Just how far can you go?
The field of genealogical research is a wide-ranging and fascinating field of study and there is no telling where your research will take you and just how far back in time you can go. Your progress and eventual success in this endeavour will largely be dependent upon your patience, resourcefulness and willingness to explore every possible avenue that may come your way. Good old-fashioned hard work and a healthy degree of luck will play a large part as well.
The good news is that the information is out there in a staggering variety of resources and your perseverance in tracking down these sources will be rewarded with eventual success.
In Great Britain for example, extensive records are kept in a huge variety of national and local archives. Normally a search based on a single surname can uncover a wealth of new leads for you to explore. If your subject’s family has an unusual surname the search will probably be even easier. England and Wales in particular has very extensive records of family names dating back to the year 1837. This is the year when comprehensive records of national birth, marriage and death records began to be collected and a search of these records is bound to turn up some useful clues.
If your genealogical research requires you to go back further in time than 1837, the task will probably be a little bit more complicated. Record keeping tasks before this year was normally relegated to church registers and there can be some difficulty tracking down these older documents. While it can be difficult to trace these aforementioned church documents, it is by no means an impossible task and with judicious research efforts many genealogical researchers have been able to trace the whereabouts of their subjects ancestors all the way back to the late 16th century! Of course you will still need to utilise other available sources and not rely solely on these documents. The important thing to realise is that the records are there and that they can be quite an invaluable aid in your genealogical research efforts.
Obtaining access to documents and registry records from before the 16th century however is an entirely different matter. Due to the age of these documents, it can be quite a formidable task hunting down any material that can be of use to you in your work. In fact the possibility of any useful leads can be virtually nil, unless the subject you are researching in particular belongs to a distinguished family or clan with a well-documented pedigree. This is often the case with extremely wealthy families such as monarchy or long-term landowners. The reality of course is that your subject’s family is likely not as privileged as these lucky few and as such records kept that detail the lives of their ancestors may not be as complete or easy to find. Also if the subject of your genealogical research belongs to one of the upper class families, there is a great degree of likelihood that their lineage has already been established long ago.
Original Authors: Doods Pangburn
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 20/06/2008