1. NEW Foundations of Family History course

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    Foundations of Family History We are delighted to announce the launch of our two-part beginners’ Foundations of Family History course for research in England and Wales. This is an Anytime course, so there is no fixed start date, you simply work through the material at your own pace.

    When you embark on your family history journey there can be a lot to take in, with so many different records available, how do you know where to start? Developing an understanding of the records you work with increases your ability to get the most from them. Just as important is methodology and technique, how to most effectively build a family tree in which you can be confident.

    This two-part course will introduce you to the four fundamental genealogical sources in England and Wales: records of civil registration (birth marriage death certificates), census records, parish registers and wills and probate records, and start you off with some good methods and techniques that you can continue to apply as you progress your family tree further. The topics covered in the two parts of this course are as follows:

    Foundations of Family History Part 1 – Getting Started

    • Lesson 1 – Gathering information and interviewing relatives
    • Lesson 2 – Storing your family history research (including software options)
    • Lesson 3 – Civil Registration (birth, marriage and death certificates)
    • Lesson 4 – The census records
    • Lesson 5 – Building your tree with confidence


    Foundations of Family History Part 2 – Next Steps

    • Lesson 1 – Introduction to parish registers
    • Lesson 2 – Deaths, burials and obituaries
    • Lesson 3 – Getting started with wills and probate records
    • Lesson 4 – Problem solving


    Starting with an Anytime course gives you a feel for how Pharos course materials are presented, without the need to set aside fixed times for tutorials or complete work by particular date. Anytime courses are made up of a number of ‘lessons’, where one week is about equivalent to the amount of material we would teach on a tutor-led course in one week, but you can set your own pace. Each ‘lesson’ includes exercises for students to work through, websites to visit and search techniques to try out, so there is plenty of ‘doing’ as well as reading.

    You can read more about how different Pharos Tutors courses work here: How Courses Work.

    You can read more about the new courses here:
    Foundations of Family History Part 1 – Getting Started
    Foundations of Family History Part 2 – Next Steps

    LAUNCH OFFER: We are offering students who buy Part 1 and Part 2 of this course as a single purchase a £10 voucher off their next Pharos Tutors course*.


    * voucher will be sent out within a few days of purchase

  2. Free Genealogy – some ideas to get you started

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    Free genealogyA lot of family history research costs money, there’s no escaping it: document copies, website subscriptions, travel costs and so on.

    However, there are some free resources to get you started. Here are some of our tips, including some free family tree charts.


    Download free charts to help you plan
    Free Websites
    Genealogy Books
    Find Full Text Books for Family History Online
    Make use of Interlibrary Loans 

    Download Free Charts to help your Research

    When you take a Pharos genealogy course, you find yourself armed with plenty of information to expand your family tree. Charts summarise your research in a visual way. They help you identify problems and plan future steps and they are fun to fill out – use charts to get your kids or grandchildren involved in family history.

    Pedigree Chart

    The Pedigree Chart is a great way to summarise your family history research so far, focusing on your ancestors. Start by filling it in with yourself or your chosen ancestor on the left and then add the details of the parents, grandparents, etc. in the spaces to the right. This is your research road map, or skeleton.
    Download here

    Family Group Sheet

    A Family Group Sheet is useful when you start work on a new family. It is also great to act as a prompt when talking to living relatives and wanting to make sure you have not missed any detail.  This chart looks at a single couple and their children.
    Download here

    Free Websites

    When you are stuck it is handy to have some places to look for help. Here are some great general resources:

    Cyndi’s List
    FamilySearch wiki

    Books Our Tutors Recommend

    There are so many books about sources, methods, strategy, history and geography and it is impossible to recommend just one book. Here are some of our favourites:

    England and Wales

    • Amanda Bevan, Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives, The Website and Beyond, (7th ed. The National Archives, 2006)
    • C R Cheney, (ed.) Handbook of Dates for Students of English History (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
    • T. Fitzhugh and S. Lumas, Dictionary of Genealogy.  (A. & C. Black, 1998)
    • Jeremy Gibson and Stuart Raymond, Probate Jurisdictions – Where to look for wills. , (Family History Partnership, 6th ed, 2016)
    • Mark D. Herber, Ancestral Trails (The History Press Ltd; 2nd Rev Ed edition, 2004)
    • David Hey (ed), The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History (OUP, 2008)
    • C. Humphery-Smith, Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers (3rd ed., Phillimore, 2003)
    • Helen Osborn, Genealogy: Essential Research Methods. (Hale, 2012)
    • Colin D. Rogers, The Family Tree Detective (Manchester University Press, 3rd ed. 1997)
    • John and Sheila Rowlands (eds), Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research (FFHS and Genealogical Publishing Company, 2nd edition, 1999)
    • W.E. Tate, The Parish Chest (Phillimore, 1983)
    • Andrew Todd, Family History Nuts and Bolts Problem Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques (Allen and Todd, 2015)


    • Bruce Durie, Scottish Genealogy, (The History Press, 3rd ed., 2017)
    • National Archives staff, Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives of Scotland (Mercat Publishing, 2005)
    • Michael Lynch, Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford, 2001)
    • Chris Paton, Tracing Your Scottish Ancestry through Church and States Records: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword, 2019)
    • Chris Paton, Tracing Your Scottish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword, 2020)
    • The Parishes, Registers and Registrars of Scotland. Scottish Association of Family History Societies. (SAFHS, 1993, rep. many times)


    • John Grenham, Grenham’s Irish Surnames (Eneclann CD)
    • John Grenham, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (Genealogical Publishing Company, 3rd edition, 2005)
    • George Handran (ed), Handran’s Townlands in Poor Law Unions  (Archive CD book at Eneclann)
    • Richard Killeen, Short History of Ireland (Gill and Macmillan, 1994)
    • Brian Mitchell, The New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2002, reprinted 2008)
    • Chris Paton, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword, 2nd ed., 2019)

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    Find Full Text Books for Family History Online

    Part of the richness of family history research is the variety. It can take you into any part of a library looking up information on almost anything. Similarly you may want to search full-text books online on a wide range of subjects in addition to history and genealogy.

    There are some websites for historians and family historians that either include full-text books or lead you to them. These are a few suggestions.




    For those who want to wander off into other topics and search more widely for online books, try these resources:


    Make use of Interlibrary Loans

    Interlibrary loans are available at most public and university libraries throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand and countless other countries. This is an inexpensive way to access books needed for research that are not available locally.

    You can borrow from other libraries outside your library system if the item you want cannot be found its catalogue. All libraries ask that you check the catalogue of your own system before placing an interlibrary loan request.

    Certain items may be restricted and unavailable via interlibrary loan:

    • Old books in poor condition
    • Books less than 12 months old
    • Books that cost less than a stated amount
    • Audio or video tapes, CDs
    • Any other book that a library considers must not be loaned

    Your library may have limits on how many interloan books can be in process at one time. The lending library determines the period of the loan. There may be a fee charged by your home library and by the lending library, and charges for a late return are likely to be higher than the usual rate. Expect to wait for a while, particularly if the book must come a considerable distance.

    Check the website of your own library system for local information or ask at your library.

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    There are many, many more. If you have your own recommendations please leave a comment below.