Free Genealogy Help

Download free charts to help you plan
Genealogy Books
Good ideas from Pharos to help your research 

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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. On this page you will find some free genealogy charts to download, print out and fill in. Charts summarize 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

This is our hand drawn variation of the common Pedigree Chart. 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. As you learn about your family, make sure you fill in lots of charts, every step of the way.
Download here

Family History Retrograph 

This chart is more unusual. Use it to "see" the lifespans of your ancestors in the context of historical events, both local and national. The chart has ten sections across the page to cover any 100 year period you choose and boxes for local and national events in each ten year period. 

In the left column put the names of the ancestors or probable ancestors; any group of individuals that you think are connected in some way. For each name draw a horizontal line for the lifespan and if you are uncertain of a date or birth or death, use dots for that end of the line. If you know the year of marriage, mark that spot on the line with a large "M". You can mark any life events you choose as long as you define your symbols at the bottom.
Now, sit back and study your visual shorthand. The new perspective will give you new ideas.
Download here

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Books Our Teachers Recommend 

There are so many books about sources, methods, strategy, history and geography, with so many formats or perspectives that it is impossible to recommend just one book. Your bookshelf needs at least four books to meet most demands for information: one giving extensive coverage of sources, another that is a friendly and helpful guide, one outlining essential historical facts, and another that contains essential boundary maps for research.

This booklist may be revised from time to time, as and when the books we use regularly change. However, it does need to be pointed out that a book is out of print, or a book is several years old does not necessarily mean it is out of date. Well presented publications stand the test of time.

England and Wales

  • Ancestral Trails - The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. Mark D. Herber (2nd ed., Sutton, 2005).
  • Dictionary of Genealogy. T. Fitzhugh and S. Lumas. (A. & C. Black, 1998)
  • Discovering Local History. David Iredale & John Barrett. (Shire Publications, 1999)
  • Family History Nuts and Bolts Problem Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques. Andrew Todd. (Allen and Todd, 2015)
  • Genealogy: Essential Research Methods. Helen Osborn (Hale, 2012)
  • My Ancestor was a Bastard. Ruth Paley. (Society of Genealogists, 2004)
  • Oxford Companion to Local and Family History. David Hey. (Oxford, 1996).
  • Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. C. Humphery-Smith (3rd ed., Phillimore, 2003)
  • Probate Jurisdictions - Where to look for wills J.S.W. Gibson and Else Churchill, (FFHS, 5th ed, 2002)
  • Sources for Local Historians. Paul Carter and Kate Thompson. (Phillimore, 2005)
  • Specialist Indexes for Family Historians. J.S.W. Gibson and Elizabeth Simpson. (FFHS. 1998)
  • The Family Tree Detective. Colin D. Rogers, (Manchester University Press, 3rd ed. 1997)
  • The Parish Chest. W.E. Tate (Phillimore, 1983)
  • The Surnames of Wales. John and Sheila Rowlands. (FFHS and Genealogical Publishing Company, 1996)
  • Tracing Your Family Tree. Jean Cole and John Titford (Countryside Books, 4th ed., 2005)
  • Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research. John and Sheila Rowlands, editors (FFHS and Genealogical Publishing Company, 2nd edition, 1999)


  • Oxford Companion to Scottish History. Michael Lynch. (Oxford, 2001)
  • Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians. Sherry Irvine. (Ancestry, 2003)  
  • Scottish Local History. David Moody. (Batsford, 1986 and Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994)
  • The Parishes, Registers and Registrars of Scotland. Scottish Association of Family History Societies. (SAFHS, 1993, rep. many times)
  • The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. C. Humphery-Smith (3rd ed., Phillimore, 2003)
  • Tracing Scottish Local History. Cecil Sinclair. (HMSO, 1994)
  • Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives of Scotland. National Archives staff. (Mercat Publishing, 2005)


  • Grenham's Irish Surnames. John Grenham. (Eneclann CD)
  • Handran's Townlands in Poor Law Unions. George Handran, editor. (Archive CD book at Eneclann)
  • Matheson's Special Report on Surnames in Ireland. Robert Matheson. (originally published 1890, Archive CD book at Eneclann)
  • Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy. Brian Mitchell. (Clearfield Company, 2nd edition, 2002)
  • Short History of Ireland. Richard Killeen. Gill and Macmillan, 1994)
  • The New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland. Brian Mitchell. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2002, reprinted 2008)
  • The Oxford Companion to Irish History. Edited by S.J. Connolly (Oxford, 1999)
  • Tracing Your Irish Ancestors. John Grenham. Genealogical Publishing Company, 3rd edition, 2005)
  • Tracing Your Irish Roots. Christine Kinealy. (Appletree Press, 1999)

General, for all of Britain or all of Britain and Ireland 

  • Tracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives. Amanda Bevan. (TNA: 7th rev. ed., 2006)
  • Road Atlas of Great Britain, 3 miles to 1 inch. (Johnson and Bacon, 7th ed., 1973) or any other atlas at 3 or 4 miles to the inch as long as it is no later than 1973; other publishers include Bartholomew, Reader's Digest and Shell.

Good Ideas From Pharos

Genealogy Websites
How to check the location and hours of a Family History Centre
Find Full Text Books for Family History Online
Make use of Interlibrary Loans 

Genealogy Websites

1. Check the contents before you pay for searching at a commercial database website.

All commercial database websites tell you about their contents. Some go into considerable detail, but you may have to follow links deeper into the site to find specifics. It is worth the time and effort – you know whether there is data related to your search and, when planning further steps, you know what has been covered.

A database of millions of names offers no guarantee the ones you seek are included. Similarly, a complete index to all surviving records may be no help at all if the records you need are missing. You will save money and search time if you identify the resources you need and check whether these are part of a database you are intending to search before spending money.

2. Read all instructions before you pay and before you search.

Search tools at different sites are not built the same way. Look carefully at the fields available for basic and advanced searches and read any search advice. Search instructions tell you about required information and the use of variables, such as wild card symbols.  Some search tools require a surname and others permit a search on a given name only. Wild card symbols may not be permitted among the first two or three letters of a name. Only by understanding search functions can you avoid frustration and be reasonably certain your search has been a thorough one.

3. Find out whether or not the search can be done at a free site or using a free index.

Gateway sites such as Genuki, and Cyndi’s List set out most of the options. Make sure you check them out according to the geographic area and the type of record in advance of your search. Not a bad idea searching the same data at two locations, because different indexers may not make the same errors.

How to check the location and hours of a Family History Centre

Go to and select the box right at the bottom labelled Family History Centers and Find a Center. Or use this direct link

Scroll the map, or enter a location and you will find what is available near where you live. There are a few facts about each center.

You are asked not to write to a family history centre. All are staffed by volunteers. There are 75 in England, 3 in Ireland, 3 in Northern Ireland, 16 in Scotland, and 8 in Wales.

If you live in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any other country, this same search tool can be used to find Family History Centre locations.

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:

Interlibrary Loans

Make use of Interlibrary Loans

Interlibrary loans, sometimes called library interloans, 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.

Interlibrary loan should not be confused with obtaining a book from another branch library in your local system. Many systems contain several libraries located around the community; in rural areas some branches can be far apart. If you need a book located at another branch of your system then you must reserve it, and there may be a charge for this service.

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.

Requested books sometimes come from another country. This takes longer and charges may be higher.

Your library may discount the charges levied for children’s books, to students, seniors, and those receiving income assistance.

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

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