The Waltham Forest Family History Society runs talks and workshops throughout the year tracing family histories

Mark Carroll's father's birth certificate, 1923.

Family tree of the Thomson family of Romford, Essex, circa 1600.

Local history enthusiasts recording inscriptions on gravestones in the churchyard of St Mary's Church, Leyton. 2012.

First published in News
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East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

The internet is a great starting point for tracing family history, but to get the full picture is a harder task, according to one genealogy researcher.

Mark Carroll, secretary of the Waltham Forest Family History Society, says online records will help getting as far back as the mid 19th century, but to go further requires greater know-how, determination and an understanding of Latin.

Popular genealogy websites largely use census records, which reach as far back as 1841, and births, deaths and marriage registrations, which reach 1837.

“There are a lot of family historians who think they can do everything on the web, and it is a tremendous asset to get started, but to get further than 1837 you get into documents that are slightly less accessible,” Mr Carroll said.

The 64-year-old, of Bush Wood, Leytonstone, has traced his mother’s side of the family to a marriage in Suffolk in 1597.

He says some websites use other sources of information, such as military records, but information not widely available on the web comes from parish records.

“Prior to 1837 you get into documents that are slightly less accessible.

“Parish records to back until 1550 if you’re lucky, but not every church has that, and accessing them involves going to the archives and asking for help from the archivist.”

Many records until 1733 are in Latin, and understanding them is subject to the quality of handwriting, he added.

Barrie Burton, the longest serving member and president of the society, said he “put the meat on the bones” of his father’s story by tracing records.

His father, who was given away at six weeks because he had been born out of wedlock, was brought from Dorset to London where his mother and her sister went door-to-door in Wood Street, Walthamstow looking for someone to take him in.

“He was brought up a Cockney when he should’ve been a farmer’s boy,” the 70-year-old said.

The Waltham Forest Family History Society, formed in 1978, meets once a month and offers talks and workshops throughout the year.

Its local archives are housed in Vestry House Museum in Vestry Road, Walthamstow.

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