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Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

University of Strathclyde via FutureLearn


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 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.

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.


  • Analysing documents
    • Welcome to the course
    • Welcome to Week 1
    • The basics
    • Documentary evidence
    • Transcriptions and indexes
    • What's in a name?: 'An unusual name'
    • End of week tasks
  • Effective searching techniques
    • Welcome to Week 2
    • Research strategies
    • Names
    • Genealogy databases and wildcards
    • What's in a Name?: 'The Riepenhausens'
    • End of week tasks
  • Using major source types
    • Welcome to Week 3
    • Major source types
    • Using sources and sources in archives
    • Evaluating genealogy databases
    • What's in a Name?: 'Land and sea'
    • End of week tasks
  • Genealogical proof and DNA testing
    • Welcome to Week 4
    • Principles of Genealogical Proof
    • Genetic Genealogy
    • What's in a name?: 'The Patersons'
    • End of week tasks
  • Putting your research into context
    • Welcome to Week 5
    • Turning genealogy into family history
    • Accessing sources for context
    • What's in a name?: 'Voices from the Past'
    • End of week tasks
  • Documenting and communicating your research results and sources
    • Welcome to Week 6
    • Recording and organising research
    • Documenting and protecting
    • Creating a family history
    • What's in a name?: 'Sharing the story'
    • End of course tasks

Taught by

Tahitia McCabe


4.5 rating, based on 6 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at FutureLearn based on 1187 ratings

Start your review of Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree

  • I began this course thinking I only wanted to know how to find out my ancestors' names along with their dates and places of birth, marriage, and death. By the time I finished this well-presented course, I realised the story of their lives, what they did and how they lived would be much more interesting than dry numbers and facts on the page.
    The estimated hours taken each week could be easily doubled by counting the time taken researching and beginning to write my family history.
  • Profile image for Joan Greene-Fisher
    Joan Greene-Fisher
    I found the course to be easy. It was informative, but I was hoping for more detail. If a person is a newbie at genealogy, it would be an excellent course. However, if you have researched genealogy for many years, there is little new here. I did enjoy the course though.
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed the Genealogy Course: University of Strathclyde, and I had written eBooks about the subject so I am an experienced family historian with links to many famous people and I have invented a Dynasty system to help folks with their own c…
  • Profile image for Sally Mahoney
    Sally Mahoney
    Good introduction to genealogical best practices such as how to track research and how to find sources.
    Good links to sources, especially for people researching Irish ancestry.
  • Sheree Putt
    excellent very good it be great for people to learn who they are where they come from. The family tree is very important to me because you can learn all sorts ofthings like you can find your lostrelatives
  • Profile image for Sheri Havens
    Sheri Havens

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