Tracing your family history

Guidelines on how to trace your family history

  • Gather together all the information you can from your own family ie names, dates of birth, marriage and death, where they lived and what jobs they did
  • Collate all the details you have to date and draw up a family tree 
  • Find out if anyone else has researched your family or name through a local Family History Society eg Suffolk Family History Society or the Guild of One Name Studies
  • Decide which part of your family you are going to trace first, rather than going off in several different directions at once
  • Go to your nearest Suffolk Record Office for help and advice on which records to use.

Things to remember:

  • always keep a record of the source of each item of information and details of those records searched without success as you go along
  • at certain times people either lied about their age, or couldn't remember when they were born eg they lied to join the Army or get married
  • the spelling of a name could be different as the Registrar or Vicar would write down what he thought was the correct spelling of a name.  Local accents can also create variations eg Wolf, Woolf, Wolfe and Woulfe
  • families may have baptised several children at the same time so the child could be anything from a few days old to a teenager
  • people re-create the truth on occasion, either deliberately or because they don't know the truth eg an illegitimate child registered at birth with the mother's surname but uses the step-father's surname although no formal change of name or adoption ever took place
  • in the early years not all events, particularly births, were registered
    nicknames may be used eg Sandy for Alexander or Harry for Henry etc. People often used a middle name as a forename.
  • sometimes the parents may register a child with one set of forenames but then have them baptised as something different
  • the General Register Office index shows the registration district where the event was registered, which is not necessarily where the event occurred
  • the numbers in the birth, marriage and death references are only useful to the General Register Office, they are not relevant to the way information is kept in the local Register Office Indexes. For example the area 4A covers most of Suffolk!


Ancestry Library Edition provides genealogical information with more than five billion names in over 4000 collections. NB: only available in Suffolk libraries and Suffolk Record Office - Ancestry (external)

If you do not have time to visit your local Suffolk Record Office, our expert staff can carry out research for you for a fee.