• University of Strathclyde

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

Dive into your family ancestry and learn how to create a family tree on this tutor-led 6-week online genealogy course.

116,478 enrolled on this course

Genealogy: a lady looks at a tombstone in a graveyard while researching her family tree

Discover the basics of genealogy and build your own family tree

Have you ever wondered about your family ancestry or wanted to create a family tree of your own? On this 6-week tutor-led genealogy course for beginners, you’ll learn how to uncover the past and record your family history.

The information on this course does not apply to just one country, so you can learn about your family lineage no matter where you’re from.

Gain an introduction to genealogy

Learn how to find and analyse sources, discover different research strategies, and tackle genealogy databases and wildcards. You’ll learn about the importance of names and explore the challenges that name changes cause for genealogists.

You’ll be introduced to the main source types including civil, church, census and military records and learn how to use these different kinds of data.

Discover DNA testing

Learn about the more technical sides of genealogical research such as the principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard, where you’ll discover how to establish proof.

You’ll be a scientist for the day and find out how DNA testing works in genealogical research. You’ll learn about the principles of genealogical inheritance, find out how autosomal DNA testing helps genealogists and learn about Y chromosome inheritance.

Create a family tree

Uncover the secrets of your family’s past and turn your genealogy into a tangible family history. You’ll discover the best ways to record your research, document it and protect it so that it lasts for generations to come.

You’ll learn how to balance genealogical data and historical context, delve into local and general histories, and use maps and photographs to bring your family history to life.

Throughout the course, you’ll also follow one woman’s journey as she researches her family tree and learns about her past.

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  • Week 1

    Analysing documents

    • Welcome to the course

      An introduction to the course, who we are and what you'll be learning about.

    • Welcome to Week 1

      This week our focus is on the nature and importance of documentary evidence.

    • The basics

      Guidance for the absolute beginner.

    • Documentary evidence

      Using documented data in family history research. Why knowing about the documents you use can help you become a better researcher.

    • Transcriptions and indexes

      What are transcriptions, abstracts and indexes and how do they get created?

    • What's in a name?: 'An unusual name'

      The first part of the story following Chris as she researches her family history.

    • End of week tasks

      Activities to conclude the first week of the course.

  • Week 2

    Effective searching techniques

    • Welcome to Week 2

      This week you will learn how to focus your research and we will examine different ways to work around brick walls and how to consider naming issues.

    • Research strategies

      What is a research strategy and how can you approach research questions? We'll consider what an effective search is and look at different ways to look for ancestors.

    • Names

      Name changes can cause real issues for genealogists. How can we work around these and find people?

    • Genealogy databases and wildcards

      An introduction to genealogy databases and the use of wildcards to overcome name issues.

    • What's in a Name?: 'The Riepenhausens'

      The second part of the story following Chris as she researches her family history

    • End of week tasks

      Activities to conclude the second week of the course.

  • Week 3

    Using major source types

    • Welcome to Week 3

      This week we'll explore major types of genealogical sources.

    • Major source types

      The main source types used by genealogists across the world are civil, religious and census records.

    • Using sources and sources in archives

      A look at how to use documents to fill in your family tree. We explore different types of records at a physical archive.

    • Evaluating genealogy databases

      What to consider when deciding to choose a databases to use.

    • What's in a Name?: 'Land and sea'

      Part three of the story which follows Chris as she researches her family history

    • End of week tasks

      Activities to conclude the third week of the course.

  • Week 4

    Genealogical proof and DNA testing

    • Welcome to Week 4

      This week we'll look at the issue of genealogical proof and explore the use of DNA testing in genealogical research.

    • Principles of Genealogical Proof

      Understanding the Genealogical Proof Standard and evaluating sources.

    • Genetic Genealogy

      An introduction to the use of DNA testing in genealogical research practice.

    • What's in a name?: 'The Patersons'

      The fourth part of the story following Chris as she researches her family history

    • End of week tasks

      Activities to conclude the fourth week of the course.

  • Week 5

    Putting your research into context

    • Welcome to Week 5

      This week we'll examine secondary and other sources that bring an ancestor to life

    • Turning genealogy into family history

      Many sources can provide details and add colour to your family's story.

    • Accessing sources for context

      There are many ways to access secondary and primary sources you can use for context.

    • What's in a name?: 'Voices from the Past'

      The fifth part of the story following Chris as she researches her family history

    • End of week tasks

      Activities to conclude the fifth week of the course.

  • Week 6

    Documenting and communicating your research results and sources

    • Welcome to Week 6

      This week we'll introduce the main types of tools used by genealogists to store, track and analyse data along with an overview as to why such tools are useful.

    • Recording and organising research

      How can research findings be documented? Various tools will be discussed

    • Documenting and protecting

      Why referencing is important. How to organise and safeguard your research and documents.

    • Creating a family history

      What to consider when writing a family history.

    • What's in a name?: 'Sharing the story'

      The concluding part of the story following Chris as she researches her family tree

    • End of course tasks

      Final activities to bring our course to its conclusion.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Design a research plan for tracing family history.
  • Apply key techniques used when searching for and analysing genealogical records.
  • Describe the differences between genealogical source types and why they may cause problems for the researcher.
  • Develop an awareness of the use of historic and social context in family history research.
  • Develop an understanding of the ways in which genealogical information can be recorded and communicated.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in genealogy.

The course will be suitable if you:

  • have no experience with genealogy or family history research;
  • have some experience with genealogical research but want to develop your skills and knowledge further;
  • are a more experienced genealogical researcher but want to learn new searching, analytical or communication techniques or
  • find it difficult to access opportunities for training and development.

What do people say about this course?

"The Genealogy course was brilliant, it updated my knowledge in the general area of Genealogy which I have been studying as a hobbyist since 1962, but most importantly it dealt with very modern systems such as DNA research which had been a closed book for my research and now I have embraced those new technologies freely and feel very empowered to take my hobby into a new, refreshed ‘second wind’. "

Who will you learn with?

I am a genealogist and educator based at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland and am Course Leader for the MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies (distance learning).

Graham is the Principal Tutor on the MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies by Distance Learning at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland

Who developed the course?

University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde is a leading international technological university located in Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, committed to useful learning.


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