The Genealogist’s Internet

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14. Surnames, Pedigrees and Families

Surnames interests

Pedigree databases

Genetics and DNA testing

Royal, noble and notable families

Locating living people

The resources discussed in Chapters 4 to 11 contain direct transcriptions of, or indexes to, primary genealogical sources. But alongside these are ‘compiled’ sources, the material put together by individual genealogists. Many people are now putting their pedigrees on the internet on a personal website — Chapter 20 explains how to do this yourself, and Chapter 19 looks at how to locate such material. But there are a number of public sites to which people can submit details of the surnames they are interested in, or even entire pedigrees, so that others can contact them. This chapter also looks at sites devoted to the genealogies of royal, noble and otherwise notable families. Finally, there is a look at general resources for finding living people.

Sites devoted to surname origins and distribution are discussed in Chapter 16.

Surname interests

One of the best ways to make progress with your family tree is to get in touch with others who are interested in the same surnames. In some cases you will end up encountering cousins who might have considerable material relating to a branch of your family, but at the very least it is useful to discover what resources others have looked at. If you find someone who is doing a one-name study, they may even have extracts from primary sources they are prepared to share with you.

Before the advent of the internet, making such contacts was quite difficult. It involved checking a range of published and unpublished sources, looking through the surname interests in family history magazines, and consulting all the volumes of directories such as the annual Genealogical Research Directory, which was issued in print or on CD up until 2007. You will still need to do all this, of course, not least because quite a few genealogists are still not online and this is the only way to find out about their researches. The SoG ’s leaflet ‘Has it been done before?’ at <> provides a comprehensive overview of the various offline resources to check. But the internet now offers a much easier way of both locating and inviting such contacts.

Surname lists

If you have already made some progress with your family history and have got back far enough to know where your ancestors were living 100 or so years before your birth, then you should check the relevant surname lists. These do not provide genealogical information as such: they are just registers of interests, like a printed research directory, and for each surname they give the contact details of the researcher who submitted it, and usually a date range for the period of interest (see Figure 14-1). Some lists also have links to the websites of submitters.

Genuki has a comprehensive listing of both the major surname lists with national coverage and those for individual counties at <>.


Figure 14-1: Essex entries from Onlinenames

Of the three main surname listing sites for the British Isles, the longest established is Graham Jaunay’s Onlinenames site at <>. This covers England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, but does not seem to include the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. Searches require you to enter both a country and a county, which means that you cannot do a global search. However, you can leave the surname field blank and search for all surnames within a particular county. Figure 14-1 shows the results of a search for any name in Essex. Clicking on the name in the ‘Subscriber’ column will bring up a ‘new message’ window in your email software with the email address of the person to contact, or you can read the email address from the status bar at the bottom of the browser when you move your mouse over the link. Surname interests for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and a number of other countries are also included. Adding your own names to the site is straightforward and requires no prior registration. However, the first time you want to edit your entries you need to apply for a password.

UK Surnames at <> has listings for:

Alternatively you can search across all counties. The site also has listings for a small number of one-name studies. New entries are submitted via the ‘My Page’ page, which also allows you to see whose surname interests or place-names match yours. Contacts are made indirectly: the site does not display or provide the email addresses of contributors but you complete an online form for the site to send a message to the recipient.

The UK Genealogy Interests Directory at <> allows you to get a listing of interests by surname or by county. You can search and contact submitters (indirectly) without registering, but registration is required for submissions. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there are two problems with the site: the county and user pages appear not to be working, and listings are presented in a very small window, which means details cannot be seen without scrolling.

In addition to these three national sites, there are around 40 other county-based surname lists, with a few for smaller areas. Although these lists are not formally connected with Genuki, many of them have a long-standing relationship with the relevant Genuki county page. Links to any lists relevant to a county will be found on the Genuki county page as well as on the central surname list page.

For other countries, look at the section headed ‘Queries, Message Boards & Surname Lists’ on the page for the country on Cyndi’s List at <>, but do not expect to find the same level of coverage as there is for the British Isles.

In addition to the county surname lists, there are a number of surname lists relevant to UK emigration and immigration. These are discussed in Chapter 11 (see p. 165ff).

Obviously, you should not just look for contacts but also consider attracting contacts yourself by submitting your own interests to the relevant national or county lists. The exact method of doing this varies from list to list: on some there is a web page with a submission form; on others you will need to email the list-maintainer. Be sure to follow the instructions, as many list-maintainers expect you to submit your interests in a particular format (to make processing of submissions easier to automate) and may ignore something sent in the wrong format.

One problem with surname lists is that someone who has made a submission may forget to update their entries if they subsequently change their email address, so you will occasionally find contact details that are no longer valid. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this — it is a fact of life on the internet — and there is no point in asking the surname list-manager where a particular submitter can be contacted if their stated email address is no longer valid. Needless to say, if you change your own email address, you’ll need to update your details on the site.

Guild of One-Name Studies

The Guild of One-Name Studies at <> is an organization for those who are researching all people with a particular surname, rather than just their own personal pedigree. It has a searchable Register of One-Name Studies online at <>, which gives a contact address (not necessarily electronic) for each of the 8,000 or so surnames registered with the Guild.

Unlike the national and county lists, the surname interests registered with the Guild cover the whole world — this is, in fact, a requirement for registration. So, even though the person who has registered a particular one-name interest may not have ancestors in common with you, there is still a good chance that they have collected material of interest relating to your surname. In particular, a Guild member is likely to have a good overview of the variants of their registered surname. This makes the Guild’s list of surnames worth checking even, or especially, if you are only just starting your researches. In contrast, the national and county surname lists are probably not very useful until you have got back at least three generations. If you are thinking of starting your own one-name study, the site provides useful guidance.

Society of Genealogists

The SoG has three indexes for surnames and pedigrees:

All are linked from the ‘Searching for surnames and families’ page at <>. For each of these, the site lists only the surname, with no indication of dates or location, and you will need to consult the original document. In some cases you can order copies by post — the Search & Copy Service is described at <> — but otherwise you will need to visit the Society’s library.


One of the most useful sites for surname interests is RootsWeb, which has a wide range of surname-related resources, all linked from <>. There is a separate page for each listed surname with:

The most general surname resource at RootsWeb is the Roots Surname List (RSL) at <>. This is connected with the ROOTS-L mailing list, the oldest genealogy mailing list on the internet, and contains well over a million entries submitted by around 200,000 individual genealogists. You can enter a geographical location to narrow your search, using Chapman county codes (see p. 260) and/or three-letter country codes — there is a list of standard codes at <>. However, you may need to do a couple of searches to make sure you find all relevant entries as some people spell out English counties in full or use the two-letter country code UK instead of ENG, SCT, etc. If you check the list regularly, a useful feature is that you can restrict your results to those added or updated recently. Submitter details are not given on the search results page, but there is a link to them from the user ID of the submitter.

Discussion forums

The various types of discussion forum are described in detail in Chapter 18, but it is worth noting here that there are many groups devoted to individual surnames. Even if you do not participate in any of them — my impression is that they are not particularly useful as discussion forums — it will still be worth your while to look through the archives of past messages to see if anyone else is working on the same family or on the same geographical area.

John Fuller’s list of mailing lists has information on those dedicated to individual surnames at <>, though many of the individual listing pages do not seem to have been updated since January 2010, so there will undoubtedly be some missing. However, many of these surname lists are hosted by RootsWeb and can also be found from the general list of mailing lists at <> or via the individual surname pages mentioned above at <>.

Alongside the surname mailing lists, there are web-based message boards or discussion forums for individual surnames. One of the largest sites hosting such discussion lists is GenForum at <>, which must have message boards for at least 10,000 surnames. has a large set of surname message boards at <> — follow the link to ‘United Kingdom and Ireland’, and then the link to the relevant part of the UK. You do not need to be an Ancestry subscriber to use these. In many cases, these boards relate to a surname mailing list hosted by RootsWeb. This means that you can contribute your own query via the web without having to subscribe to a mailing list. A particularly useful feature is that the individual boards can be searched, which makes it possible to find messages relating to particular places, something which is essential for common and widespread surnames.

Family history societies

Every family history society has a register of members’ interests, and it will be worthwhile checking the societies which cover the areas where your ancestors lived. If you’re lucky, the list will be available online. For example, the Suffolk Family History Society has a Members’ Interest database at <>, which can be searched by non-members. The Sussex Family History Group has both a public members’ interests area at <> and a more extensive one for members only. Bear in mind that not all these members will be contactable by email and societies generally do not publish members’ postal addresses online, so you may need to consult the society’s journal for contact details. For a list of FHS websites consult the ‘Family History and Genealogy Societies’ page on Genuki at <>.

Personal websites

Many genealogists have a personal website (see Chapter 20), and locating such sites can be a useful step in making contact with someone who shares your genealogical interests or even some of your ancestors. Cyndi’s List has a ‘Personal Home Pages Index’ at <> with sub-pages for each letter of the alphabet. Even though these pages include over 10,000 links, this will be only a fraction of the personal genealogical websites, and really you need to use a search engine to get more inclusive coverage. Unfortunately just typing a surname in a search engine will not be very helpful. You need to search for a surname and the word ‘genealogy’ and/or the phrase ‘surname list’ (see Chapter 19).

Pedigree databases

The surname interest resources do not provide genealogical information, they simply offer contact details for other genealogists who may share your interests. But there are several sites which allow genealogists to make their pedigrees available on the web. You can, of course, do this by creating your own website, as discussed in Chapter 20, particularly if you want to publish more comprehensive information. But if you just want to make your pedigree available online, these sites provide an easy way to do it. Even if you do not make your own pedigree available, many others have, and it is worth checking these sites for overlap with your own family tree.

There are two ways of getting your own pedigree into one of these databases. Some of them have facilities for you to create your pedigree entirely online, while the commoner method is to upload a GEDCOM file containing your pedigree. Information about GEDCOM files and how to create them will be found on on p. 357, Chapter 20.

There is not space here to give more than a brief account of some of the most important sites, but for a comprehensive list of pedigree databases consult the ‘Family Trees Online’ page on Cyndi’s List at <>.

Several of the data services offer some sort of family tree facility, but since these are generally only accessible to subscribers, I have not listed them here.

Free databases


FamilySearch at <> has been discussed as a source of record transcriptions in Chapter 7 (p. 41), but the site also includes two separate areas with pedigrees.

The search page at <> (click on ‘Trees’ on the FamilySearch home page) provides access to material from the old FamilySearch site, Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File, comprising pedigrees submitted by individual genealogists. For each record there is an id for the submitter, but this only serves to identify which entries belong to a particular submission and there are no contact details. The entries are therefore useful as a source of possible leads to follow up yourself, but not as a source of contacts.

A new development are the Community Trees, which have their own site at <>. Each tree represents a separate volunteer project carried out in partnership with FamilySearch and comes with detailed source information, making the material much more readily verifiable than most online pedigrees. Among the trees relevant to UK genealogists are:

A tree of the ancestors or descendants of any individual can be downloaded as a GEDCOM file (see p. 357) for viewing in your own family tree software. The article on the FamilySearch Wiki at <> provides further information.

At the time of writing there seems to be no way to submit new pedigrees, no doubt because the new site is a work in progress.

RootsWeb WorldConnect

WorldConnect is due to move to Ancestry in 2024.

Probably the largest collection of pedigrees is on RootsWeb, whose WorldConnect data has a home page at <>. It currently contains over 640 million entries for over 5½ million surnames, submitted by over 400,000 users. Ancestry’s World Tree provides access to the same database at <> (this is freely accessible and does not require a subscription to Ancestry).

The initial search form provided on RootsWeb allows you to search on surname and given name, and the search results pages then list each matching entry with further details and offer a link either to the home page for the database in which the entry is found or to the specific person. If you get too many results to cope with, a more detailed search form provides options to narrow down your search with dates, places, names of parents, etc.

Figure 14-2 shows the results of an advanced search on WorldConnect for Elizabeth Collyer, with birth or christening in Surrey. Clicking on the name of the individual takes you to their data, while the link on the right takes you to details of the submitted database in which this individual is found, including the email address of the submitter. On the Ancestry site you need to register with your name and email address, free of charge, before you can search. However, the initial search form is more comprehensive.


Figure 14-2: Search results on WorldConnect


While most pedigree sites use searchable databases to store the material, the development of wikis has encouraged people to experiment with using the wiki technology to store and display articles on the individuals in a family tree. The first site to do this, WikiTree at <>, was launched in 2005 but at the time of writing it is closed for reconstruction.

WeRelate at <> allows you to create wiki pages for individual ancestors, with links to the pages for their parents, spouses and children. Rather than a set of separate pedigrees, the aim of the site is to create a single unified family tree. You can search the site without registering, but to get full access to its material or to add individuals from your own pedigree (either by manual editing or by uploading a GEDCOM file), you need to create an account. This is free of charge and there is no subscription option, though you can make a donation if you choose.

Commercial services

Alongside the free pedigree databases, there are a number of commercial services. However, although commercial in nature, several of them offer basic pedigree service free of charge and you can often search the trees of users without yourself making a payment, though you will almost always need to complete some form of registration. In some cases you cannot do a blanket search but only look for matches to people in your own tree, which means you need to submit a pedigree yourself to get any benefit from a site. I should say that, with the exception of Genes Reunited and MyHeritage, I have not subscribed to these sites and the information is based on that published on the site itself and not on my own testing of the facilities.

Genes Reunited

By far the most important of the pedigree databases for British family historians is Genes Reunited at <>. The site, launched in November 2002, is an offshoot from the very successful Friends Reunited, and is one of the most popular UK genealogy sites. In fact it was launched as Genes Connected but the name was changed in 2004 to make the link more obvious.

Currently Genes Reunited claims to have over 11 million members. Although this is fewer than most of the other services mentioned here, the site’s UK focus means that it must have the largest number of British and Irish ancestors of any pedigree database. Another consideration is the connection with Friends Reunited, which suggests Genes Reunited probably contains many submissions from people who do not regard themselves as serious family historians and who are unlikely to use any of the other resources discussed in this chapter. It may, therefore, be particularly good for contacting reasonably close cousins, especially if there are recent branches of your family you have lost touch with. On the other hand, there are also going to be entries from people who put up a tree in a moment of enthusiasm but have since lost interest and won’t reply to contacts. But if my own experience is anything to go by, this is one of the most useful contact sites for British and Irish pedigrees — I have had dozens of useful contacts over the years.

Although it is essentially a commercial service, you do not have to subscribe in order to enter or upload your pedigree, nor to carry out searches on the database (Figure 14-3), and as a non-subscriber your tree will be visible to others, who can then contact you. But you do need to be a subscriber in order to initiate contact with the person who submitted an individual you find a possible match with. Genes Reunited does not give you the email address of a submitter; instead you type in a message on the site and Genes Reunited actually sends it. This offers some measure of privacy protection, since subscriber email addresses are not visible on the site and are never given out. The Standard subscription is £20 per year, though there tends to be a reduction on renewals. There is also a Platinum subscription which includes unlimited access to the site’s data collections described on p. 54. The site provides several message boards and there are brief articles for the novice genealogist.


Figure 14-3: Search results in Genes Reunited

One irritating problem is that individuals are listed only with a birth year. Christening dates are not used, even in the absence of a birth date, so there will be no date given for that individual if there is only a christening date in the GEDCOM file.[1]

To help you find matches in the trees of others, the site has a ‘Hot Matches’ feature, which automatically compares people in your pedigree with all the others on the site. Some of its matching is very loose — you can find someone born in Cornwall matched with someone of the same name from Aberdeen — but it also shows you how many matches there are in another tree. Anything over 20 matches is likely to mean a genuine overlap with your own tree. In any case, you can contact the submitter to compare notes.

Other subscription services

The most popular of the commercial pedigree sites with an international scope is MyHeritage at <>. You can register and upload a tree of up to 250 individuals free of charge, while a monthly subscription of £4.50 or £7.95 allows you 2,500 or unlimited individuals respectively. If you are not already using any family tree software, the site’s Family Tree Builder can be downloaded free of charge. There is no option to search other people’s tree on the site, but the Smart Matches facility automatically lists possible matches to the individuals in your tree and gives you the possibility of contacting the submitter. Matching is not always exact — it matches my Tutt ancestors with some Tuttys, for example — but poor matches can be quickly rejected. Figure 14-4 shows the smart matches between my own tree and another, with potentially 71 individuals in common.


Figure 14-4: MyHeritage Smart Matches

GeneaNet is a French-run site at <> which started in 1996. This allows you to upload a GEDCOM file, but it also has its own free software GeneWeb, which you can either use on the site or download. It has entries for almost 900 million individuals. You can use the site free of charge, but additional facilities are available as part of ‘privileged membership’ for €40 per year. These are listed at <> and include some European civil registration records. For some entries you can only see the contact details, for others a pedigree is available. Its significant French user-base makes it a particularly useful if your family has connections with France.

OneGreatFamily at <> was launched in the summer of 2000 and now holds details of over 180 million ancestors. It has facilities for matching your own data with other trees on the site. Subscriptions are $9.95, $19.95 and $59.95 for one, three and twelve months respectively. There is also a seven-day free trial, though you have to give credit card information in order to sign up for this, and it automatically turns into a subscription if you do not cancel. To view pedigrees on the site you need to download the Genealogy Browser, which is a plug-in for your web browser. To find out more, it is worth reading Dick Eastman’s very positive account of using the site at <>.

Among the other major services is at <>, which has a limit of 100 people with its free account, while $5 and $7.95 per month allow 1000 and unlimited people in your tree respectively, as well as enhanced searching. Mytrees at <> offers a free account but this only allows you to share your tree with other family members, while the annual $120 subscription allows you to carry out more extensive searches and contact other users with matching records.

Record-based matching

Another approach to matching individuals is taken by LostCousins at <> launched in September 2004. In this service, you don’t submit general details of ancestors for matching, but the full reference to the record of an ancestor in census indexes. This approach means that matching will be very accurate and unambiguous, and unlike other types of pedigree database, you won’t find vague or incomplete entries. The site started off matching entries just for the 1881 census index (see p. 87), but now includes the 1841 census for England and Wales, and the 1911 census for England, Wales and Ireland. You can also enter details from the 1880 US and 1881 Canadian censuses.

Because the site works by matching your entries to those of other users, you cannot use it without registering and submitting some entries of your own. Once you have entered details of an ancestor you will automatically receive an email when a match is found. You do not need to pay a subscription in order to register but, as with Genes Reunited, you cannot initiate contact unless you are a subscriber. Subscriptions cost £10 a year, with a joint subscription at £12.50.


One point to bear in mind is that, with the exception of Genes Reunited and LostCousins, these databases are international in scope and only a minority of the individuals listed in them were born in the UK or Ireland. In fact, these collections feature predominantly ancestors born in the USA, so you should not be surprised if you do not find matches for your British and Irish ancestors in them, though it will be more likely if a branch of the family crossed the Atlantic.

The material on these sites consists entirely of submissions from individual genealogists. The completeness and accuracy of information is therefore highly variable, though some sites do basic checks in order to detect obvious errors, such as a death date earlier than a birth date. It is therefore best to regard these databases as a way of contacting people with similar interests, rather than as direct resources of data. It would be very unwise to incorporate such material directly into your own genealogy database without thorough checking. The obvious exception here is LostCousins, where matching is tied to a specific census record, and you don’t have access to a pedigree as such.

In some cases checking will be simple; in others the information may be of little value, perhaps just a year and a country. In many of these databases there is no way to tell for certain which sources submitters have drawn their information from. But that does not lessen their advantage over the surname resources discussed earlier in this chapter, namely that they provide information about individuals and families, not just about surnames. This should make it fairly easy to establish whether the submitter is interested in the same family as you, something that may be particularly important for a common surname.


If you are intending to submit your own pedigree to one of these databases, there is one important issue you need to be aware of. On some sites, when you upload material to a database you grant the site unlimited rights to use the material as they see fit. This is not necessarily as unreasonable as it might sound. With free sites, for example, the site’s administrators may have no way of contacting you if you change your email address and don’t inform them. But it is perhaps understandable that some people baulk at allowing the fully commercial exploitation of their data without royalty by some sites, when they are already paying an annually renewable subscription attached to up-to-date contact details. For example,’s World Family Tree terms and conditions at <> assign to the company a ‘royalty free, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, transferable, worldwide license’ to exploit your material, which is not terminated if you cease to subscribe. On the other hand, it can be argued that since you yourself cannot exploit your pedigree commercially and you are gaining exposure of your pedigree to perhaps millions of potential contacts, you are not in practice suffering any disadvantage.

In any case, it is therefore important to check the terms and conditions of any pedigree database before you submit your own material.


Another issue in placing your pedigree online is the privacy of living individuals. This is nothing to do with data protection, as is often thought — much of your information comes from public sources and there can be no legal bar in the UK to publishing it online, or indeed in any other medium, as long as it is accurate. The real issue is that people can be irritated or even distressed, understandably, if they find their family’s personal details published online by someone else. Because of this, all the online pedigree databases have a policy on publishing information about living individuals. Here are some typical policies:

If you’re going to submit to a site that doesn’t have its own privacy protection mechanism, you will need to remove living individuals, or least their details. Most genealogy software programs have facilities for doing this: it may be an explicit option in the Export to GEDCOM process, or you may have to select those people who are to be included. If in doubt, excluding everyone born less than 100 years ago is a sensible policy. Ideally, exclude those born than less than 100 years ago only if they have no death or burial date.

There are a number of stand-alone tools for purging GEDCOM files of sensitive information — see the ‘Privacy Issues’ page on Cyndi’s List at <>. Note that this is something that will also be necessary if you put a pedigree on a personal website (see Chapter 20). The issue of online privacy is discussed further on p. 403.

Genetics and DNA testing

With the advent of consumer genetic testing, there is now a scientific method of establishing kinship to add to the traditional historical methods. The ease and affordability of DNA testing has improved rapidly in recent years, giving rise to all sorts of expectations about what this can do for the genealogist. This is not the place to debate the merits and limitations of DNA testing in establishing or validating pedigrees, never mind the technicalities, but it clearly provides a method of confirming or establishing links between individuals.

The use of DNA testing in genealogy is not directly an internet development, but the web provides the mechanism by which the results of individual tests can be matched, and DNA projects for specific surnames rely on the internet for collaboration.

There is plenty of online information about DNA testing aimed at a genealogical audience. Useful introductory articles include:

Most of the companies offering DNA tests for genealogists have one or more FAQ pages with general information about DNA testing and genealogy. For example:

More in-depth coverage of the subject is provided by:

The non-commercial sites mentioned generally have links to the websites of some of the many commercial DNA testing companies.

There are hundreds of DNA testing projects based on individuals with a shared surname, and many have a website and/or mailing list, which should give you the possibility of discussing whether there might be a connection, even if you’re not involved in the project. The majority of these projects concentrate on Y-DNA, so are only relevant to the paternal line and only to male descendants. This does mean, however, that it is closely related to surname inheritance. MtDNA testing, which relates to the maternal line and is applicable to descendants of both sexes, is also available, though of course it cannot relate to a particular surname.

In a search engine, entering the phrase “surname DNA project” along with the surname of interest should be adequate to locate most of these. If you get no initial results, repeat the search but without the quote marks. There is a substantial list of projects at <>. This site also provides free web pages for DNA projects.

If you have had a DNA test carried out, there are also sites where you can post the details of your own genetic markers in the hope of a match, or search for matches from the existing submissions, for example Mitosearch at <>. This means that you do not need to be part of a surname project in order to make use of DNA testing.’s DNA site <>, mentioned above, offers its own test kits and lets you upload test results from other services to try and find matches. FamilyTreeDNA hosts over 5,000 surname DNA projects, listed at <> and it also provides a free service Ysearch at <> which allows for the upload and comparison of test results from other testing services. SMGF (the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation) at <> claims to be ‘the foremost collection of genetic genealogy data in the world’ and has a freely searchable genetic database with data from tens of thousands of participants, though you cannot actually upload results from companies other than their affiliate GeneTree.

There is a general mailing list devoted to this topic, GENEALOGY-DNA, details of which will be found at <>. RootsWeb also hosts mailing lists for a number of individual DNA projects, listed at <>, including ISoGG’s DNA-NEWBIE list.

Cyndi’s List has a general page devoted to the subject under the heading ‘Genetics, DNA & Family Health’ at <> and there are links to individual surname projects on the ‘Surname DNA Studies and Projects’ at <>.

Royal, noble and notable families

The web has a wide range of resources relating to the genealogy of royal houses and the nobility, as well as to famous people and families. For initial orientation, Genuki’s page on ‘Kings and Queens of England and Scotland (and some of the people around them)’ at <> provides a list of ‘Monarchs since the Conquest, Kings of England, Kings of Scotland, Queens and a selection of the most notable Queens, Kings, Archbishops, Bishops, Dukes, Earls, Knights, Lords, Eminent Men, Popes and Princes’. There is also a detailed table of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London, Durham, St David’s and Armagh, from AD 200 to the present day at <>.

Cyndi’s List has a page with over 200 links relating to Royalty and Nobility at <>.

The best place for genealogical information on English royalty is Brian Tompsett’s Directory of Royal Genealogical Data at <>, which contains ‘the genealogy of the British Royal family and those linked to it via blood or marriage relationships’. The site provides much information on other royal families, and includes details of all English peerages at <>. Another massive database devoted to European nobility will be found on the WW-Person site at <>. Family History UK has a family tree of the royal families of Europe at <>. Unlike most other examples, this data is stored in a database which can provide ancestor and descendant trees.

The official website of the royal family is at <>. The ‘History of the Monarchy’ section at <> has pages devoted to each English, Scottish and UK monarch since the Dark Ages, though no actual pedigrees.


Figure 14-5: Burke’s Peerage and Gentry: Descendants of Queen Victoria

Burke’s Peerage & Gentry at <> has a series of indented lineages of the rulers of England, Scotland and subsequently Great Britain among the free resources on its website at <> — see Figure 14-5. The main resources on the site are available via its subscription service, and comprise data from the published books, including:

You can browse an index of Burke’s Peerage and Gentry free of charge. This has links to brief entries for individuals and families, with full entries available only to subscribers. Subscriptions are £7.95 for 72 hours or £64.95 for a year, and you may find that your library has a subscription.

Darryl Lundy’s thePeerage <> is a very comprehensive site with details of the British peerage as well as many European royal families. Leigh Rayment’s Peerage Page at <> has comprehensive information on the peerages, baronetage, House of Commons, the orders of chivalry and the privy council. Genuki has part of The English Peerage (1790) online at <>, with information on a number of barons and viscounts of the period.

Wikipedia has extensive coverage of royal and noble lineages of many countries. The easiest place to start from is the ‘List of family trees’ page. The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy’s Medieval Lands project has ‘narrative biographical genealogies of the major noble families which ruled Europe, North Africa and Western Asia between the 5th and 15th centuries’ at <>.

Royal and noble titles for many languages and countries are explained in the ‘Glossary of European Noble, Princely, Royal, and Imperial Titles’ at <>.

You can also find information on the web on any other genealogically notable group of people. Thus, there are several sites devoted to the Mayflower pilgrims, including MayflowerHistory at <>. Wikipedia has information on several generations of descendants of the Bounty mutineers in the ‘Descendants of the Bounty Mutineers’ article. The site also has an interesting article on ‘Genealogical relationships of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom’. The ancestry of the US presidents will be found on a number of sites, and <> provides a tree for each of them. The ancestry of Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, can be found at <>. The Famous Family Trees Blog has links to many pedigrees of royalty and the famous at <>. In March 2012, Roy Stockdill launched a ‘Famous family trees’ blog on Findmypast’s blog site at <>. Mark Humphrys has a site devoted to the Royal Descents of Famous People at <>. There are, of course, countless sites devoted to biblical genealogies.

There are also plenty of pedigrees for fictional families online. For example, Wikipedia has family trees for the Simpsons, Harry Potter, the Sopranos and others, all linked from <>.

There are a number of relevant mailing lists including:

Lists for further countries will be found at <>. Yahoo has over 200 discussion groups for royal and noble genealogy, listed at <> (note the three underscores in the URL).


Some information on Scottish clans will be found among the surname resources discussed earlier in this chapter, but there is also more specific material online. The most comprehensive coverage of clans is provided by Wikipedia. It has a substantial ‘Scottish clan’ article, which links to a list of clans, and there are articles on many individual clans.

Another site with good coverage is Electric Scotland, which has a list of ‘Official Scottish Clans and Families’ at <> with links to information, albeit less copious than Wikipedia’s, on the individual clans.

Both of these sites have clan maps, and there is a further map on the Scots Family site at <>. Of special interest because of its early date is Lizars’ 1822 ‘Map of the Highlands of Scotland denoting the districts or counties inhabited by the Highland Clans’ which is available on the National Library of Scotland site at <>.

A general mailing list is CLANS, details of which can be found at <>, and RootsWeb has almost 200 mailing lists for individual clans, listed at <>. However, even those for large and well-known clans seem to have few messages, so they are probably of less use than the lists devoted to the surnames. Rampant Scotland has a list of Scottish clan and family societies at <>.

You can expect to find copies of older books on the clans in the digital book archives discussed in Chapter 12. For example, The Scottish Clans and their Tartans, published by W. & A. K. Johnston around 1900, is available at the Internet Archive at <> and has colour plates of the tartans.

In 2009, the National Archives of Scotland launched the Scottish Register of Tartans at <>. This is the official national repository of information on tartans, and the register includes the tartans of both clans and army regiments (see p. 149).


Recently, a large amount of information about the nobility of medieval Wales has appeared online thanks to two large, overlapping projects.

FamilySearch’s new Community Tree site (see p. 231) has a ‘Welsh Medieval Database Primarily of Nobility and Gentry’. The collection contains details of over a quarter of a million individuals and is largely based on digitizing the Welsh Genealogies compiled by the late Dr Peter Bartrum, covering the period 300—1500, along with a range of further sources and will be found at <>.

Aberystwyth University has been running Project Bartrum to digitize Peter Bartrum’s work. The home page for the project is at <> and the online material includes scans of all the hand-drawn pedigrees and the typed index pages. At present the material is not easy to use if you are not already familiar with it. The ‘Bartrum Collection’ pages at <> contain the pedigree images, each individually titled. To find which tree any individual is in, you need to use the ‘Bartrum Indexes’ at <> and read through the images of the index pages. Unfortunately, there is no link directly from the indexes to the pedigrees.

Another site for medieval Welsh genealogy is the Center for the Study of Ancient Wales <>.


Heraldry is intimately connected with royal and noble families, and there is quite a lot of material relating to it on the web. The authoritative source of information about heraldry in England and Wales is the website of the College of Arms at <>. Its FAQ page deals briefly with frequently asked questions about coats of arms. The SoG has a leaflet on ‘The Right to Arms’ at <>.

For Scotland, the Lord Lyon King of Arms is the chief herald, with a website at <>. The Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland has been digitized and is available on the National Records of Scotland site (see p. 50), which gives information on these records at <>.

Information on heraldry in Ireland will be found on the web pages for the Office of the Chief Herald on the National Library of Ireland’s website at <>. There has been considerable uncertainty about the legal status of Irish arms granted after independence from Britain, and the issues are discussed in some detail in Sean J. Murphy’s article ‘An Irish Arms Crisis’ at <>.

Burke’s Peerage and Gentry has its International Register of Arms online at <>. This is not an official register and is not in any sense comprehensive — it contains only the arms of those who have paid to register them in the index. The site has a substantial list of heraldry societies.

The Heraldry on the Internet site at <> is a specialist site with a substantial collection of links to other online heraldry resources, and Cyndi’s List has over 150 heraldry links at <>. The British Heraldry site at <> has a number of articles on heraldry. The Heraldry Society will be found at <>, while the Heraldry Society of Scotland has a site at <>.

For the meaning of terms used in heraldry, an online version of Pimbley’s 1905 Dictionary of Heraldry is at <>, and there is an online version of James Parker’s A Glossary of Terms used in Heraldry (1894) at <>. Burke’s Peerage has a ‘Guide to Heraldic Terms’ taken from the 106th edition of Burkes’s Peerage & Baronetage at <>. Google Books at <> (see p. 184) has the full text of a number of older works on heraldry, including William Berry’s 1810 An Introduction to Heraldry and Hugh Clark’s 1775 A Short Introduction to Heraldry. The Internet Archive at <> has G. Harvey Johnson’s 1912 Scottish Heraldry Made Easy and Arthur Charles Fox-Davies’s A Complete Guide to Heraldry from 1909.


The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the definitive national reference work for the lives of notable people, and information on access to the online edition is given on p. 186. Its website at <> has some freely accessible material, linked from <>, including biographies for notable brewery founders and gardeners. There is a free index which provides the name and dates of all those in the dictionary. There are also some quite substantial articles on groups of people who played an important role in British history, such as the Women’s Social and Political Union, the Chartists and the Pilgrim Fathers, though these do not generally provide any genealogical information.

The entire first edition of the DNB (1885–1900) is available in the Internet Archive. Given the haphazard cataloguing practices of the Archive, the easiest way to find the article you are interested in is to use the index of the individual volumes at <>.

Undiscovered Scotland has biographical articles on around 500 notable Scots at <>

The Dictionary of Ulster Biography was published in 1993 and all articles are available online at <>.

Locating living people

The surname lists and databases already discussed will put you in touch with other genealogists who have made their researches — or at least their research interests — public, but you can also use the internet to locate long-lost relatives or their descendants, or simply people with a particular surname.

Phone numbers

BT provides an online directory enquiry service at <> and this will give you an address, postcode and phone number. You need to give a location — either a town or the first part of a postcode — so you cannot do a national search. Also, your search will fail if it gives too many results, so a search on surname only may not work if it is a common one and/or the location is too broad, e.g. a large city.

The internet is particularly useful for foreign phone numbers, since only a small number of major reference libraries in the UK have a full set of international directories. has links to many overseas telephone directories at <>.

Historical telephone directories for the UK are available at Ancestry and are described on p. 192.

Electoral registers

The electoral registers are a traditional resource for establishing who lives at which address, and therefore for tracing living people. The problem with the printed registers is, of course, that they are not indexed, so without an approximate idea where someone lives, you need to have a great deal of time to spare to trace living people. However, the modern electronic register does not have this drawback. The registers are held by local authorities and can be inspected at various locations in the area, but are not made available online. However, an edited version can be searched online on a number of commercial websites, including:

The prices given here are those for the cheapest packages, but there are other schemes available for those with a need for heavier use, and these cost much less per search. TraceSmart has a ‘peopletracer’ service at <> from £7.99 for 25 credits which includes eight years of electoral rolls along with phone books and land registry information.

You can find other similar services by conducting a search on “UK electoral register” on any search engine.

Apart from the cost, the other limitation with these services is that individuals can request that their details are excluded from the commercially available data and obviously will not be findable by this method.

While the electoral rolls give more details than the phone book in that the full name is included, this will not necessarily be sufficient to identify a specific individual unless he or she has an uncommon name or you know the names of other family members who are likely to be living at the same address. But’s free phone book search includes in its results full names of all the adults living in a particular household, which will often help you identify the individual you want.

Most of these sites also include civil registration searches, though since this data is freely available elsewhere (see Chapter 5) it is not worth subscribing just for this.

Two of the genealogy data services offer similar services, though in each case they are separate pay-per-view services and not included in any subscription. Findmypast (see p. 53) has a ‘Living Relatives’ section. The Electoral Roll search costs 10 units (less than 70p) and gives full details of all matching individuals. The advanced search includes an option to specify other people living in the same household. Ancestry UK’s Living Relative Search at <> draws on phone books, electoral rolls and property records. An initial search is free but to see full details requires payment, from £5.95 for a single search or £11.95 for 10 searches.

Social networking

Social networking sites such as Facebook at <> can, in principle, be used for locating people, though you will generally need to be a member yourself in order to identify and contact people. But with just a name to go on, there’s little chance of being sure you have the right person, though if you’re lucky, there will be a photograph, which may help (though people do not always use a current photo of themselves). Also, checking the list of someone’s friends will often reveal the names of other family members, which may be sufficient to identify the right person if you already have them in your family tree.

Probably the most useful site for the UK is Friends Reunited at <>, which is designed to put people in touch with former schoolmates or work colleagues. If you know where someone went to school or where they used to work, the problem of identifying the right person is greatly reduced.

There are so many people online with identical names that, apart from social networking sites, you are on the whole unlikely to be able to find an individual unless:

Adoption and child migration

While the resources discussed so far can be useful for tracing people when you know their names, they may be of little use in the case of adoption or child migration, and you will need to go to sites specifically devoted to these issues.

Basic information about adoption in England and Wales will be found on the Directgov site at <>, while National Records of Scotland has a page on ‘Adoption Records’ at <>. For Ireland, a National Adoption Contact Preference Register was launched early in 2005 — details at <>. The Searching in Ireland site has a page for Irish-born adoptees at <>.

Adoption Search Reunion is a site run by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering at <>, with a range of useful resources. Probably the most important is the Locating Adoption Records database, which helps identity places where you may find relevant records. You can search by the name or location of a maternity or other home, by the organization or local authority which arranged the adoption, and even by the name of a staff member. The site also offers advice about making contact and links to other useful websites.

The Salvation Army offers a Family Tracing Service and their website has a section devoted to family tracing, with a home page at <>, covering the whole of the British Isles.

The UK Birth Adoption Register at <> is a site for adoptees and birth parents to register their interest in making contact. A one-off registration fee of £10 is required to place your details in the database. The UK Adoption Tracing Service has an Adoption Contact Register at <> with a £3 registration fee.

Cyndi’s List has a page devoted to Adoption resources worldwide at <>, and there is an extensive list of mailing lists relating to adoption at <>, though many of these are for specific localities.

For child migration, the Department of Health has a very comprehensive leaflet ‘Information for former British child migrants’. This provides information on the various agencies involved in child migration from the UK (and the relevant dates), with contact details and links to websites. Unfortunately it has a 106-character URL, so start from the DoH home page at <> and search for ‘child migrants’. A Select Committee report from 1998 on ‘The Welfare of Former British Child Migrants’ at <> provides a historical perspective.

The National Archives has an article on the Children’s Overseas Reception Board at <>, responsible for evacuating 2,664 children overseas in 1940.

Government sites in the receiving countries are also likely to have information relating to local records. For example, the National Archives of Australia has a fact-sheet on ‘Child migration to Australia’ at <>. Library and Archives Canada has an online database of Home Children (1869–1930) at <>.

Genealogy World has some material relating to the Children’s Friend Society, which sent children to the Cape of Good Hope in the 1830s at <> with details of many of the children.


Figure 14-6: BIFHSGO index of Home Children

The Child Migrants Trust is a charity which helps re-unite families of former child migrants. Its website at <> provides a history of child migration and links to websites of many organizations for former child migrants. BRITISHHOMECHILDREN is a mailing list for ‘anyone who has a genealogical interest in the 100,000 British Home Children who were emigrated to Canada by 50 child care organizations 1870–1948’ — details at <>. The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa at <> has general information about Home Children and a database of child migrants 1872–1932 (see Figure 14-6).

A more general resource which may be of use is Look4them at <>, an umbrella site run by nine organizations involved with tracing missing people. LookUpUK at <> is a site for tracing both missing persons and those separated by adoption, with a number of message boards and other resources.

Next chapter: 15 Geography

1 A fudge to get round this, more or less, is to do a search and replace in your GEDCOM file before uploading it, substituting 1 BIRT for every occurrence of 1 CHR. This is preferable to entering a guessed-at birth year for everyone in your database, which is both bad practice and hard work.