Of you get curious and want to explore your family history, you’ll get a shock when you find out who the big two online data stores belong to.
Tracking down your ancestors is big business in Britain, the USA and former Commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia.
Although you would expect birth, marriage and death records to be owned by the state, over the years, recording the events has been carried out by a mish-mash of groups, such as churches, councils and governments.
Ancestry is an online partner owned by the Church of the Latter-day Saints – sometimes called the Mormon church.
The Mormons have more than 2 billion records locked in a giant granite vault under a mountain in Utah, USA.
Church members have a strong belief in knowing their ancestry.
The records are available to search free on web site Family Search. The database has a billion names from 110 countries – although the church says fewer than half the records are online.
Find My Past is run by Dandy and Beano comic publishers DC Thompson.
The firm went digital in 2001 with a project to computerise UK birth, marriage and death records to help researchers. Until then, they had to spend hours poring over written records or microfiches.
Ancestry and Find My Past tend to search the same records – but for British researchers, Find My Past has the 1939 Register listing civilians, their jobs and addresses in a survey taken on the eve of World War 2 by the government.
This is a priceless resource for genealogists as the latest published UK census was for 1911 and the next will not be unwrapped until 2021 under the 100-year rule to protect the data of living persons.
The 1939 Register gives researchers a head start, and as no census took place during 1941, effectively bridges an information gap that will last from 2031 until 2051.
Ancestry and Find My Past both have charges for their services.
Most family historians find using both services together gives the best results – especially placing relatives on a map in 1939 from Find My Past.