Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.


Using websites

There are tens of thousands of family history websites now available providing access to millions of records. Family history websites can include official government archives and agencies, libraries, indexed collections of digitised records, family history blogs, family trees, online newspapers and discussion lists. Some websites provide free access to their records but many offer access through a pay-per-view subscription.

Much of the information on the internet is unfiltered and there is little control over what is posted so as you carry out your research we recommend that you always carefully evaluate what you find. The following criteria might help you with your evaluation:

  • Author - who wrote the page, what is their area of expertise?
  • Institution - is it from a government agency, library, university or other reputable source?
  • Accuracy - is the information reliable. Are their facts and citations included to support the information listed?
  • Purpose - does it provide factual information or just a personal opinion?
  • Audience - who is the target audience?
  • Currency - when was the information last updated?

Family history websites

It's not possible to include a comprehensive list of family history websites in this research guide as there are too many excellent sites that we could include. To find out what's available for the country, county or town you are researching we suggest you use one of the following sites, which include detailed lists of websites from around the world.

Cyndi's List
This site contains a cross indexed list to over 300,000 family history resources on the internet. Go to the Categories page and browse by country or region. You will then find a list of any available or relevant websites. Categories include birth, death and marriage records, census. directories, language, names, handwriting & script, maps; military, religion & churches and societies.

GENUKI provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information for the UK and Ireland. Search by country or county and browse a range of family history topics to find relevant websites and online information.

You can find a list of key international sites by going to the FamilySearch Helpful international websites page.

RootsWeb is the oldest free online community genealogy research site in the world. It uses online forums, mailing lists, and other resources to help people research their family history.

WorldGenWeb Project
WorldGenWeb is a non-profit, volunteer based organization dedicated to providing genealogical and historical records and resources for world-wide access.
This site includes over 50,000 genealogy links, including specific collections for Europe, IndiaChina, South Africa, Canada and Jewish genealogy,

Dustydocs is a 'web-linking site' of English Baptisms, Marriages and Burials records for the years 1538 to 1900. It links to freely available church records. Searches can be conducted using family names and/or locations.