Crossing the Pond: Tracing your British and Irish Roots with Findmypast


With standing room only in the largest classroom at RootsTech 2015, Elaine Collins gave an overview of partner site findmypast, and some of the uniquely British terminology and history that are key for Americans to navigate through their site before outlining some of their most exciting and exclusive record sets.

It is easy to upload your family tree to findmypast with a GEDCOM file once you have created an account. Once you have populated your family tree, you can choose from a variety of search tools to begin researching your British roots. Elaine pointed out that their record sets extend well beyond Great Britain, but she focused especially on the British records. Using a map of the British Isles, whose history and boarders have changed many times over the years, she showed how these changes impact what records have been kept and are still available.


Record Sets

Elaine gave brief historical explanations and showed examples of the various kinds of records sought out and archived by findmypast. She mentioned that more records are being digitized and added all the time.

Some record sets Elaine introduced were:

  • Parish Registers – vital records
  • School Records
  • Labor records
  • Military Records
  • Census and Land Records
  • Newspapers
  • Passenger Lists
  • Directories and Social History
  • Legal, criminal and institutional records

Some of the record sets provide vital statistics to help identify ancestors, while others paint a colorful picture of their lives and world they lived in. This information can connect descendants with past generations in powerful and meaningful ways and bring to life a past era, perhaps in a distant land with unfamiliar customs and history.
I was watching a number of episodes of Who Do You Think You Are on YouTube and it was so interesting to see how touched the guests would be, without fail, when they saw records, photos or places related to their grandparents. These amazing record sets can open windows of understanding never fathomed. Not only is it a way to honor an ancestor’s memory, it has such a power to give greater perspective to our own lives and experiences.

Knowing where and WHO you came from can shed light on your personal traits, tendencies, and even attitudes and habits.

I have 50% UK ancestry. Why not join me and make the jump back to another time and place at findmypast?

Elaine Collins - British-born, Elaine is responsible for content acquisition for and its associate websites. She was formerly editor of Ancestors magazine for the National Archives.


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