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Three ways to research your family tree
Report a mispronounced word. Searching for your ancestors can be rewarding and frustrating in equal measure. There tends to be one person in every family who slowly becomes obsessed with tracing the roots of the family tree. In the Tilbrook family, that person is me. But even if you feel your research has led you into a cul-de-sac, it can pay to keep your eyes open. I recently travelled to a small village on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border, full of optimism that I might find clues to the lives of family members from the 18th century or perhaps earlier.
But the village churchyard was a disappointment. The gravestones were far too modern to help in my researches, and none were engraved with my surname. Driving out of the village, I spotted a war memorial in a side road and my hopes rose again. Maybe it would list a Tilbrook or two who had fallen in one of the world wars. I pulled into the road and scanned the obelisk. Again, nothing. My ancestors had clearly moved away long before the 20th century.
It was as if this large family had never lived here. Despondently, I returned to the car and prepared to leave. It felt as if I had come home… albeit seven generations apart. Researching your forebears contains a few moments like that, along with many laborious hours of checking and crosschecking facts and poring over documents.
It will bring out the armchair detective in you. Yet the process of uncovering your genealogy has in many ways never been simpler with the advent of online research tools. All provide millions of online records — at a price. But before you subscribe to one, the Society of Genealogists suggests you explore other options.
Pleasingly, many of them are free. Their knowledge and memories of relations can provide a mine of information.