• What is the difference between family history and genealogy?
    To fully understand your ancestry we need to draw on the techniques of both genealogical and family history research. Genealogy traces the names, dates and relationships between your ancestors in order to construct your lineage. In contrast, family history will help you step into the shoes of your forebears and understand the reality of their lives and experience. Ancestral Footsteps’ interests lie in family history rather than straight genealogy. We work with excellent genealogists to build our clients’ family trees, but our research also goes beyond the family tree, sourcing the documents, photographic material and experts to bring your history alive.
  • How much information do I need to give you for you to begin your research?
    The more information you can give us about your family at the start of our research, the greater chance we have of finding interesting new leads rather than spending research time on what is already known. If very little is known, don’t despair: for ancestors in the UK or in much of Western Europe we can usually start research with as little information as a name, date and place of birth. For ancestors from further afield, for instance in Eastern Europe or Asia, we may need to gather information on your wider family rather than just your direct ancestors.   Other information that is useful is contacts for relatives in the wider family as they could have interesting insights. And any ancestor photos are a welcome bonus for the team so we can see the faces of those we are researching, plus they also greatly enhance your book.
  • What type of sources do you use in your research?

    We consult as many sources as possible to find new material such as court reports, land records, pre-nuptial contracts, poor law books, passports, passenger lists, naturalisation papers, military records, census returns, newspaper articles, prison photos, school reports, tax papers, rent books, patents, maps… then we place your family in the historical and social context of the times.

  • Broadly speaking, what does 30 hours of research get me?

    How our time is spent largely depends on the nature of our investigation – if your family is from the UK then you can expect a comprehensive selection of documents, if your family is from further afield then more time may be spent on translations and sending a researcher to a remote archive. 

    We would probably advise selecting the 60-hour package if you wish to have more than one branch of your family investigated or have a complex international history. We can discuss this with you when you contact us.

  • What happens if you don’t find anything?
    We have never yet researched a family with no results. Every family has a story, and even in far-flung countries there are usually new findings to be made. Moreover, if we ever did find it impossible to uncover information from one branch of your family then we would agree with you to focus on another branch.
  • How long should I allow between engaging your services and receiving my research portfolio?
    It is best to allow at least three months for our research in Britain and at least four months if your ancestry lies further afield. Time is spent assigning the best researchers to your project, and engaging the services of our excellent local researchers who are often in high demand. We may also have to wait for documents to arrive by post before starting the next stage of our research.
  • What does an Ancestral Footsteps illustrated book include?
    The book is the central part of your research portfolio and where we tell the story of your family. It is fully illustrated with visual material we find such as ancestral documents and maps and other research sources as mentioned above, as well as relevant photographs. Book topics for clients have included: From Holland to Michigan, the story of the Nyland family; The Hays, a family of entrepreneurs; Grandad Alec’s Second World War; The Forrest family: from Scotland to England; The mystery of Reginald de la Mote; The St. John family, our West Indian ancestry; The Brown family: humble origins in Tudor England. If you wish to see sample pages showing the type of content and layout you might find in one of our books then please email us to request this. Please note that we can provide additional copies of your illustrated book for other family members.
  • Tell me more about your gift service?

    The majority of our packages, whether research or tours, are gifts to a loved one, whether from one spouse to another or from children to a parent for a ‘big’ birthday or wedding anniversary. 50th birthdays are currently very popular, as are leaving presents for work colleagues. We offer beautiful gift vouchers for any of our services.

  • I have Jewish ancestry and believe all records from their hometown were destroyed. Can you help?
    It is a common misconception that if records are not available online then they do not exist. They often do, but in local archives. Also, while many records were destroyed in the Second World War, many do survive. Some of our most rewarding research and tours have been for Jewish families, where we have started with little information and been able to reveal so much in our research portfolio or on the tour. Past tours have included visits to graves, mikvahs, former homes, synagogues and workplaces, all personal to the family.
  • I was always told I was related to royalty. Can you confirm this?
    We will investigate all sorts of family stories, though often your lineage may not be what you expect. The reality of your family history may be quite different to the legends but that does not mean it is any the less interesting.
  • I am adopted. Can you trace my birth family?
    You need to first contact social services in order to learn your birth mother’s name and date of birth and secure your adoption records but once you have details of your parent(s) we can then trace your birth family’s ancestry. Several of our team have worked on Long Lost Family and are used to conducting very sensitive research. We memorably helped a client trace his birth family members, who had been looking for him since the 1970s, and were able to give him a locket his mother always wanted him to have.
  • Do you also research houses as well as people?
    Yes. We have researched the history of houses (and gardens) for clients both in the UK and abroad and again they made wonderful gifts. Please enquire for more information.
  • I have got an old box of photos and documents. Could you come to my home to help me make sense of them?
    Yes. We have often done this for clients and then compiled them into a book.
  • Once you have conducted our research would you always advise us to take it one step further and go on a tour?

    This will depend entirely on what we discover, where your family come from and what you know already.  Although the research portfolio is fascinating and informative in its own right there is something very special about following your ancestors’ footsteps and forming a real emotional connection with them.

    We may discover a particularly interesting incident or place involving a particular ancestor and may give you the option of revealing our findings on a one-day tour. (For example, we took one family to Brussels to visit the shop where the family ribbon business was located in the 1800s, and took another client to HMS Victory to reveal that her ancestor was involved in a court martial there).  It may be that you feel your whole story could lend itself to a weekend or 5-day tour, particularly if your ancestry is abroad and entirely unknown to you.  We took one extended family to Belarus and Hungary to see family homes and graves the family assumed had been obliterated during the war. Please see our client tour photos and testimonials on our website for more examples.

  • Do you really go anywhere in the world?
    Over the years Ancestral Footsteps has led families back to their roots in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Russia, Belarus, Slovakia, Ukraine & North Africa. Through our Who Do You Think You Are? documentary work, members of our team have researched families in the Americas, Africa, Australasia and Asia. We will of course not travel to parts of the world that are deemed dangerous by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. What differentiates us from other ancestral companies is that they tend to be one country-focused and offer more general genealogical tours in, say, Ireland or Germany, as opposed to highly personal tours. What makes Ancestral Footsteps different is that we design tours that are entirely led by your family documents.
  • What type of tours do you do?
    If you know very little about your family history, you can enjoy one of our ‘mystery tours’ with a journey of revelation. We will guide you to uncover the story as you travel, with each new document or encounter giving clues to the next step back in time.  If you know your ancestors’ names and some information but want to develop your understanding of the family, your tour can be a journey of exploration. Guided visits to relevant locations and a wealth of social and historical detail will help to ‘colour in’ your ancestors’ stories, and our research will aim to find surprising revelations in documents such as newspaper articles, court reports, wills and photographs.   You may have one ancestor whose life you want to commemorate and investigate, perhaps because they served in the forces, were victims of persecution, helped make history or achieved glory as an athlete or artist. A tour of commemoration can help you sort fact from fiction, honour your ancestor’s life, and take you to the heart of their story.
  • What does the Ancestral Footsteps researcher and guide do on the tour?
    Your dedicated personal researcher and guide will be there on your tour to ensure you get the most out of your experience. Your researcher will already be immersed in your family history and will help you get to know the people behind the names and dates, by exploring your ancestors’ lives and the day-to-day challenges they faced. He or she will take charge of your daily schedule to personally facilitate all the meetings and visits that will help you experience your ancestors' stories. We also recommend our researchers do a recce. This is a preparatory trip (sometimes called a ‘scoping mission’ in the US) done in advance of your tour. A thorough recce helps us to ensure the smooth running of your schedule and lets us arrange special access to family locations, talk through our findings with local experts, visit local archives, and check out places of relevant historical interest.
  • What sort of experts could be involved in my tour?
    Our Ancestral Footsteps researcher and guide will become an expert in your family’s story. When possible, we will arrange meetings on your tour with other experts such as archivists, local guides, or military historians who have new insights to offer into the history of your family.
  • What is the payment process?
    Once you sign up for one of our packages we will issue you with an invoice via email. Payment is in advance please and made via bank transfer (or cheque if you do not have internet banking). We do not have credit card facilities, but, if you wish, you can pay via Paypal, for which there is a small surcharge.