So, to get our bearings, we’ll start with a brief tour of the main archives and websites.England was and is the largest of the four nations that make up the British Isles in terms of both area and population.Hence, the record sets used by family historians can look substantially different to those for England and Wales. Here you’ll find vital records, church registers, census returns and much more, all of which are free to search (with a free account) – original records are accessible on a pay-per-view basis.
After a prolonged campaign for Irish Home Rule that became increasingly violent, partition was agreed on in 1921 between the Irish Free State in the south, which became an independent country, and Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK.
The Channel Islands, off the coast of France, and the Isle of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, are Crown Dependencies – a special status that means they are not formally part of the United Kingdom.
While we have made every effort to include links to free resources in this article, we have also linked to paid resources that can help you in your UK genealogy research.
Because we use them ourselves, we have partnered with some of these sites to share information about their services with you and may earn a fee if you choose to take advantage of them.
When it comes to researching online there is no shortage of websites to help you find your ancestors from the British Isles.
The commercial sites Ancestry and Find My Past both have rich collections of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish records which are being expanded all of the time.Historically, it was divided into 39 counties that had existed since medieval times.Lying to the west, Wales was brought fully under English law by Henry VIII in the early 1500s.There is also an online bookshop and learning zone.Family history societies (or ‘FHSs’) operate across the UK, bringing together people with an interest in a particular locality (generally at the county level).Before 1840 there are no comprehensive datasets covering the whole of the UK population: we are reliant instead on information gleaned from disparate sources that are not necessarily reliable or complete.