, you might feel tied to that site. Do check that if you pause your subscription for a year, your tree will still be there if you rejoin?  Can you print your tree? All of it?  just your ‘Direct line’?   Could you send a copy to another relative?

Could you save a copy of your tree? or part of it? ,and work on it in a different computer program?

Could you perhaps use one site free online at the local Library? Then just subscribe to another site and perhaps cover most choices?  Libraries in Devon offer free access to Ancestry Library Edition on their computers. Just ask them for some computer time.


What Family Tree building programs are there? Again, a Google search could find an up to date Top Ten best for this year. There are free programs and expensive ones. 

I searched – What is the best UK family history software? And found this-

  • Family Tree Maker: The pros and cons.
  • MacFamilyTree 10: The pros and cons.
  • Family Historian: The pros and cons.
  • RootsMagic: The pros and cons.
  • Heredis: The pros and cons.
  • Legacy: The pros and cons.        These were 2023 results. Try it.


I use Family Tree Maker, a program I have used for many years. It saves all the information I have on family members right back to before 1700 in a couple of cases, saved to my computer and Cloud. No one else can access it without my permission. I am happy to share with enquirers. I know who sees my tree and can contact them if they inadvertently copy a person to their own tree incorrectly. 

I have an index of Names, a tree showing where everyone fits into the family, a space showing facts I know about a chosen person, another space shows their relationships. Yet another space shows their Family Group.

I choose a person and press MAPS, a modern street map of their birth village opens. Press MEDIA and a folder of appropriate screenshots, photos and text opens up. The final fun bit is being able to easily produce and print a tree to suit the moment. From a horizontal or vertical Pedigree Chart, via my direct connection to 7 times great Grandad to a full ‘Extended Family Chart’, which, if I printed it, would cover more than 30 A4 pages. All of these I can see on screen. I can colour the name boxes. Blue for the boys perhaps? Feature just names, name – Birth date to Death date, or B,M&D with where they lived.


Many sites allow you to see other people’s trees. I was annoyed to find that one person had my great aunt’s name and details in her tree but had missed a generation and put the entry where her mother, my great grandmother, with the same forename, should be. My messages to the person were ignored. I hope not too many copy her online tree believing it to be accurate.


Some people are very possessive about their research work and prefer to keep it all to themselves. Others are happy to share their results and also to accept suggestions from others searching for some of the same names.

I am in occasional email contact with a fourth cousin. That means we are both descended from a shared ancestor, 5 generations back, our 3xgreat grandfather Joseph, born in 1800. Any research back beyond that into our surname, is of interest to us both. He has made suggestions and sent me useful snippets that he found. I hope that I have in return, shared useful information with him. I have never met this cousin. It is just nice to know he is there. 


I found it very helpful when sorting out where first and second cousins fit into the family tree to refer to an image.There are two very good diagrams on the Free to Visitors section of the website. See Relationship Charts.



Enjoy tracing and placing your family!





Similar guides in this series help with using the FreeBMD website and the GRO website.






The Devon Family History Society would like to thank our member Peter Blackaby for producing this guide.



General Record Office (GRO) Search – How?


You may have read FreeBMD How? And Aunts and Uncles How?

This information builds on that knowledge.



The General Record Office Births, Marriages and Deaths index 

is the official version of BMD records since 1837.




Marriage certificates are available, but you will need the details found on the FreeBMD website. is the best site to purchase certificates either as paper copies, or cheaper as a pdf or jpg file. All the details of How to Order and pay for Civil Registration Documents are here.


The GRO offers historical birth and death records for England and Wales in Portable Document Format (PDF) format and these are £7 each. Since the Autumn of 2023, the GRO has also introduced digital images costing £2.50. This new service, largely replaces the need to order a PDF image as they are available to download as soon as your payment has been completed. These options are available for birth registration records over 100 years old and deaths from 1837 to 1957.


Official birth certificates with a seal cost £11 each. You need one for official purposes such as to apply for a passport or a driving licence, for example. If you want a birth certificate for a person born in the 1930’s, it is unlikely they will need to apply first time for a passport or driving licence, so save money and get a pdf online. You will receive the handwritten text strip across the centre. You don’t need the official seal or certification for family history, just the dates, places, and names of the parents. Save £4 and access the details faster too.


When you have a few spare moments and your credit card handy, it is a good plan to – 

Sign up to the GRO site. 

Do it while you have ten minutes to spare and before you desperately need to find an ancestor’s maiden name in a 1910 marriage.


Go to You can see below it says 

You will need your email address, full name/address, card details. 


Once you are logged in and have set up a password, save these carefully for when you do need to use the site.  

Next time you can just LOG IN. The site will remember you

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       Do read the help in the       

       sidebar sometime.


Most people want to search the indexes or order a certificate.


Select Search the GRO Indexes as below





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Let’s select Birth









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I selected Birth as I was looking for the maiden name of a Mrs Blackaby who had a baby called Thomas in 1862 in the St. Giles area of London.  

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Description automatically generatedI found the birth record details on FreeBMD,       

but there are no maiden names there before 1911.






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I tapped on Year and selected from the box that appeared. 















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Then select the       +/- years option.

It’s a bit more complex to search here. I can only search 5 years – 2 years either side of my target year at a time. Select 2 That lets me search from 1860 to 1865.



Enter Surname & Forename



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Then I often forget to select   a gender here………It has an asterisk for Mandatory, but I often have to go back and tick it.
















Don’t try to fill every box!   Press the Search button.




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Now the Detective Work.  I have followed a Thomas Blackaby back through his life via the census entries to 1871, when he was a young lad with a mother named Sarah Blackaby.

Now that I have a maiden name for her, I can go back to FreeBMD and search for a Marriage, before 1862. Hopefully finding Mr Blackaby marrying a lady named Sarah something. Fuller perhaps?


Having used FreeBMD, GRO and Census images on yet another site, have I found Tom’s correct parents?


You could find the answer – go back to FreeBMD and search for a Marriage, before 1862. Hopefully finding Mr Blackaby marrying a lady named Sarah something?


Fuller if this is the mother for my Thomas.


Having found Thomas…Is this birth the right one?


I could press the button and order his birth or parent’s marriage certificate by post,

a pdf or a digital image (jpg)



How to order a Certificate, a PDF or a digital image. 





Select whether you wish to order a birth certificate, a PDF or a digital image. In this case, we do not need a full certificate, just the historical data, so we will tick the Digital Image button.

Once you have done this, the following screen will appear.






Correct mother or not, we’ll order this entry for young Thomas Blackaby.

Before ordering, decide if you NEED a certificate, with the seal and the authorisation?

Or would a cheaper PDF or digital image be available or suit you? As stated before, the new digital images are available as soon a payment has been made.

PDFs take about 4 working days to be made available. You will receive an email with a link advising you that your PDF is available. Please note that PDFs are only retained on the site for 3 months, so do ensure that you access the image and save a copy to your files before it expires.





There have been instances of sites offering to sell you a certificate for £35.

They then buy a certificate for £11, wait for it to arrive, then post it to you.

You paid PRIORITY price and got everyday service. Do not fall for that.


Use the GRO or a trusted source for your certificates.

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The link above will take you to this 26 page pdf document.


One chapter explains exactly what you will find on each certificate.







Now would be a good time to join the Devon Family History Society, if you are not already a member. You will get lots of help and advice.

All the members started just as you have. There are lots of Zoom meetings and In Person meetings again now too. Interesting and helpful.   Look at the membership details on this website.

It would also be a good time to look at the website of the Family History Federation.

They have a free and very extensive family history guide called EVERYONE HAS ROOTS which can be found via this link.




The Devon Family History Society would like to thank our member Peter Blackaby for producing this guide.

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