Collins Need to Know? – Tracing Your Family History

Collins, April 2007
ISNB-13: 978-0-00-723545-2
ISBN-10: 0-00-723545-3

Written by Anthony Adolph

“Highly Recommended”, My History (, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Collins’ Need to Know series comprises short versions of its larger, successful reference works. Simply producing a shortened version of my Tracing Your Family History, however, seemed like a missed opportunity.

Instead, I seized the chance to explore two ideas I have had for a long time. First, there was no guide on the market aimed at tracing a family line back as far as possible, as quickly as possible.

Secondly, as the resident genealogist for Genes Reunited, I receive many messages from people all over the world, asking for help because they are stuck. Some problems are due to genuinely tricky bits of research, or lack of records in a particular area. But many people now are getting stuck because access to records is so easy: within hours of switching on their computers, people can be flooded with information, data, names, details – some from sources that may or may not be reliable, and some from original data whose origin and purpose they simply don’t understand.

This book does not, therefore, assume that you will have any grounding in the subject at all. You’re not going to spend weeks reading up on all the background to the records, or following the traditional steps over a period of months. You’re sitting in front of the computer, eager to make progress, yet you’re completely confused as to how to proceed. This is the book for you.

Equally, you are keen to delve back into the past, as far as you can go. Although family history can keep you absorbed for years as you investigate more and more about your past, it’s also fun to see how far back you can go. By connecting back through ‘gateway ancestors’ to royal lineages – which isn’t always as difficult as you may think – you may be able to trace at least one line of your ancestry back several thousands of years. By combining traditional genealogical research with the cutting-edge science of DNA testing, you can find out about where some of your forebears were tens of thousands of years ago.

The book is as up to date as it can be on Internet developments, though it was printed just before the announcement that the 1911 census has been made available for public searching. For more information on this unexpected and wonderful new development, see


Review of Need to Know: “The book is, as would be expected from such a respected author, well-written and full of necessary information… those new to family history can expect a good lesson in the basics and an introduction to potential areas of further study, while the veteran may identify with the experiences from Anthony’s own research – both into his own and celebrities’ families – that are found throughout. It’s a good chance to get better acquainted with today’s research methods. Accessible and informative”.
– Craig Leyland, Family History Monthly, August 2007, no. 146, p. 55.

“…a lot of useful, accessible information packed into the book’s 200 pages… a strong contender in the beginner’s market, particularly with its realistic take on how people now use the internet as their entry drug into the addictive world of family history”
Your Family Tree, May 2007 p. 83.

“I most cases, web-based routes to records are discussed first and the offline versions second, though before seasoned genealogists choke on their porridge, it should be said that he offers due warnings about the variable quality of indexed or of transcribed data…” – Your Family Tree, May 2007 p. 83.

“This is the essential beginner’s guide to unravelling the mystery of your family’s origins. With invaluable tips, advice and information from professional genealogist Anthony Adolph, navigating your way through the wealth of governmental, religious and more obscure records available will suddenly seem manageable. With particular emphasis on the internet as an indispensable resource that can be your main starting point or help further your research” – Practical Family History, July 2007, p. 41.

“I bought your Collins “need to know” book yesterday: it’s more succinct than any other genealogy book in my collection, and is already proving to be useful” – Dave Taylor (by e-mail).