Welcome to the Ancestry Academy…

September is here and children all over the country are heading back to school. It’s the perfect time to dig out your pencil case and do some learning of your own – in the Ancestry Academy! Whether you’re a new starter or a top set whiz kid, this week’s lessons will help you develop your family history skills and make brand new discoveries.

Tuesday, Second Period, Local studies

Parish records: Putting down roots

Once your family tree takes you back before 1837, you have to leave large national records like censuses behind and turn your attention to parish registers, taken at a local level around the country. While this can make it a bit harder to pinpoint your ancestors, it does give your findings a new sense of intimacy, as you work your way through the generations of a tight-knit community.

Teacher’s note: Our parish records are available to Premium and Worldwide members. You may need to upgrade your membership to complete these lessons.

Too easy? Join the Top Set
Take the advanced lesson

Top set

You can often find several generations of the same family, all baptised, married and buried in the same parish. We’ll look at how you can browse the records for a particular parish to take your discoveries back through the centuries.

Imagine we’re part of the Atha family from West Yorkshire. We’ve got as far as our 4x great-grandfather John Atha – let’s see if we can go any further back…

  1. Too easy?

    1We know John died young, in his thirties, shortly before 1850. We’ll start by looking for his burial in West Yorkshire Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985. Click ‘Show Advanced’, then enter his name and a death year of 1848, with +/- 2 to give us a range. The results include three John Athas, all buried in Holbeck. One was only a baby and the other 70 years old – these may well be other relatives to look into later. But the one we want was buried in 1846, aged 33.

  2. Too easy?

    2Now we can look for John’s baptism in West Yorkshire Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906. From his burial record, we can guess at a birth year of 1813. There’s only one complete match – a John Atha baptised in 1814, again in Holbeck. His parents are listed as John and Sarah. It seems likely the father was the 70-year-old John who was buried in 1846.

  3. Too easy?

    3To find the elder John’s baptism, turn to West Yorkshire Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812. For now, we’ll assume he was born around 1776. The family also seems to be staying put in Holbeck, so use that as the baptism location. None of the results is perfect, but the most likely is the son of a James Atha, baptised in Holbeck in 1779. You might want to enter him in your tree with a ‘?’.

  4. Too easy?

    4It’s a good idea to look through the records for Holbeck manually, to see if you can spot other family members. Let’s start with West Yorkshire Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906. Under ‘Browse this collection’, click on ‘Parish’ and choose ‘Leeds, Holbeck’. You can then select the records for each year in turn. Use the left and right arrows to move through the pages, scanning the lists of names as you go. You’ll quickly find several other babies with the parents John and Sarah Atha – a Sarah junior in 1816, Charles in 1818 and many more besides!

  5. Too easy?

    5Now head over to West Yorkshire Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812. Again choose ‘Leeds, Holbeck’, and this time start at 1812 and work backwards. The Athas go back well into the 1700s. It will take more time and research to work out which of these are our ancestors and how they’re related, but we’ll be able to build up a huge list of potential leads, which will keep us interested for a long time to come!

Start your homework
Download your homework book now

Too easy? See how you do in the Top Set
Take the advanced lesson

Are you finished? Start the next lesson


It looks like John and Sarah had daughters before John Jr. was born. Browsing the records, can you spot one who was baptised in 1811? What was her name?

Note down the answer and keep it safe until the end of the week – you’ll be tested on your responses on Friday!



Monday's free period

Prize Draw 1

Family Tree Maker

Win 1 of 10 copies of our latest software

Be one of the first people to get your hands
on the new and improved version of our award-winning family history software. It comes complete with improved integration with your Ancestry.co.uk account, advanced charts and reports, interactive timelines and maps, and many more great new features.
We have ten copies ready to be won.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Tuesday’s free period

Prize Draw 2

WDYTYA? magazine

10 subscriptions up for grabs

Trace your family's past and discover your roots with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Brought to you by the team
behind BBC History Magazine, and the
official companion to the successful TV
series, WDYTYA? magazine's features
range from military to social history, telling
the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people and how they used to live. We have ten subscriptions to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Wednesday’s free period

Prize Draw 3

Worldwide Memberships

Win 1 of 5 annual memberships

Our worldwide membership provides everything you need to trace your family history around the world. Scour the globe
with unlimited access to our entire library
of over 7 billion records, plus guaranteed access to all our new releases. We have
five annual memberships to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Thursday’s free period

Prize Draw 4

National Trust passes

Win 1 of 50 pairs of tickets

We’re working with the National Trust to preserve our nation’s history, and help you uncover your family’s place in it. To
celebrate our partnership, we’re giving away 50 pairs of day passes to the National Trust property of your choice. Don’t miss the
chance to experience the history of Uppark, see the beauty of Fountains Abbey, or visit another of the Trust’s 350 properties.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September