Databases Tips

How to find out your ancestry using online databases

Online databases are a great way to find out more about your ancestry. Once you have the early parts of your family tree in place it is important to back up your details to confirm you are on the right path.

You may think that this information is solid. It is based on what you already know, and what you could find out from your older relatives. That is probably the case, but it is still important to formalise your data and prove that you are working on the correct path.

Birth dates, birth places, marriage and death certificates, and the names and birthdates of children are key facts of a person’s life. You want to know you have them correct.

An incorrect detail that appears early in your family tree could cause all sorts of trouble and frustration further down the line.

So, it is important to fact-check all your information with official sources such as online databases.

You may have access to birth certificates for some of the members of your family. It is also important to get confirmation of the dates, places, children and deaths of your other relatives.

Generally, these events will be recorded and available to view online. Census records should be useful if the events have taken place in the past hundred years or so.

For more distant ancestors you may need to access online databases such as or

These are not too expensive and provide a huge source of information that will become useful the further you build your family tree. There is also usually a promotional offer whereby you can access the databases for free for a set amount of time.

This fact-checking exercise can be laborious and slow to begin with. However, once you back up your details you will have a stable base to build upon as your family tree grows back through time.

It may seem unnecessary if you are confident the information you have is correct. However, it is still a worthwhile exercise to get confirmation from official records.

Find out your ancestry and back up your details

It will also serve as a great introduction into searching online records. The details should be relatively easy to find for those more recent events.

You may also find yourself gaining confidence and belief in your search once you see a member of your family there onscreen on one of these databases.

One family tree researcher revealed that his search of an online database threw up an unexpected ‘Eureka moment’. He discovered a photograph of his grandfather on his wedding day.

That same photo had hung proudly in the researcher’s family home since he was a child.

Seeing that same photo of his grandfather gave him a great confidence boost that he was on the right path. He knew that the information he wanted would be available if he knew how to search for it correctly.

These small successes should be acknowledged and celebrated throughout your search.

Give yourself credit and celebrate your victories

There may be plenty of times when you find yourself frustrated and confused as the information you seek cannot be found or doesn’t align with what you expected.

So, don’t be too harsh on yourself when things aren’t going well. Make you sure you are just as willing to give yourself credit when you do make new discoveries.

As you gain official confirmations about the details of your ancestors, add them to your family tree. It will begin to evolve into something both personal and official, with an air of authority about it.

The more you can find out about your ancestry the better.

Remember to keep a note of where you found the records online (keep a record of the webpage). It will be a great reference point for you in the future when searching back further into your family history.

Full list of articles and resources on Family Tree Planner

Key points to take away

  • Databases are crucial for you to backup or confirm what you think you already know
  • Write down and keep a record of as much information as possible about each individual in your family tree
  • Keep a positive attitude to your work and be prepared for a few pitfalls. Remember to celebrate your progress and enjoy the challenge.