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, First Period, Biology

Births, marriages and deaths: Dissecting your ancestors’ lives

At its heart, family history involves looking at the circle of life that joins all of us to our children, parents and ancestors. This is brought into clear focus by our official birth, marriage and death indexes. Dissecting these records can give you a clear picture of how your family fits together.

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Let’s see how you can use birth, marriage and death indexes to piece together your ancestors’ life stories and join one generation to the next.

We’ll continue with the Earles family from yesterday’s census lesson. We know our grandmother, Shirley Earles, passed away near Rugby in 1987. Can we find her in the indexes?

  1. Too easy?

    1The obvious place to start is England & Wales, Death Index, 1916-2005. Search for Shirley Earles, with a death year of 1987 and the place as Rugby, Warwickshire. There’s one obvious match. We could order a copy of her death certificate to discover exactly where and when she died and even the cause of death. For now, though, the most useful detail in the index is the birth date: 10th September 1935.

  2. Too easy?

    2Now let’s see if we can find Shirley in England & Wales, Marriage Index, 1916-2005 – each husband and wife is recorded separately here, not as a pair. Remember she wasn’t born Shirley Earles. So, use the first name Shirley, then choose ‘Spouse’ under ‘Family Member’ and enter Earles as the last name. There’s only one correct result, in Rugby in 1955 – which reveals that Shirley’s maiden name was Hill. Again, we could order the certificate to find out exactly where and when she married, and her father’s name.

  3. Too easy?

    3To complete the set, search England & Wales, Birth Index, 1916-2005. We’re now well-armed with the information that our grandmother was born Shirley Hill in September 1935. Still, there are four matches – two in Yorkshire, one in Lancashire and one in Neath, Wales. From what we know of our family, the last one is the most likely. But there’s no way to be certain without ordering a copy of the birth certificate.

  4. Too easy?

    4Click on the shopping trolley icon next to the Welsh result. You’ll see an order form, with all the required information filled in for you. Click ‘Continue’ to provide a delivery address, and you’ll see a summary of your order before you enter your payment information. As this is just an example, there’s no need to complete the order and part with any cash.

  5. Too easy?

    5After placing an order, you’ll usually wait up to 16 working days for your certificate to arrive. When it does, you’ll find it’s full of crucial family history information. First check the precise date of birth, which will suggest whether you have the right person. You can then go on and read the place of birth, mother’s name and father’s name, address and occupation. All these are clues that will help you make further discoveries – you could try and find the parents’ marriage, or their birth or death records.

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Keep finding more ancestors and ordering their certificates to build up your family tree – and learn more about the ancestors in it. Let’s try Shirley’s husband – you know where and when he was married. Can you find his part of the record, and discover his 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