Tracing Your Family History

Tracing Your Family History by Anthony AdolphCollins, 13 978-0-00-727492-5, Hardback 350pp 246 x 189mm, third, fully revised edition published July 2008, RRP £20. (first published in September 2004 (0-00-715892-0); second edition 0-00-721483-9 published October 2005).

Written by Anthony Adolph

As recommended by Fern Britton on ITV’s This Morning

The new edition was awarded the Your Family Tree Magazine Seal of Approval. They called it “ of our favourite general handbooks… do you need to have this new edition? If you have the last one, probably not, unless having an up-to-date edition is important to you, or you want to pass on your old one. But if you didn’t have this title before, whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, it remains a wonderful textbook packed with useful information” (Your Family Tree, November 2008, issue 70.

Anthony Adolph’s guide to tracing your family history had been described as ‘the definitive handbook for anyone interested in tracing their family’s past’.

Practical and entertaining, this reference guide is the indispensible companion for everyone seeking reliable help in tracking down their family origins.

Thanks largely to the enthusiastic votes of its readers around the world, Tracing your Family History was nominated Runner Up in the 2004-2005 Family History Book of the Year Readers Competition of Ancestors, the magazine of Britain’s National Archives. “The judges liked the design value and the breadth of coverage together with the stories unearthed by the author in the course of his career as a family history researcher. It stood out in a very competitive market”.

The Second Edition has been brought out to take into account the great advances in accessibility of records on-line in the past couple of years, particularly in the fields of General Registration of birth, marriage and death, and censuses. It’s revised features include:
– Comprehensive guidance on the wealth of governmental, religious and more obscure records available to the family history sleuth.

– Useful advice on how to expand and reinvigorate a search when the trail runs cold.

– Tips on using the Internet as both a starting point and a supplement to more traditional searches.

– Unique help on finding ancestors from outside the UK.

With a highly modern look and engaging style, this book is the ideal guide for the amateur genealogist.

Click here to see my interview about the book on This Morning, with Fern Britton and Philip Schofield

A hero of the British-Zulu wars, awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery… a pioneering Indian prime minister of the province of Bhavnagar… Princess Anne’s husband’s descent from a Jewish merchant of Venice… a 16th-century peasant woman, executed for bewitching a man and his pigs…

These are just some of the extraordinary stories that Anthony Adolph has unearthed in his years of researching family histories. What mysteries does your family’s past hold? Collins Tracing Your Family History helps you find out.

From parish records to marriage certificates, from wills to military service records, there is a vast amount of information about your ancestors just waiting to be discovered. Recognising the important influence of the Internet in modern genealogical research, this book tells you how to combine the latest technology with the most proven research techniques as you delve deeper into your heritage.

The guide is perfect for the novice family historian, beginning with the very basics of genealogical research. It will also prove invaluable for those who have made some progress but find their trail has gone cold or want to take their research further- from old county maps to naturalisation records, Anthony Adolph has suggestions for a wealth of more unexpected sources to unblock your search. No matter how deep you would like to dig into your family’s past, he leads the way with informative guidance and fascinating case studies.

From Wales to India, Ireland to Jamaica, wherever your family hails from, Collins Tracing Your Family History gives you the expert advice and tips you need to make your search efficient, fruitful – and fascinating. In short, this is the only book you need to make your family’s past come to life.


Ask the family
Writing it all down
Finding pictures of ancestors

General Registration
Directories and almanacs
Lives less ordinary: illegitimacy; adoption; fostering; missing people and divorce
Parish registers
Manorial records
Things that will help – archives, societies, websites, publications and people.

Gravestones and memorials
Newspapers and magazines
Land records
Slave ancestry
About places – maps and local histories
Records of elections
The parish chest
Almshouses and workhouses
What people did
Fighting forebears – records of the armed forces
Tax and other financial matters
Legal records
Immigration and emigration

Protestant nonconformists

Royalty, nobility and landed gentry
Clans and tartans

The launch of the new edition in September 2008 was accompanied by a competition in the September edition of the newsletter.

Praise for Tracing your Family History

“It’s this kind of map through the complex landscape of genealogy that makes Anthony Adolph’s book such a valuable companion” South Tyneside Gazette, 21 October 2004.

“I am a genealogist (family historian) with over 35 years experience. I have read numerous books on the subject but yours stands out from the rest of the pack, due mainly I think to your unique layout, many thanks I am finding most it helpful with my ‘brickwall situations'” – M. Thurston (by e-mail).

“The overriding feeling about this book is that it is bending over backwards to try to assist researchers, providing answers by almost pre-empting the questions. The author takes nothing for granted, explaining where possible… and using good, brief examples to help illustrate points. While there are an increasing number of self-help guides to family history research, many of which are of great value, Adolph’s book is definitely up there with the best’, Your Family Tree, December 2004.

‘As someone deeply engaged in his own family history, I guarantee that this book will be of enormous help”. Geoff Ward, Western Daily Press, 2 October 2004.

“Anthony Adolph is, above all else, a professional genealogist. If you know someone who has expressed an interest in this subject, here’s a good Christmas present to set them off on their journey”. Ancestors (magazine of the National Archives), December 2004.

“Today I have my latest and brightest possession, Collins’ Tracing Your Family History. This beautifully produced hardback tome contains just about every facet of genealogy you could wish to approach… A local archivist says that the book will appeal to searchers at all levels because of its friendly approach. dozens of addresses and colourful illustrations of documents. These all provide little clues about how to take the next step … A fine Christmas gift for a beginner or yourself”, Dora Kneebone, Felixtowe Family History Journal, December 2004.

“It could be just a personal preference, but I particularly enjoy the descriptive accounts of families, with accompanying photographs and documents, and of the research problems encountered along the way. An extraordinary case of tracing a missing person (page 95) is one of many which gives us those heart-warming feelings of possibility and success which we all enjoy so much. This book is a very useful, thorough and up-to-date addition to the selection of books for both the beginner and the more advanced family historian, for which Anthony Adolph is to be congratulated”. Michael Watts, Cheshire Family History Society, March 2005.

“Thanks for your informative and inspirational book which I have used to trace some branches of my family to 1801. Very grateful for your help”, Anne Outterson, Genes Reunited live question and answer session, November 2005.

“Unlike other readable genealogy authors, Anthony Adolph doesn’t just stop at an explanation… from beginners upwards, most genealogists should be able to glean new wisdom from this one”, Sarah Warwick, Family History Monthly’s “Top Ten Books of 2005” list (Family History Monthly, Christmas 2005, no. 125, pp. 82-3).

“Packed with practical advice on the tools needed to uncover family history, it succeeds in conveying the colourful backdrop of historical events and human interest which brings a family tree to life”. Martine Parnell in Family History Monthly’s “Top Ten Books of 2005″ list in Family History Monthly, Christmas 2005, no. 125, pp. 82-3)

“Beautifully designed and organized… the sections on accessing General Registration and census records have been rewritten to reflect the vastly increased range of online records in recent months, and how to use them in a broader context… this is a “Textbook” textbook”. Your Family Tree, issue 32, Christmas 2005, p. 82.

“Your book has held me riveted since I bought it a fortnight ago. I have been working on the family tree for something aproaching 30 years and still finding plenty to do on it!”. Mike Webster, via e-mail.

“An excellent guide and reference book that will be useful for any genealogist but especially those beginning their research.While not wholly international, it doesn’t fall into the trap of assuming everyone is either English or American. Its presentation is a delight to the eye, and peppered with examples and tips which are a great bonus even for the seasoned traveler”, Wellington City (New Zealand) Library website

“Adolph’s first book, Collins Tracing Your Family History, is a beautifully-printed, fascinating how-to guide. The photographs and other illustrations are stunning…”

“Adolph, a professional genealogist who appears regularly on British television and radio, has produced an accessible introduction to researching British family history. In the first section, he discusses the fundamentals involved in this research–e.g., talking to living relatives, collecting family photographs–and lists various web sites, libraries, archives, and publications available to contemporary researchers. The second and third sections cover the (mostly British) records helpful in such a quest. The fourth and final section highlights a range of topics related to researching one’s family lineage, from genetics to psychic investigations. On nearly every page, Adolph provides samples of documents related to the task as well as “Where To Search” and “Quick Reference” informational snippets. Recommended for genealogical and public library collections”, Elaine M. Kuhn, Allen Cty. P.L., Ft. Wayne, IN, Library Journal, June 15, 2005 v130 i11 p100(1).

“Anthony Adolph’s “Tracing Your Family History”… is not something I would usually buy for the simple reason that such books are usually about records kept in the UK/US and so would not be much help to me. However I noted that it had a chapter on immigration and another on the army which will be useful to me insh’Allah as our family geniology has been a long-term project for me and I would like to learn more to provide my generation with their own family record insh’Allah” –

“I also like Anthony Adolph’s Tracing Your Family History, which is an easy read which you can dip into as you wish or need” – Ian Templeton,

“Collins Tracing Your Family History by Anthony Adolph. A reference manual for both would-be and experienced genealogists. I dabble in genealogy periodically, and while I have a fairly good grasp of the basic record sources, this book gives lots of ideas for moving beyond the hunt for births, marriages and deaths”. –

“Anthony Adolph set a new standard for genealogy books. For the first time a major publisher had really invested time, money and imagination in what was to become a bestseller”, Simon Fowler, Ancestors, October 2008, p. 70.

“This marvellous book by genealogist Anthony Adolph will show you how to find out more about your family history” – The Newspaper.

“He has compiled a vast amount of information including the latest genealogical websites, as well as the most proven research techniques. The book is perfect for the novice family historian beginning with the very basics of research, but will also prove invaluable to those who have made some progress but find their trail has gone cold. No matter how deep you would like to dig into your family’s past, this book can provide the tips you need to make your search worthwhile” – Jane Turvey, Orilla Packet & Times (, 2009.

“Incidentally Anthony, I am reading your book – Collins – Tracing Your Family History, 2004.  I think that it is a excellent book” – Jane Hamby, professional genealogist, 2015.

“I’ve been reading your book Tracing Your Family History and I’ve found it to be the most informative book by far that I have ever read on the subject”. F. Hudson, via e-mail. 16 February 2017.

Family History Monthly, December 2004, no. 111, p. 58.
British Life, issue 4, November/December 2004, p. 64.
Ancestors, December 2004, issue 28, p. 62.
South Tyneside Gazette, 21 October 2004.
“Going back to your roots”. Victoria Murchie, The Press and Journal.
“Your family tree can bear fruit”, Bristol Observer, 4 October 2004.
“A window on your past’, East Anglian Daily Times, 16 October 2004.
Western Daily Press, 2 October 2004.
“Trace your family tree”, Linlithgow Gazette, 29 October 2004.
By Dora Kneebone, Felixtowe Family History Journal, December 2004.
“Win Tracing your Family History”, competition in Your Family Tree, issue 22, March 2005, p. 33.
Invitation to live Question and Answer session and winners of 20 copies of my book, Your Family Tree August 2005 no. 27 pp. 14 and 65.
“Books of the Year” (notice of Tracing your Family History being voted runner-up in the Book of the Year Competition) Ancestors, December 2005, no. 40, pp. 18-20.
Cited in ‘further reading’ in “All about Civil Registration”, Ancestors, January 2006, no. 41, 2005, p. 56.
Top of the list in Family History Monthly’s “Top Ten Books of 2005” list (Family History Monthly, Christmas 2005, no. 125, pp. 82-3)
Quotation from Tracing your Family History, Family History Monthly, March 2006. no. 128, p. 34.
Cited as recommended reading in Geoff Swinfield’s Smart Family History, The National Archives, 2006, p. 255.


The second edition of my book, Tracing your Family History(Collins, ISBN 0-00-721483-9, rrp £20) can be bought for only £18 (post-free for all orders in mainland Great Britain) by ringing 0870 7871724 and quoting code 258Y.