The UK’s Society of Genealogists’ (SoG) has created a new online tool called TreeSearch™ – an application which makes a sample of twenty pedigrees available for free and is part of the wider project to digitise the entire collection of over 10,000 physical family trees and pedigrees held by the Society.

The charts are hand drawn or specially designed and are known as Pedigree Rolls because they are very large and difficult to store and so have been rolled up to protect them and make storage easier. Genealogists, social historians and those researching their family trees can now search the Roles via the Society’s website.

The documents are often incredibly ornate, combining family tree information with stunningly beautiful artwork. The addition of hand-written notes on many of them simply adds to their authenticity, appeal and historical significance. The digital images of a selection of some the hand-crafted historical family trees have been scanned, indexed and then uploaded to TreeSearch™ – the new family tree explorer application. Currently the application includes a small selection of historical family trees, out of a collection of around 20,000 images of pedigrees, covering well over one million people. The rest of this collection will be added in stages over the next six to twelve months and will be available to SoG members.

TreeSearch™ is the Society of Genealogists’ innovative way of bringing more of their collections to members, no matter where they live. It is also a useful tool for teachers, a range of historians and family historians. The application features enhanced navigation and search facilities and has been developed in tandem with Zoompast. The Society was delighted to receive a grant from the Art Fund towards the project and is indebted to the many volunteers who have created the tree images, indexed the trees and linked those index entries with the images. Their work continues because there are thousands of trees in the Society’s collection.

The SoG’s Pedigree Rolls tell the stories of many extraordinary lives and of a diverse range of people from different backgrounds. Conserving and making these family trees available to many people is challenging due to their size, age and fragility. Making these trees available online enables the Society to better preserve the originals, many of which are aged and fragile, from exposure and handling.

Included amongst the twenty sample trees newly made available are:

  • A pink silk-backed pedigree within a box lined with marbled paper created by the genealogist of the Order of the Bath in 1798 for Alexander Aubert of Highbury House in the County of Middlesex, a Lt Col of the Loyal Islington Volunteers, presumably shortly after Aubert received his knighthood.
  • A pedigree of the family of Ade, a Sussex family spanning 11 generations, starting with William Ade, born around 1470. It was drawn up in 1839 by a 14 year-old boy from the original compiled by Charles, his father. As Charles was born in 1790, this pedigree is probably based on a great deal of firsthand knowledge. It is beautifully written and illustrated and includes detailed drawings of two houses and a church relevant to the family’s history. Notes on the edge of the tree describe land holdings and other details about some of the families who married into the family.
  • A large tree of Burnett of Leys with collateral branches, spans some 20 generations from 1485-1893. Illustrated in the form of a large oak tree blowing in the wind and bearing the weight of 763 named individuals, it depicts the descent from one Alexander de Burnand, who was alive at the time of King Robert the Bruce in 1324. A significant branch of the family assumed the name Ramsey in the latter half of the 18th century, after the succession of a son of the 6th Baronet Burnett of Leys to his grandfather’s estate.

The sample charts now available are available here.  You can also click the links below to go directly to some of the family charts.