• 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.

116,843 enrolled on this course

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

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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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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. *A key challenge of genealogy – finding the right person among a number of possible candidates, with ever-changing spellings of surnames – will be considered.
  • 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 databases.
  • 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 autosomal (‘cousin-matching’) and 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 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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