• University of Strathclyde

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

Develop an understanding of genealogy – how to research your family tree and communicate the results – in this free online course.

112,324 enrolled on this course

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

This free online course will help you develop an understanding of basic genealogy techniques and how to communicate your family history. We will consider how to effectively find and analyse sources and explore the potential of DNA testing as applied to genealogy. We’ll help you add historical context to your family history and discuss how to record and communicate research findings in a clear fashion. The course is primarily designed for people at beginner to intermediate level.

Learn how to find and store information on your family tree

We’ll get you to define what you want to research, and consider the best ways to go about finding and storing information on your family tree. A key challenge of genealogy – finding the right person among a number of possible candidates, with ever-changing spellings of surnames – will be considered.

We’ll conclude by introducing the main types of tools genealogists use to communicate their research finds, including creating a family tree and look at how to write a meaningful family history.

Share your own genealogy finds with learners worldwide

Throughout the course, you’ll follow the story of Chris, as she uncovers her own family history, and you’ll be encouraged to share sources and ideas particular to your area of genealogical interest and geographic focus.

The course will not concentrate on a specific country’s records or how to source these, so it will be useful to anyone around the world.

Develop your genealogy skills

The knowledge you gain from this course may prompt you to explore family history research more deeply or consider a career as a professional genealogist.

You may even wish to take your learning further, with the University of Strathclyde’s online MSc in Genealogical Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies.

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What topics will you cover?

  • A consideration of the differences between primary, derived primary and secondary sources.
  • An understanding of the importance of knowing who made a document and why and how they were created.
  • Lateral ways to approach research including the FAN/cluster technique and mind mapping.
  • Primary source databases including searching techniques to deal with name change or spelling differences; these include the use of wildcards.
  • An introduction to main source types including civil, church, census and military records to give a sense of the typical type of data these records contain and how to use them.
  • Review the content of major international and selected local and specialised databases and consider ways to evaluate datebases.
  • The principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard including how to establish proof and how to evaluate evidence.
  • The use of DNA testing in genealogical research with a focus on Y-testing techniques.
  • An exploration of secondary and primary sources which provide historic and social context, considering their quality and how to find them.
  • The importance of providing evidence of the sources used in family history research and an exploration of the various systems of referencing in use.
  • A consideration of tools used to store, track and analyse genealogical data; various types of family trees and reports including paper based resources, software programs and online tools.
  • What are the best ways to begin writing a family history?
  • Ways to protect and preserve physical records and digital data.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. 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?

No special knowledge or previous experience of studying is required.

This 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).

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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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