Newcomers to genealogy frequently have questions that could be easily answered by reference to GENUKI. The purpose of this FAQ page is to give direct links to some of the GENUKI information resources that are most often asked by GENUKI visitors, questions both about genealogy in general and about this site in particular.
The aim of GENUKI is to serve as a comprehensive virtual reference library of genealogical information that is relevant to the British Isles, i.e. Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland), Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
It is organised so as to make it easy to find what information on what topics is available online related to given geographical localities (even down to parish level). However, it is not just a list of links to information elsewhere but rather it also contains a large and ever-growing set of specially-produced information pages (almost 115,000, containing over 5 Gbytes of text, as of March 2014).
GENUKI is a non-commercial service, and it not affiliated with any commercial organization. It does not carry any advertising or sponsored links; where we provide links to commercial services this is for information only and does not imply any endorsement. All material on GENUKI is provided by a group of volunteers, and the GENUKI organization is constituted as a charitable trust. The trustees and their contact details are listed at: www.genuki.org.uk/org/#About.
In the main, the information that is provided in GENUKI relates to primary genealogical records (e.g. parish registers and census records) and the institutions which hold them (e.g. record offices and libraries). It does not include material relating to individual surnames, lineages and families compiled by individual genealogists, such as individual family trees, for which there exist many other online repositories.
A much fuller description of what is available on GENUKI and how it is organized can be found in Guidance for First-Time Users of These Pages, which is linked from the GENUKI home page.
Incidentally, more volunteers willing to join in the GENUKI effort are always welcome - see GENUKI's Help Wanted page (or follow the "For potential contributors" link on the home page.
The UK National Archives does not have a general introduction to family history but its collection of material on Looking for a person? has brief and authoritative guides to all the main types of British genealogical record.
Specific advice for getting started in Scottish and Irish family history will be found in:
In spite of the wealth of online resources, it is still a good idea to read one or more the many introductory books on the subject. Some suggested titles are listed on the GENUKI's Getting Started in Genealogy page. Bear in mind that some of the older family history books in your local library will be seriously out of date with respect to the increasing body of genealogical records available online. However, they remain useful for the basics of genealogy and how to use historical records for family history.
If you are researching British or Irish ancestors from beyond the British Isles, you may also find GENUKI's Researching from Abroad page useful.
Of course, there are many online tools for locating places, but these all have present-day rather than historical information relevant for family history.
GENUKI has links to other useful gazetteers under the "Gazetteers" heading on the pages for the individual constituents of the British Isles:
Some GENUKI county pages also have local gazetteers.
Family history societies are useful for two main purposes: a local society provides the ideal place for you to meet other family historians who live in your area; a family history society covering the area where your ancestors lived will be a good source of help and advice on the particular localities and records relevant for your research. Many societies have substantial libraries and record transcriptions for their area.
In addition to national societies, there are local societies for most counties and many smaller areas. GENUKI's listing of Family History and Genealogy Societies provides links to the web sites of all these, organized by country and county.
There are also a number of specialist societies devoted to particular occupations, religious groups, and ancestors who came from or spent time overseas. All are listed on the main Family History and Genealogy Societies page.
Links to county societies will also be found on the relevant GENUKI county pages.
Online discussion forums are ideal places to look for help with family history problems as well as giving an opportunity to and discuss general genealogical matters. GENUKI has a Genealogy Discussion Groups page which lists:
Offline, joining a family history society will give you access to a large body of expertise. The relevant local County Record Office should be able to help with any matters relating to the local genealogical records.
Please note that GENUKI is a reference service only and cannot respond to requests for help with genealogical problems.
There are two main ways of locating others who are researching the same families or surnames as you:
Discussion forums for particular places can also be useful for making contacts.
The page also has links to many other other events listings, such as those of The National Archives, the Guild of One-Name Studies and a number of individual societies.
- Local authority adult education provision
- A number of local U3A groups
- Commercial providers
- Postgraduate or adult education provision of a few universities.
In some cases courses are conducted online.
8. How do I find the the birth/marriage/death of an ancestor?
If the event took place after the start of civil registration (1837 for England & Wales, 1855 for Scotland, and 1864 for Ireland), you will be able to obtain a copy of the original certificate - see the next section.
If the event took place before the start of civil registration, you will need to consult parish registers for details of baptisms, marriages and burials. (Baptism and burial records sometimes also include dates of birth and death.) In fact parish registers can also be useful for events after the start of civil registration, particularly for a church wedding, where the church's record and the marriage certificate should be identical.
The earliest parish registers date from 1538 and many do not start until later or have significant early gaps. You are very unlikely to find any record of an earlier birth, marriage or death unless your ancestor came from the nobility or gentry, was sufficiently wealthy to leave a will, or died an untimely death requiring an inquisition post mortem.
9. How can I obtain a copy of a birth/marriage/death certificate?
For England and Wales, this is explained on GENUKI's Civil Registration in England and Wales page. Note that no certificates are available online, but the General Register Office (GRO) has an online Certificate ordering service. To complete the online form, you ideally need to quote a full certificate reference. These references can be found in the online versions of the GRO indexes. For England and Wales, there are no official copies of these online, but a partial database can be consulted free of charge at FreeBMD and many commercial data services have a full copy of the index. Be warned, however: the original indexes have been proven to contain many errors and omissions, and many entries for the earlier years are hard to decipher.
For Scotland, GENUKI's Introduction to Scottish Family History explains how to get Scottish certificates, and the complete indexes are available online at ScotlandsPeople.More recent certificates must be ordered, but older certificates can be viewed online.
For Irish certificates see under Civil Registration on the GENUKI Ireland page. Family Search has Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958, as does Ancestry UK. Using references obtained from these websites it is possible to order certificates from the Irish GRO
For post-1922 Northern Irish BMD certificates contact the General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI).
In England and Wales, another possibility is to order a certificate not from the GRO but from the local Register Office which issued the original. This is discussed in the next section.
10. How do I find the address of a Local Register Office?
Some local Register Offices have put their own certificate indexes online and these are more accurate than the GRO's indexes. Links to these will be found at UKBMD.
It can be difficult to establish which is the correct modern local Register Office for a particular place, because of the periodic re-organization of both the local registration servce and the local authorities. You can use GENUKI's Index to Places in England and Wales to determine the appropriate Register Office, and then the list of Register Offices to find its contact details.
For Scotland, there is no real need to find the local registrar, as Scottish civil registration records are more conveniently and cheaply obtained via ScotlandsPeople.
11. What census records are available?
GENUKI's pages on England and Wales: Census, Scotland: Census give basic details of the census records.
All the pubicly available censuses - those for the period 1841-1911 - are covered by online indexes, and images of the original records are available on several commercial services.
The censuses for England and Wales are available on the following commercial sites, which provide indexes and images of the original records on either a pay-per-view or subscription basis:
The index to the 1881 census was created by volunteers and access to it is generally free of charge on these sites, though you will need to register.
The official site for Scottish censuses is Scotlandspeople (pay-per-view). Indexes to all Scottish census 1841-1911 are also available on Findmypast and Ancestry UK
The Irish censuses for 1841-1891 no longer survive, except in a few isolated fragments. The Irish censuses for 1901 and 1911 are available free of charge on the National Archives of Ireland's Census site.
FamilySearch has indexes (not yet complete) to the all the censuses for England and Wales and to the Scottish censuses for 1841-1891. For images of the England & Wales censuses, the site links to Findmypast. There are no images for Scotland.
There are countless free volunteer indexes to selections of the census records. The most comprehensive is FreeCen, which has indexes in progress for the 1841-1891 censuses of England & Wales, and Scotland. For other free indexes see the links on GENUKI's census pages for England and Wales, for Scotland, and for Ireland.
Many census indexes for individual counties or towns have been published on CD-ROM and will be found among the offerings of genealogy suppliers and in libraries and record offices for the locality. The Society of Genealogists has a large collection of such material.
12. How do I find the Parish Registers for a particular parish?
In the case of England and Wales, nearly all surviving Parish Registers (except those currently in use at the church) are now deposited in the appropriate County Record Office (CRO). You should be able to find details of the CRO under "Archives and Libraries" in the relevant GENUKI county page. If you are not sure which (historic) county a particular parish is in, use the GENUKI Gazetteer.
There are online indexes for an increasing number of parishes, dioceses and counties on both free and commercial sites. The largest free collection is to be found on FamilySearch, which has complete or near complete indexes for several English and Welsh counties. The other free site with national coverage is FreeREG, which has over 25 million records, though county coverage varies widely.
Some record offices have their own free parish register indexes, and there are many smaller scale indexes, often just for an individual parish. The GENUKI county pages will have links to these.
All the major commercial data services have parish register indexes for a number of counties, and in some cases non-conformist registers are also available.
Only in a few cases will you find images of the original registers online, and you will therefore need to visit the CRO or consult a microfilm copy to verify an entry.
Registers of the Church of Scotland prior to 1855 have all been digitised. An index to these and images of the Registers may be consulted at New Register House in Edinburgh or online at ScotlandsPeople. For guidance on later Church of Scotland registers, as well as registers of other churches in Scotland, see the Scotland: Church Records page.
An increasing number of Irish parish registers have been digitised at sites like Rootsireland and the official Irish Genealogy. There are, as yet, few Irish records on the commercial data services. For general information about Irish registers, see the Church Records section of GENUKI's Ireland page and the Church Records pages on the Irish Ancestors site.
More detailed information for particular religious denominations and particular localities will be found under the "Church Records" heading on GENUKI country, county and parish pages.
Many indexes to parish registers have been published in print or typescript and you will find copies of these in record offices and the library of the Society of Genealogists. Out-of-copyright printed indexes may be available in online book archives (see below) and on commercial data services. Before the move to online indexes, electronic indexes were published on CD-ROM and many of these are still available or will be in reference libraries.
The National Burial Index, compiled by volunteers from family history societies contains over 18 million UK burial records and is available on CD-ROM from the Federation of Family History Societies and online at Findmypast.
Microfilm versions of the registers may be consulted in local libraries and family history societies. LDS Church's Family History centres in all parts of the world either have or can order the microfilm of any British or irish register indexed on FamilySearch.
Many of GENUKI's counties have pages for all the parishes in the county, each of which gives (or points to) details of what registers have survived for that parish and where they are to be found.
If you are not certain which churches served the area where an ancestor lived, consult GENUKI's Church Database, which shows all the churches within an area.and provides further information about them. The volumes of the Victoria County History have detailed information about the churches in the places covered. For many parish churches and other important religious buildings, you may well find an article on Wikipedia. Many churches now have their own website or a page on a diocesan website - you may find links to these from the GENUKI Church Database or, if not, by using a search engine.
13. How do I find out which record office holds material on my ancestors?
For England and Wales, national records are held at The National Archives, while local records are generally held in the County Record Offices. In Scotland, records are held by the National Archives of Scotland (now part of National Records of Scotland). The National Archives of Ireland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland are the equivalent bodies in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland respectively.
The National Archives' Find an archive catalogue has details of over 2,500 archives in the United Kingdom, and the Discovery Catalogue includes the holdings of many of these archives. A name search in Discovery will turn up any document where the name occurs in the document summary (but not names which just occur in the document itself).
For Scottish records, the Scottish Archive Network also has an online catalogue.
For the Republic of Ireland, consult the National Archives Online Catalogue and the relevant county archive (linked from the Genmuki county pages).
14. How do I locate genealogy books?
GENUKI's United Kingdom and Ireland Bibliography page has links to:
- Online book archives
- Specialist publishers
- Specialist Bookstores
- Online sources for General Secondhand and Rare Books.
Some out-of-copyright books of genealogical interest (typically parish register indexes and local directories) have been published on CD-ROM and these will be available from genealogy suppliers.
GENUKI has some book recommendations on the Getting Started in Genealogy and Family History page.
15. Can you let me have more information?
All the information that Genuki has about records, places and individuals is freely accessible on these pages. We do not have additional material of any sort, whether text, data or image, beyond that which you can already see.
16. I now can't access some of GENUKI's pages - where have they gone?
Very occasionally, GENUKI moves a page or a whole section to a new location, but otherwise GENUKI's pages are very stable. So, generally, if a page seems no longer to be available it is almost certainly a temporary issue with one of the many servers on which GENUKI's material is hosted. A check at www.genuki.info — you can follow the "GENUKI Service Status" link on the home page — will indicate any service disruption we know about, but otherwise an unavailable page should typically be back within a day or two. Because GENUKI is a distributed service, the rest of the material remains available even if a particular set of pages is currently inaccessible.
If a page has been moved since you bookmarked it, the GENUKI Search will find its new location.
17. I can't find it on GENUKI - can you help?
If it relates to the British Isles, use the GENUKI Search engine just to make sure the the information is not perhaps somewhere on GENUKI you haven't looked. The GENUKI search engine also covers the web sites of the National Archives, the Society of Genealogists, the Federation of Family History Societies and the majority of British and Irish Family History Society sites.
If it relates to material that does not fall within the scope of GENUKI, particularly if it concerns records or research in countries outside the British Isles, then Cyndi's List and WorldGenWeb will be good places to look for links.
If it's a general question about family history in the British Isles, the best approach is to post a message to a relevant discussion forum. Please do NOT send general genealogical queries to the email address given for contacting the GENUKI maintainers as it is very unlikely that we have the expertise (or time) to answer them. It may seem impolite, but do not expect any reply to such queries.
18. Does GENUKI store information about me?
All GENUKI's resources are available to any user and none of them require any form of registration or login (the Login link at the top right of each page is solely for the use of those responsible for maintaining the site). If you find yourself being asked for a username, password, email address, or any personal details, then you are no longer on GENUKI and you have followed a link to another site.
Occasionally we get requests from people asking us to correct their email address or update their details — we can't. The only email addresses on the site are contact details for those involved in running GENUKI.
19. Can I reuse information and images from GENUKI?
All the material on GENUKI is copyright apart from:
- Quotations from out-of-copyright works
- Scans of out-of-copyright photographs and other images
Even in those cases, there may be a database right in the collection of such quotations or photographs.
However, GENUKI permits the reuse of small amounts of text material in print in the case of
- individual genealogists compiling material for non-commercial circulation among family members
- public institutions creating non-commercial material to support genealogical research by their users.
In these cases, there is no need to ask for permission, though you should include an acknowledgement of GENUKI as the source, citing the exact page from which material is taken.
Many of the photographs available on GENUKI are used with permission of the photographer and the copyright is not held by GENUKI itself. If you wish to use ANY photograph from a GENUKI page, unless it is clearly identified as being in the public domain or used on GENUKI under a Creative Commons licence, you should always contact GENUKI first in order to identify the copyright holder, who you will then need to approach for permission.
Any requests for copyright permissions should be sent to permissions[at]genuki.org[dot]uk — please remember to include the web address of the precise page where the material you want to use is available.
GENUKI does not normally give permission for material to be reused on another web site.
This FAQ was originally compiled by Brian Randell, with contributions from Bob Muchamore and Barry Ruck. It is now maintained by Peter Christian, who welcomes suggestions for additions or corrections.