Family Tree Research

Have your family tree traced properly by a professional genealogist of 30 years’ experience, supported by an extensive team of properly trained genealogists and local experts.

What can you do?
I can trace your family history and also research the meaning of your surname; all aspects of heraldry and applications for new grants of arms; house histories; local history and missing people; conduct in-depth studies for biographies and advise you on using DNA for family history research. I can also write up your family history material for publication, or help edit an already-written family history to professional standards.

Filming Who Do You Think You Are? with Gary Lineker in his kitchen

Myself explaining Gary Lineker’s family tree to him on BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?, 2013

One aspect of my work which is ever more in demand is problem-solving – seeking to overcome blockages in family trees which may have existed for many years, which have been caused by lack of records in the more obvious places, or by sloppy research in the past. More and more people are coming to me now having found a ‘ready made’ family tree  on-line, to ask me to verify it, or to confirm that it was incorrect and find the true ancestors instead.

Why research ancestry?
Tracing family trees is now one of Britain’s most popular pastimes. In an increasingly dislocated world, it means a lot to be able to find out where our families lived, how we ended up where we are today and what life was like for our forebears.

Learning about family history also opens fascinating windows on local, social and national history, and reveals unexpected connections with people, places, countries, occupations, faiths and historical events. In addition, family history reports can make marvellous presents for birthdays, weddings and wedding anniversaries, Christmas or other special occasions.

Anthony Adolph

Getting to grips with some old documents and pedigrees at the start of my professional career in the early 1990s

Why hire a professional genealogist?
You may be enjoying researching your family tree, but are stuck. If so, you can hire me to try to overcome a particular problem.

You might want to know all about your family but lack the necessary time or knowledge of the sources, or the ability to travel. If so, you can hire me to plan, organise, implement and sort out the research for you.

Why hire you?
I have been a freelance professional genealogist since 2003. Before then I acquired 12 valuable years’ experience as a genealogist and latterly Head of Research for one of Britain’s largest and longest-established firms of genealogists.

During my career I have overseen research all over Great Britain and Eire, and in countries as far afield as America, Australia, Sierra Leone and India. I have experienced research amongst records ranging from birth certificates to Medieval tax lists; Tudor heralds’ pedigrees to workhouse records and ancient gravestones to DNA testing.

Two men dressed as 19th century soldiers with Melanie Sykes

Getting to grips with life as a nineteenth century soldier whilst filming at Chester with Melanie Sykes and Albert Charlotte

My work bringing family history to TV and radio has also given me a very broad view of genealogy worldwide, from Lithuanian Jews to Jamaican slaves and in the course of filming I have been able to visit and undertake research in places as far apart as Albert Square (in Elstree Studios) to Spanish Town in Jamaica.

In writing books and articles, I am able to revisit topics and revise, correct, update and improve my knowledge of them, and I am convinced this has made me a far better genealogist than I would have been otherwise.

Having worked in this field for over twenty years, I have established a formidable network of research contacts all over Great Britain, Ireland and overseas, including the United States, Canada, the Antipodes and many other countries.

I know how best to use the resources available on the Internet, and understand the many pitfalls that beset genealogy on the web: there are still many cases where it is best to switch off the computer and open an original register. Indeed, in my reports, nothing is presented as fact unless it has been professionally checked in an original source.

Besides being able to organise and implement research, my work in TV and also writing articles and books has taught me how to communicate the results in a clear, logical and – I hope – interesting way.

Indeed, writing up and explaining the results of research is one of the most rewarding parts of my work – apart of course from making incredible discoveries and cracking long-standing mysteries.

Anthony Adolph

As a freelance professional I have none of the substantial overheads that the large research firms incorporate into their charges. This freedom enables me to devote much more of your money to original research.

How do we start?
Please send me whatever information you know about the line or lines, or the particular problem, that you would like me to research. Please write down whatever names, dates, places and occupations you know, and details of any family stories or traditions.

If you have the chance to ask any elderly relatives what they can remember, I would recommend doing so, as they can be goldmines of information. And if you are such an “elderly goldmine” yourself, don’t forget that younger cousins might have inherited old family papers or bibles.

It does not matter how much or how little you can tell me – your date of birth would be enough. If you already have a large family tree but want to work back from the earliest ancestor, it will only really be necessary for me to know about the earliest couple of generations. You can send the details by e-mail or post them to me. It is useful – and interesting – if you can send copies of any relevant documents – please do not send original documents in the post.

Having assessed your information I will send you a quote. This might be a specific quote for addressing a particular problem. However, if you simply want me to start researching your family tree and see how far back it will go, we can agree on a budget (which could range from £50 to £500 as appropriate) which you could pay in one go or by a series of monthly instalments.

Privacy policy
Professional genealogists like myself have always taken great pains over maintaining the confidentiality of our clients and the information they send us. Recent changes in the law, driven by the European Union, have required this to be codified in a privacy policy.

What should I ask for?
You can ask me to research anything you like. There are no rules as to what you should or should not have researched first. Many people are most interested in the male line of their family, down which their present, family surname has come. But others are interested in their mother’s family, or the female line which leads back from their mother to their mother’s mother, and so on. Maybe there is a particular surname, or a story further back in the family tree that fascinates you both. I don’t even have to focus on just one line – I can quote for researching one, two, or many of your family lines at once.

How do I pay?
Payment can be made by a cheque in pounds sterling (made payable to ‘Anthony Adolph’: my postal details  available through this link), by bank transfer from anywhere in the world or by credit card at PayPal, quoting my e-mail address as the recipient. Most research budgets can be sent either in one go or by smaller monthly instalments, to suit all pockets.

What will I receive?
I will report back to you by letter or e-mail as you prefer, telling you exactly what research has been undertaken, what the results were, and what they mean, enclosing copies of any documents obtained in the process. The clearest and most efficient method of reporting back is to do so in one go, on completion of the project.

I will also send you an outline family tree, sketched by hand, to enable you to see what progress has been made and how the results fit together. At the end of research, you can commission a full printed pedigree showing all known members of the family, living and dead, as far back as we have traced. This can be illustrated with coats of arms if any have been found, or other appropriate decoration.

Two men looking at some archives in the family records centre

Showing ITV presenter Ben Shephard how the old General Register Office indexes worked, shortly before the closure of the Family Records Centre. Before computers arrived, I used to spend a day a week searching for births, marriages and deaths in those heavy index volumes!

It is essential to point out that positive results cannot be guaranteed. No researcher can promise to be able to find an ancestor or a document unless they already have the results sitting in front of them. There are many reasons why births weren’t registered, people changed their names or gave false or misleading information about their origins.

When such problems arise, they can take a long time and a reasonable amount of money to solve. However, the detective-work of cracking difficult cases is one of the most fascinating aspects of this work.

Equally, there are cases when records have been lost, decayed, burned or eaten by rats or (in warmer countries) termites. Genealogical expertise is required to know how to locate and use alternative record sources which have survived. So, although positive results cannot be guaranteed, I can promise a full commitment to achieving the best possible results I can.

How long does it take?
One-off searches can sometimes be handled in a matter of weeks. Research projects take longer – some last a couple of months and some, especially if substantial problems arise, or we are dealing with research outside the British Isles, can take six months or even longer.

You may want to commission research as a present, maybe for a birthday or Christmas. There are two options here. If you commission the research in advance, I will start the research and, even if it is not finished by the required date, I will send a progress report, to hand over as the present, with the promise of the rest to come – something a lot of recipients over the years have enjoyed immensely. If you commission the research just before the event, however, that is no problem. I will send you a letter from me to hand over as the present, announcing that the research has been commissioned, and promising a report in due course. This, I know from many satisfied clients, goes down very well too.

Any other questions…
Please do feel free to contact me by post, e-mail or telephone and ask absolutely any questions you want. As I sometimes travel to undertake research personally, or for filming or giving talks, it is easiest to ring me on my mobile, 07890 068218 – if you like, I can then take your number and ring you back on a landline.

And if you have no further questions, send me your details and, once we have agreed on a budget, I can start tracing your family tree for you!

These are some of the numerous testimonials I have received from satisfied clients over the years

‘May I share your report to Ancestry. They keep asking me to hire one of their people to do research for me and I have told them you have done two searches for me. I have also said that you are better than anyone they have and you are close to the records. Also that your searches have been approved by the Matheson Clan genealogist, John Faid’.
C.M. snr, Elgin, Texas (June 2022).

‘I have received your packet containing my family history information and your final report. I wish to tell you that I am very happy with the service you have provided. You are professional, thorough, and provide a very pleasing written analysis of your findings. Your communications are timely and informative. I must confess that I was initially very apprehensive about conducting business in this manner, via email over the internet. However, having completed this phase of my research, I would strongly recommend you to anyone who was interested in retaining your services’.
G.W., Pennsylvania

‘My sister came up from N. at the weekend and we managed to persuade J. to let us have your report before Christmas as we just couldn’t wait! Very many thanks for all the fascinating facts you discovered, we now know who we are – if you know what I mean. I shall definitely contact you in the New Year regarding following up further details on both my family and J.’s mother’.
C.W., Leicestershire.

“I grew up knowing a bit about my recent… heritage, but now I knew about the ancient links and it’s something I hold dear”
Hugh Grant, film star (as quoted in The Sunday Mail, 18 December 2005).

‘Thank you for your letter of 16 September with the wealth of information included and attached. I shall need a little time to digest it all and I shall get into touch with you again when I am ready to proceed further. Meanwhile I am much indebted to your care and skill’
J.S., New South Wales.

‘I need to THANK YOU for the time you spent in find my family for us. We indeed had a happy reunion over the internet. We are both in a state of shock right now trying to digest this happy event. I thought we would NEVER find him. As it is now, we are happily reunited and in touch. When I emailed him, he emailed me immediately right back. It was unreal’.
C.B., Utah.

‘For many years I have searched in vain to unravel this mystery, but sadly to no avail. Having seen the great work you did on the Antiques Ghost Show, I feel that if anyone can help me its hopefully yourself’.
S.P., Hendon, Middlesex.

‘Cheers for replying so soon. I am so pleased that you have results for me. I am 60 in the middle of February – what a lovely present to myself. Thanks again. I didn’t think you would get any results at all’.
A.G., Sussex.

‘Thank you so very very much. You have accomplished more than we ever expected. The champagne corks will be popping here in Canada tonight’
K.S., Ontario.

I am simply ecstatic with the results of your search for my great-grandfather T..S.M. .  You have definitely found the right family.
Rev. J. E. W. , Lubbock, Texas.

Thank you again for undertaking this commission, your attention to detail and continued professionalism are evident in your work and I know it is a gift that will bring a lot of joy to my dad.

“So far you seem the most exciting genealogist I have been in touch with”
Jan, via e-mail.

“I am thrilled by what you have sent me, and will spend many happy moments poring over all of your research during the forthcoming months!  It is so exciting to have this information, and to have had contact with you as an eminent genealogist and author – greatly appreciated!
J.H. West Vancouver, via e-mail

Confused about the terms ‘first cousin twice removed’ and ‘fourth cousin seven times removed’? Don’t be! Here’s a clear explanation of how to work out cousinship.

DNA testing
I started learning how DNA testing worked, and how it can be applied to family trees, in 1999. I have kept up to date with it ever since and have constantly encouraged geneticists to make their results comprehensible to genealogists. I can advise on how to use genetics to learn more about your family tree. Sometimes, and where necessary I will advise taking a DNA test in order to overcome a problem that cannot be overcome by paper-based research. You can click on these links to see an example of how to link genetic results with a conventional pedigree, and details about genetic tests and how to order them.